Minute of Meeting of the Ross and Cromarty Planning Committee held in the Victoria Suite, Victoria Park, Dingwall on Tuesday, 4th April 2006 at 10.30 am.
Mr B Barclay
Mr D J Chisholm
Mr J R Connell
Mr R Macintyre
Mr E C Mackinnon
Mr M Macmillan
Mrs M E Paterson
Mr A Rhind
Officers in attendance:
Erica McArthur, Planning Officer
Jim Yuill, Principal Engineer, TEC Services
Susan Blease, Solicitor/Clerk
Cheryl Thomson, Administrative Assistant
Stuart Livingstone, Senior Administrative Assistant
(Mr R Macintyre in the Chair)
Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Dr D Alston, Mr A Anderson, Mr D W Briggs, Mr R W Durham, Mrs V MacIver, Mrs A MacLean, Mrs I McCallum, Mr A Torrance, Mrs J Urquhart and Mrs C A Wilson.
2.1 RP 059/06: Erection of House (Detail) at Land at Craig Wood, Canonbury Terrace, Fortrose by Mr D M Carter, West Cottage, Rosskeen, by Invergordon.
(Application Ref No 06/00026/FULRC)
The Chairman welcomed Mr D M Carter, the applicant, Mr J Cornwall representing Fortrose and Rosemarkie Community Council and the objectors, Mr D Gordon and Mrs J Maxwell to the meeting. The remaining objector, Dr T V Heath had sent in a letter of 27th March 2006 advising that he was unable to attend the hearing but making written submissions in respect of his previous representations. This was circulated to all parties.
The Chairman then outlined the hearings procedure, notes on which had been previously circulated.
There was circulated Report No RP-059-06 by the Area Planning and Building Standards Manager. The Report recommended that the application be refused, for the following reasons:-
- The proposal is contrary to Structure Plan policy H3, Ross and Cromarty East Local Plan Proposed Modifications to Deposit Draft (prior to Public Local Inquiry) Policies GSP 10 and the councils Development plan Policy guidelines in that the site is located within the Hinterland Around Inverness and is outwith any defined settlement or housing group, no land management justification or related family purposes have been demonstrated, and none of the listed policy exceptions apply.
- The proposal is contrary to Ross and Cromarty East Local Plan Proposed Modifications to Deposit Draft (prior to Public Local Inquiry) PolicyBP3 in that the site is located within an area of woodland which if developed would have a significant adverse effect on the heritage and amenity of the area.
- The proposal would set an undesirable precedent making it difficult to resist further housing plots in the vicinity which cumulatively would undermine the Council’s Housing in the Countryside policies, ultimately to the overall detriment to the rural character of the area.
- The proposal would result in the loss of a substantial number of trees which are protected by Tree Preservation Order HRC 46 to the detriment of the woodland as a whole.
- The applicant has failed to provide a foul water disposal system which fully complies with the Building Regulations (Scotland) 2004, or demonstrate that the site can connected into the public drainage system.
- The applicant has failed to demonstrate that an access to the site can be formed that is not a road traffic hazard and a danger to traffic on the A832.
The Planning Officer introduced the application and outlined the relevant policies and material considerations, as set out in her report.
Mr Carter then addressed the committee. He explained that he wanted to become a hands-on manager of the woodland area which he owned. He was working with the Forestry Commission on a 15-year plan to regenerate and manage the woodland area. Living within the woodland area would make it easier to implement this plan.
He intended to undertake structural work on the bank to minimise land slippage and would introduce a new network of footpaths which would be constructed from the timber supplied on site.
He had chosen the site because it was the nearest possible site within the wood which was also within the village envelope as fixed by the R&C East Local Plan.
It was not the easiest or cheapest site on which to build a house but the site appraisal he had commissioned confirmed that it could be done and set out proposals for levels, road access and waste water treatment.
With regard to road safety, the proposed access road would be located 110 metres within the 30 mph speed limit and there were no sightline difficulties. He was prepared to work with the council to carry out road improvements along the A832 (Avoch to Fortrose) main road to introduce some form of traffic calming measures.
The house would be of a traditional highland “long house” design which would fit in well to the hillside. He circulated photographs of the type of house envisaged.
In relation to the representations made in the report, Mr Carter commented as follows.
SEPA had objected to the original proposed drainage system but the site appraisal now recommended a septic tank with mounded soakaway and a sustainable urban drainage system on which SEPA would be consulted.
In relation to the road, as previously mentioned, Mr Carter was willing to work with the Council to achieve improvements on the main road.
With regard to the tree preservation order in Craig Wood Mr Carter was fully aware of its importance. His survey showed, however, that the maximum number of healthy trees which would have to be felled to accommodate the development was approximately seven. The other trees which would be affected were unhealthy and, whether the development proceeded or not, would have to be felled or coppiced to protect the houses below. He intended to replace all felled trees elsewhere in the wood with native species. In the proposed garden area of the house site, he intended to have a tree nursery for saplings and hedging such as blackthorn. It would not be a trading premises. He would be setting up a workshop elsewhere in the village to produce and sell items made from Craig Wood timber.
With regard to the comments made by Dr Heath, Mr Carter advised that he had no intention of building anything else within the woodland and would accept a condition or agreement tying the house to the management of the woodland. Dr Heath had also expressed concern at the impact of the development on red squirrels. Mr Carter had discussed this, however, with the Scottish Wildlife Trust who advised that the broadleaf trees which predominated in Craig Wood were unlikely to attract red squirrels. He would nonetheless ensure that no felling took place between February and July in the interest of wildlife protection.
In response to questions from members, Mr Carter confirmed that he owned the whole of Craig Woods which extended to 9 hectares. He had intended to put in a 3 metre wide driveway which would involve felling between 7 and 9 trees. He could not share Dr Heath’s entrance as this would mean bridging the gully. They each owned to the midpoint of the stream so Dr Heath’s consent would be required to achieve access from Dr Heath’s side of the gully. He advised the members that he had carried out a tree survey in June 2002 and this had detailed all the trees in the woodland. The survey had identified dead or diseased trees which required to be felled and this had been done. He would be coppicing others where possible to retain the root structure but open up the canopy. Finally, he confirmed that there were other sites within the wood which would be cheaper and easier to develop as a house site, but these were outwith the village envelope.
Mr Cornwall then addressed the meeting on behalf of the Community Council. He made reference to the community council’s written submission in the report, and stated that they were fully supportive of the planning policies. He highlighted that the removal of the trees could affect the stability of the slope above the site and would affect the land drainage. It was noted that rain water from the house was to be taken to the adjacent culvert and he suggested an assessment was required to determine whether the culvert under the A832 road had adequate capacity.
They were concerned that the proposed access was very close to the access to existing house on Canonbury Terrace and would be just as awkward owing to the angle of approach to the A832 road.
Obstruction on the main road during construction was inevitable and was felt to be unacceptable given the amount of traffic on that road. Construction work to level the steeply sloping site and remove the soil which could create a traffic hazard.
Water and drainage issues remained unresolved and there was concern that the development would cause further seepage and ponding on the main road. There was also concern at the impact the development would have on the wall between the bottom of the wood and the road as this was an important part of the retaining structure.
There were red squirrels nesting in and around the woodland and these required to be protected.
The Forestry Officer had been very clear in his advice that the stability of the slope would be affected by tree felling and removal of an enormous area of soil to level the site.
In conclusion, he advised that the Community Council felt that this was not an appropriate site on which to build a house.
Mr Gordon then addressed the meeting. He advised that he did not object in principle to Mr Carter’s proposal to have a house in the wood, but did not consider the proposed site appropriate. Although the development would totally overlook his property, this was not his main concern. His main concern was road safety. The proposed entrance to the site would be directly across from the blind entrance to Mr Gordon’s property. It was a dangerous stretch of road and there was no likelihood of imminent improvement.
Mrs Maxwell then addressed the meeting. She had built her house in 1972 with access being approved directly onto the A832. She was aware that such access would not be permitted were she applying to build her house now. Previous applications had been refused in part of that reason. In 1993 she had sold land to the council to widen the Avoch to Fortrose (A832) road on the condition that the speed limit would be restricted to 30mph. The road improvements had not, however, materialised. She pointed out that this stretch of the road had constant water and drainage problems and that a number of accidents that occurred near the bridge although they had gone unreported. She did not object in principle to Mr Carter’s building a house in the wood. She did not consider this an appropriate site, however, given the road problems, the steepness of the slope and potential impact on its stability.
In relation to Mr Carter’s suggestion that he would assist in road improvements and traffic calming measures on the A832 between Avoch and Fortrose, the Principal Engineer pointed out that the road improvements planned for this stretch of road would stop just short of the 30 mph speed limit sign so would not reach the proposed access the site. Traffic calming measures outwith a 30 mph zone were not permitted.
Visibility at the proposed access was not itself a problem, but he had concern at the speed of traffic at this point.
Much more engineering detail was required before he could give a definitive view on the proposed access. However, the applicant should be made aware that the first five metres of the access would require to be square on to the main road and have a gradient of no more than 1:16, i.e. virtually flat. Moreover, the indicative parallel access would not be approved unless heavily screened as headlights on a parallel access could confuse drivers on the main road.
With regard to steepness, he had concern over the impact of the proposal on the integrity of the boundary wall at the foot of the slope. A service bay would be required, involving another cut into the bank, again with impact on stability. Measures would be needed to ensure there was no seepage on to the road. If the site was more than 45 m off the public road, building regulations would require that the access be a width of 3.7 m to allow access by emergency vehicles. However, the steepness of the slope would make access for emergency vehicles difficult.
In response to the various points raised, Mr Carter indicated that the engineering, roads, ground works and hydrology issues would be addressed at reserved matters stage if the Committee approved the outline application. He had not wanted to go to the expense of commissioning work on these details without outline approval.
Screening between the proposed access and the main road would be provided at the outset, with a low solid fence with hedging around it. Trees would be replanted. Retaining structures would not be of the concrete type used at Feddon Hill. He envisaged instead using bales made out of recycled car tyres – a method accepted by the Forestry Commission and other Local Authorities.
Finally, with regard to overlooking, he envisaged that only one window would overlook the properties below, but he intended that the position of the house be such that the window would be offset, looking between the two properties below, rather than directly on to them.
There being no further questions by members, the Chairman thanked the parties for their submissions and asked them to confirm whether they were satisfied with the way in which the hearing had been conducted. All parties confirmed that they were satisfied with the conduct of the hearing.
The Planning Officer then presented her report and recommendation. She advised that while the applicant had provided a lot of information at the hearing which it would have been helpful to have received with his application, nothing she had heard at the meeting had changed her recommendation to refuse the application as explained in her report.
The local member, Mr B Barclay felt that this was an attractive area and congratulated the applicant on his vision for managing the woodland which had been neglected by the previous landowner. However, he shared the concerns raised by the objectors and the Community Council. He did not believe there was any other possible site within the wood which would not give rise to the same difficulties regarding access and land slippage. This was very disappointing since Mr Carter’s plans for the woodland were welcomed and Mr Barclay would like to see Mr Carter living in the area so that he could carry out these plans.
Following debate, the Committee unanimously agreed to REFUSE the application for the reasons set out in the report.
The meeting ended at 11.45 a.m.