Minute of Meeting of the Sutherland County Committee held in the Community Centre, Brora on Monday 20 November 200 6 at 10.30am.

 

Present:

 

Mr F Keith

Mr D Allan

Mrs R Finlayson

Mr A Mackay

Mrs A Magee

Mr I Ross

 

In Attendance:

 

G McLaughlin, Area Manager

A Todd, Area Planning and Building Standards Manager

B McFadyen, Area Finance Manager

C Stewart, Area Roads and Community Works Manager

L O’Neill, Area Administrator

B Robertson, Senior Planner

A Macrae, Administrator

 

Business

 

Planning and Development

 

Note: the Chairman, Portfolio Holder for Planning & Development, took the Chair.

 

1.1 Formation of new vehicular access from U393 (Ferry Road), relocation of existing heating oil storage tank and garage at ‘Slieve na Mon’, 14 Ferry Road, Golspie (06/00175/FULSU) and formation of new house site with access from Ferry Road and house plot to west of ‘Slieve na Mon’, 14 Ferry Road, Golspie (06/00179/FULSU)

 

There had been circulated Report No SU/226/06 by the Area Planning & Building Standards Manager recommending that application 06/00175/FULSU for the formation of new vehicular access from U393 (Ferry Road), relocation of existing heating oil storage tank and garage at ‘Slieve na Mon’, 14 Ferry Road, Golspie, be approved subject to the conditions contained in the report., and the application 06/00179/FULSU for the formation of new house site with access from Ferry Road and house plot to west of ‘Slieve na Mon’, 14 Ferry Road, Golspie be refused for the reasons stated in the report.

 

The Committee NOTED that the applicant’s agent had requested this item be withdrawn from the Agenda.

 

1.2  Re-opening of sand quarry, installation of aggregate screen, rock crusher, fuel bowser, weighbridge, and staff portakabins at Melvich Quarry, Melvich for A & W Sinclair (06/00326/FULSU)

 

There had been circulated Report No SU/224/06 by the Area Planning & Building Standards Manager recommending that application 06/00326/FULSU for the re-opening of the sand quarry, the installation of an aggregate screen, a rock crusher, fuel bowser, weighbridge, and staff portakabins at Melvich Quarry, Melvich for A & W Sinclair be approved subject to conditions.

 

The Committee APPROVED planning permission for a period of 20 years, subject to the prior conclusion of an appropriate legal agreement under Section 75 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, or an appropriate alternative to secure a Restoration Bond for the provision of restoration and after-care of the site, subject to the conditions contained in the report.

 

1.3  Erection of house and detached garage at Plot 1, Ford Park, South of St Aethens, Duke Street, Golspie for Mr & Mrs Wilson (06/00318/REMSU)

 

There had been circulated Report No SU/225/06 by the Area Planning & Building Standards Manager recommending that application 06/00318/REMSU for the erection of house and detached garage at Plot 1, Ford Park, South of St Aethens, Duke Street, Golspie be approved subject to the conditions stated in the report. 

 

Mr I Ross asked that the need to protect the condition of the access, and that of the stone dyke surrounding the adjacent property, be reinforced to the applicants.

 

The Committee APPROVED the application subject to the conditions contained in the report, and to the points raised by the local Member being reinforced to the applicants.   

 

1.4  Erection of house, formation of access onto Culkein Stoer

township road, installation of sewage treatment system and

soakaway, erection of detached garage at land to south west of

Seaside Cottage, 236 Culkein, Stoer, Lochinver for Mr J & Mrs W

Nerding (06/00320/REMSU)

 

There had been circulated Report No SU/226/06 by the Area Planning & Building Standards Manager recommending that application 06/00320/REMSU for the erection of a house, formation of an access onto Culkein Stoer township road, the installation of a sewage treatment system and soakaway and the erection of a detached garage at land to south west of Seaside Cottage, 236 Culkein, Stoer, Lochinver for Mr J & Mrs W Nerding be approved subject to conditions. 

 

The Committee APPROVED the application subject to the conditions contained in the report. 

 

1.5  Downtaking of existing chimney head to roofline and rebuild

at St Michael’s, Station Road, Dornoch for Mr R Wickham

(06/00330/LBCSU)

 

There had been circulated Report No SU/227/06 by the Area Planning & Building Standards Manager recommending that application 06/00330/LBCSU for the downtaking of  the existing chimney head to roofline and its rebuild at St Michael’s, Station Road, Dornoch for Mr R Wickham be approved subject to conditions.

 

The Committee AGREED to grant Listed Building Consent, subject to Scottish Ministers being notified and afforded the opportunity to (1) determine the application, (2) indicate that the application should be determined with conditions attached, or (3) confirm that they do not propose to intervene.

 

1.6  Erection of dwellinghouse with integral garage, installation of

septic tank and soakaway system, formation of new access from

existing access track, at land to east of Cnoc Garbh, 71 Lerin,

Durness (06/00240/FULSU)

 

There had been circulated Report No SU/228/06 by the Area Planning & Building Standards Manager recommending that application 06/00240/FULSU for the erection of a dwellinghouse with integral garage, installation of septic tank and soakaway system, formation of new access from existing access track at land to east of Cnoc Garbh, 71 Lerin, Durness be refused for the reasons stated in the report.

 

The Chairman observed that no objections had been received from permanent residents in the area; the sole objector being the owner of a holiday home. With regard to the claim that the development will be visible, he stated that on a recent visit to this area he had observed over twenty houses, most of which were on the sky line.  He informed Members that the site had been made available by the Local Grazings Committee in consultation with Durness Community Council, and therefore considerable local support existed for the development.  Accordingly he expressed the view that the application be approved, on the basis that any scarring of the hillside is reinstated, and a bund is formed on the eastern corner using surplus material from the site, prior to the house being occupied.

 

The Committee APPROVED the application subject to standard conditions and to any scarring of the hillside arising from the development being reinstated, and a bund being formed on the eastern corner of the site using surplus material, prior to the house being occupied.

 

1.7  Formation of borrow pit to provide aggregate for the

construction of Kilbraur Windfarm at land north of Farlary, Golspie

for Kilbraur Wind Energy Ltd (05/00302/FULSU)

 

The Chairman confirmed that the application would proceed under the

Hearings procedure and confirmed that all parties had received a copy of

the papers.

 

 

There had been circulated Report No SU/223/06 by the Area Planning & Building Standards Manager recommending that application 05/00302/FULSU for the formation of a borrow pit to provide aggregate for the construction of Kilbraur Windfarm at land north of Farlary, Golspie for Kilbraur Wind Energy Ltd be approved subject to conditions.

 

The Manager reported that one of the objectors to the application, Rogart Environmental Group, had written to the Principal Solicitor at HQ responsible for planning matters, alleging non-compliance of the application with European Directives and Scottish regulations on Environmental Impact Assessments, and further that the supporting environmental statement contained inadequate information to allow the application to be determined.  The Group alleged that on both counts, it was not competent for the Hearing to proceed and that the development of the wind farm site as a whole should be re-advertised.

 

The Principal Solicitor had responded to the Rogart Environmental Group, expressing the opinion that the application conformed to the relevant regulations, and further the level of information provided in the environmental statement is adequate to allow the application to be determined, supported by the fact no objections had been received from the statutory consultees, and it was therefore competent for the Hearing to proceed.

 

The Committee AGREED to proceed with the Hearing on the basis of the legal advice provided.

 

The Manager introduced the application, explaining that it was for one on-site borrow pit, approximately 1 km from the access to the wind farm site.  He outlined the reinstatement proposals for the site, and issues of noise resulting from blasting, noting that the owner /occupier of the nearest property has a direct interest in the wind farm as part owner of the site.   The Council’s Archaeological Unit has objected to the application, and while acknowledging that the applicants had sought to avoid the main sites of archaeological importance, remain concerned about the intrusion of the development on a historic landscape, and proposing a less intrusive location to the east of the site.  However the Manager observed that to relocate the site to the east would have a greater environmental impact. He stated that a borrow pit in this location may also result in the northern borrow pit, approved by the Committee at its meeting on 16 October 2006, no longer being required.  Finally he outlined the policies relevant to the application, specifically Policy G2 Design for Sustainability, G6 Conservation, M2 Mineral Extraction, and BC1 Preservation of Archaeological Sites

 

The Chairman then invited the applicants to present their case.

 

Mr S Salt, West Coast Energy Ltd, agent for the applicants, made the following points;

 

It had been explicit in the original wind farm planning application submitted in April 2004 that borrow pits were integral to the development, and that further proposals would be brought forward.   He explained that considerable material is required for the construction of the access to the site and other tracks, and this on-site development will assist in meeting the commitment not to have materials imported via the main public road.

 

The location had been identified as a ‘best fit’, by independent experts in terms of ecology, environmental impact, and the quality of stone required. He stated that archaeological concerns can be dealt with by condition.

 

No objections to the proposal had been received from local Community Councils, Scottish Natural Heritage, SEPA, Historic Scotland or those local residents to whom the borrow pit will be visible.

 

A detailed construction method statement will be prepared, and this will deal with the majority of concerns expressed by the objectors.

 

Mrs R Finlayson expressed concern that this is a substantial development and as such proposals should have been brought forward to Members at a much earlier stage.

 

Mr Salt responded that from the outset it had been declared that applications for borrow pits would come forward. He advised that the application is accompanied by separate environmental statement and ultimately the development will avoid the transportation of material on the public road, and is the most sustainable option.

 

The Chairman invited the objectors to state their case.

 

Mr A Tubbs, on behalf of the Rogart Environmental Group, stated his objections as follows;

 

The volume of material required from the borrow pits has increased from 46,000m³ in April 2006 to 145,000m³ currently.  This information should have been available at the time of the original wind farm application.  He noted that retrospective permissions had been applied for in relation to a similar development in Wales

 

The site of the borrow pit shown in the environmental impact assessment accompanying the original application determined in April 2006,  had shifted, and therefore there had been a change in the relevant environmental data provided.

 

The borrow pit will effectively be a large quarry, with potentially 10m faces, stressing that this is the third such site the Committee is being asked to approve

 

Mitigation measures should be made available to the public and the Committee at the time the application is considered, and not covered by a construction method statement.  The construction method statements associated with the applications approved on 14 August 2006 for two borrow pits, have not yet been made available to the public.  The site is formed partly on peat, and it is suggested that the use of straw bales as a measure to prevent pollution will not be effective.  Mr Tubbs alleged that the applicants had been issued with a notice by SEPA concerning bad practice in relation to another wind farm developments

 

The Environmental Improvement Regulations (Scotland) 1999 states that applications should provide a description of the physical characteristics of the whole development and the land use required during the construction and operational phase.  Mr Tubbs, therefore, claimed piecemeal applications are illegal, and that full information should have been provided as part of the original wind farm application

 

Mr M Rider referred to a map of the area and expressed concern at the impact on water courses, and suggesting that the development could interfere with the water table.  The material required for construction has increased considerably from the original application, and will result in approximately 1,000 – 2,000 additional loads been transported along the Glen Road, facts that should have been included in the relevant environmental statement.

 

Mrs A Magee referred to the comments made in respect of a similar development in Wales which had been the subject of retrospective planning applications.  She clarified that this is not a retrospective application.  Mr Tubbs acknowledged this point.

 

Mr Salt responded to the points raised, and indicated that the volume of aggregate and construction material of 40,000m³, as quoted in the original wind farm application is accurate, and that figures quoted by the objectors are incorrect.  The total requirement of 150,000 tonnes took account of the need to import other materials, such as sand.  The borrow pit will be a temporary use of land for a maximum period of 12 months, and its maximum depth will be 12m.  Restoration of the site will be covered by conditions and a bond.  The construction method statement will be prepared in direct consultation with SEPA, who will have to be satisfied in terms of the proposals to protect the water resources in the area.  Finally he reminded Members that a Liaison Committee, including community council representatives, had been established to deal with issues arising throughout the construction process.

 

The Chairman sought clarification of the point raised by the objectors that SEPA had served a notice on the developers in respect of another site in the Highlands.  Mr Salt responded that all issues had now been resolved with SEPA.

 

In accordance with procedure, the Chairman declared the Hearing at an end and sought confirmation that (i) there were no further parties wishing to speak, and (ii) the parties were satisfied with the way the Hearing had been conducted.

 

All parties confirmed they were satisfied with the way the Hearing had been conducted.

 

The Manager summarised the application and reaffirmed the advice received from the Principal Solicitor that it is competent for the application to be determined, and that while the Rogart Environmental Group in their submission refer to a multi stage consent procedure, the Council’s solicitor does not concur with this view. 

 

The Manager reported that there are clear advantages to using material from an on-site borrow pit, in avoiding traffic on the public road, particularly through Golspie.  However the Archaeological Unit, had objected stating that the impact on a historic landscape would be greater than the wind farm, and further that if the application is approved then restoration works should comprise appropriate planting which is less intrusive than the proposal to have a water feature and tree planting.  The Manager pointed out that there are already trees planted in the vicinity and therefore the landscape has been altered.  There are no technical objections to the application, SEPA requiring the preparation of a construction method statement for the site.  The application complies with policy in terms of sustainability and mineral extraction, but conflicts on archaeological issues.   However the Manager concluded that the impact of the development will be over a short timescale, and in his view the environmental advantages outweigh the disadvantages. He therefore recommended approval subject to the conditions outlined in the report.

 

Mr I Ross opined that the Archaeological Unit is overly restrictive in its view and a balanced compromise is required.

 

He expressed disappointment at the comments concerning the planting of trees.  The formation of borrow pits prevents material having to imported from afar, noting that the creation of an on-site pit may render the northern borrow pit not being required.  He stressed that the quality of the construction method statement and its application are crucial, and the development must be effectively managed and monitored, particularly in relation to the restoration of the site. Mr Ross also referred to comments at a recent SEPA Regional Board meeting where the approach being adopted at Kilbraur had been commended.

 

Mrs Rita Finlayson reiterated her view that as a point of principle that the applications for borrow pits should have formed part of the original wind farm application.

 

Mr D Allan opined that there should be greater community benefit to the local communities arising from these types of developments.

 

Mrs A Magee expressed concern that the approval of a third borrow pit may provide the applicants with more material than required for the whole wind farm development and suggested that recommended Condition 3, detailed in the report, be reinforced so that no material cannot be exported beyond the limits of the wind farm site.

 

Mr A Mackay stated that as a general principle the various elements forming the overall wind farm development should be presented, as a whole, at the initial stage, rather than being progressed through this type of piecemeal approach.

 

The Chairman concurred that it would be preferable if all matters are dealt with as one application, and commended this approach for future applications.

 

The Committee AGREED to comment on this basis to the Director of Planning & Development.

 

The Committee APPROVED the application subject to the conditions contained in the report; subject to Condition 3 being amended to read “The borrow pit shall be engineered and operated in a single contract and solely in connection with construction of the Kilbraur Wind Farm approved under planning application reference 04/00125/FULSU, and no materials extracted shall be exported beyond the limits of the above wind farm site”. 

 

Note:- Prior to consideration of this item, Mr D Allan declared an interest in the application as owner of Craigroyston, Cathedral Square, Dornoch, and left the meeting for the consideration and determination of the application.

 

1.8  Installation of solar panel (amended position to previous permission Ref No. 06/00081/FULSU) at Craigroyston, Cathedral Square, Dornoch for Mr D Allan (06/00331/FULSU)

 

There had been circulated Report No SU/229/06 by the Planning and

Building Manger recommending that application 06/00331/FULSU, for the

installation of a solar panel in an amended position to previous permission

Ref No.06/0081/FULSU, at Craigroyston, Cathederal Square, Dornoch for

Mr D Allan be approved subject to conditions.

 

 

The Committee APPROVED the application subject to the conditions

contained in the report.    

 

2. Planning – Appeal: Plot 1, Balnapolaig Farm, North Reseed,

Dornoch

 

There had been circulated letter dated 25 October 2006 from the Scottish

Executive Inquiry Reporters Unit, dismissing the appeal submitted by Mr I

Robichaud against refusal of planning permission at Plot 1, Balnapolaig Farm,

North Reseed, Dornoch.

 

 

The Committee AGREED to note the outcome of the Appeal.

 

3.  Internal Audit of the Processing of Planning Applications

 

There had been circulated Report No. SU/230/06 by the Director of

Planning and Development summarising the findings of an internal audit

report on the processing of planning applications.  The report

recommended that Members note the findings of the Internal Audit

report, and await an update in Spring 2007, on progress to implement the

action plan.

 

 

The Committee AGREED to await a further update as detailed in the

report.

 

Chairman’s Items

 

4.       Minute of Meeting of 23 October 2006

 

The Minute of Meeting of 23 October 2006 was approved.

 

 

5.       Minute of Meeting of 2 November 2006  

 

The Minute of Meeting of 2 November 2006 was approved.

 

Resources

 

Note:  Mr A Mackay, Portfolio Holder for Resources, took the Chair.

 

6.  Finance Service - Financial Monitoring Report

 

There is circulated Report No. SU/231/06 by the Area Finance Manager appending financial monitoring report for the Finance Service for the period 1 April 2006 – 30 September 2006.  The report recommended that Members continue to monitor the budget through the report.

 

Referring to the new postal charges, Mrs Magee urged all Managers to ensure staff use the smallest envelopes wherever possible, to reduce costs.

 

The Committee AGREED to continue to monitor the budget through the report, and that all Managers act where possible to implement postal efficiencies.

 

7. Planning & Development Service - Financial Monitoring Report

 

There is circulated Report No. SU/232/06 by the Area Planning & Building Standards Manager appending financial monitoring report for the Planning & Development Service for the period 1 April 2006 - 31 October 2006.  The report recommended that Members continue to monitor the report.

 

The Committee AGREED to continue to monitor the budget through the report.

 

8. Transport, Environmental & Community Services - Financial Monitoring Report     

 

There is circulated Report No. SU/233/06 by the Area Roads & Community Works Manager appending financial monitoring report for Transport, Environmental & Community Services for the period 1 April 2006 – 31 October 2006.  The report recommended that Members continue to monitor the report.

 

Reference was made to the recent flooding and storms to affect East Sutherland in October 2006, and Mr I Ross advised that the Area Roads & Community Works Manager would provide an update on this at the commencement of the TEC Services section of the meeting.

 

Mrs A Magee noted that estimated cost for the Highland as a whole is £4m, and that the First Minister had responded seeking details of costs and providing a named civil servant as a point of contact. She urged the relevant officials to ensure this information is provided as soon as possible. 

 

The Manager indicated that the estimated cost in Sutherland is approximately £2.5m.  On this basis, Mrs A Magee suggested that the figure for the Highlands as a whole will be  considerably in excess of £4m.

 

The Committee AGREED to continue to monitor the budget through the report.

 

9. Golspie Mountain Bike Trails - Area Discretionary Spend

 

There had been circulated Report No SU/236/06 by the Area Manager seeking homologation of the decision to make a contribution from the Area Discretionary Spend towards the clearance of fallen trees blocking the Golspie Mountain Bike Trails, following recent storms.  The report recommended that Members homologate the decision to contribute the sum of £1,000.

 

The Committee AGREED to homologate the decision to make a contribution of £1,000 towards the Golspie Mountain Bike Trails.

 

Transport, Environmental and Community Services

 

Mr I Ross, Portfolio Holder for TEC Services took the Chair.

 

Additional Item

 

The Chairman AGREED to consider the following item as a matter of urgency to allow Members to be updated on the recent flooding and storms to affect Sutherland.

 

10. Flooding Update

 

Mr I Ross indicated that a full report on the impact of the storms and flooding, and the Council’s response would be brought forward in early course, with a view to reviewing whether lessons can be learned.  In the meantime he indicated that while Sutherland did not get the media coverage relative to other areas, the opportunity had been taken to appraise the Depute Minister for Environment and Rural Development of events on her recent visit to Golspie.  Mr Ross congratulated the Fire Service, TEC Services staff, Transerve, and local contractors for their cooperation and response to this major incident.

 

The Area Roads & Community Works Manager detailed how events had unfolded referring to the suddenness and ferocity of the storm and lack of pre-warning.  Precipitation levels in October had also been two to four times that of the average rainfall. A number of landslides had occurred, caused by the storm force winds, ground conditions, and the unusually high volume of leaves remaining on the trees for the time of year. Between 3,500 and 4,000 sandbags had been distributed, and, referring to problems with access, the Manager stressed that the existence of local depots in Sutherland had enabled staff to reach areas much sooner than otherwise would have been the case.  He emphasised that the incident had demonstrated that the number and location of depots in Sutherland is reasonable.  The Manager also observed that investment in additional pumps is required and recommended that a supply be retained in each depot in Sutherland.

 

The Manager continued that affected roads in the area are being inspected in 2km sections, to assess the works required to restore these roads to their previous condition, and he referred to specific roads with particular difficulties such as the Toraboll road which is closed due to a substantial landslide. 

 

Mr D Allan expressed the view that lack of field drainage, compared to the past, had exacerbated the problem.

 

Mr I Ross indicated that the Council’s Climate Change Strategy would impact on services and planning, and will be an important factor in the development of the new Sutherland Local Plan.

 

Mr F Keith noted that there had been a dramatic rise in sea levels over the past couple of years and therefore there should be more scrutiny of the areas liable to be flooded.         

Mrs A Magee expressed the view that more drainage and ditching work is undertaken in Sutherland than anywhere else and that these standards should not be lost as the Council moves towards three operational areas.  Referring to the side road being used over the Struie, she also queried the priority this would be allocated for gritting purposes.  The Manager reported that in consultation with Ross & Cromarty colleagues, the road would be granted a higher priority rating.         

           

11.  U407 East Millicent Avenue, Golspie

 

There had been circulated Report No. SU/234/06 by the Area Roads & Community Works Manager concerning the proposed imposition of a One Way Traffic Order to the U407, East Millicent Avenue – Fountain Road, Golspie.  The report recommended that Members approve the preparation of a draft Traffic Order to impose a one way vehicular system, and to progress the Order in the event of no unresolved objections.

 

Mr I Ross referred to road safety issues being paramount here, describing a potentially dangerous incident he had recently witnessed.  However he expressed his preference for the road to be closed off, using bollards, but allowing for pedestrian access, indicating that he was concerned about larger vehicles accessing from the other side, and going against the one-way system.  Mr Ross advised that this option may also reduce the number of anticipated objections to the proposed alteration to the traffic management arrangements, together with the provision of a gate to secure the adjacent private lane.

 

The Manager explained the rationale behind recommending the one-way system as outlined in his report, and advised that the difficulty with closing the road off, is the lack of an available turning area.

 

The Committee AGREED that the process be put in train to close off the U407, East Millicent Avenue – Fountain Road, Golspie, while continuing to allow pedestrian access, and that the appropriate traffic order be prepared, and progressed in the event of no unresolved objections.

 

12. Safety Barrier Renewals

 

There had been circulated Report No. SU/234/06 by the Area Roads & Community Works Manager detailing proposed safety barrier renewals on roads in Sutherland in 2006/07.  The report recommended that Members approve the proposed programme of renewals as set out in the appendix to the report, at a cost of £75,000 to be met from the monies allocated for the purpose in the current year’s budget.

 

Mrs A Magee congratulated TEC Services staff for their flexible approach enabling these works to proceed, and expressed concern that this type of local approach should not be lost with the introduction of the three operational areas.

 

The Committee APPROVED the proposed programme of renewals as set out in the appendix to the report, at a cost of £75,000 to be met from the monies allocated for the purpose in the current year’s budget, and that the Manager circulate all community councils in Sutherland with the details.