Minutes of Meeting of the Planning Review Body held on Thursday 19 July 2012 on and around the site at Forss, Caithness at 11am and thereafter at the North Highland College, Ormlie Road, Thurso at 1.30pm.
Mr T Prag
Mrs I Campbell
Mr N Donald
Mr G Farlow
Mrs I McCallum
Mr M Rattray
Mr R Saxon
Mrs J Ferguson, Planning Adviser (Item 3.1)
Mr D Mudie, Planning Adviser (Item 4.1)
Mr P Adams, Solicitor (Clerk)
Ms A Macrae, Administrator
Also In Attendance
Mr J Gunn, Technician, TEC Services (Item 3.1)
Mr T Prag in the Chair
1. Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Mr D Fallows and Dr A Sinclair.
2. Declarations of Interest
Item 4.1 – Mrs I Campbell
3. Notice of Review Previously Considered
3.1 Extension to the Existing Forss Wind Farm including 5 Wind Turbines with a Maximum Tip Height of 81m, up to 3.6km of New and Upgraded Access Tracks, a Substation and Switchgear Building and Compound, 2 Temporary Meteorological Masts and 2 Temporary Construction Compounds and Access at Part Former US Naval Site at Forss and Part Agricultural Land at Borrowston Farm, Caithness for RES UK and Ireland Ltd 12-00002-Forss
There had been circulated Notice of Review No. 12-00002-Forss for the extension to the existing Forss Wind Farm including 5 wind turbines with a maximum tip height of 81m, up to 3.6km of new and upgraded access tracks, a substation and switchgear building and compound, 2 temporary meteorological masts and 2 temporary construction compounds and access at part former US Naval Site at Forss and part agricultural land at Borrowston Farm, Caithness for RES UK and Ireland Ltd 12-00002-Forss.
Note:- The Applicants were represented at the site visit, and a number of interested parties were also present.
The site visit convened at the North Highland College, Thurso whereupon the Chairman introduced all parties and provided a summary of the proposed route and timetable for the site visit and the meeting of the Planning Review Body at which the Notice of Review would be determined.
The Clerk reminded all parties that the purpose of the site inspection was to point out the location of the proposed development and physical features referred to in either the Notice of Review application or in representations lodged in support of/in opposition to the application. He explained that the site inspection was not an opportunity for parties to engage in discussion with the Review Body on the merits of the case.
Thereafter the Planning Review Body undertook a site inspection departing from the North Highland College, Thurso and proceeded to view the site from a number of vantage points on and around the site.
During the site inspection all parties were afforded the opportunity to point out the location of the development and the physical features of the site and its surrounds.
At the conclusion of the site visit the Chairman thanked all parties for attending and the meeting was adjourned for lunch.
Thereafter the Planning Review Body re-convened at the North Highland College, Thurso at 1.30pm where it proceeded to determine the Notice of Review.
The Chairman advised that it had not been feasible to webcast the meeting but that it was being audio recorded.
With the agreement of the Applicants, the Planning Adviser circulated Members of the Review Body for their information a map showing all current wind farm activity across the Highlands.
The Planning Adviser also commented that if the Review Body was minded to refuse the application then the reasons for refusal would require to be updated so that the policy references reflected the terms of the new Highland Wide Local Development Plan, and she outlined the specific policy changes that would apply. The Chairman also noted that the Review Body had the authority to revise and refresh any reasons for refusal if this was considered necessary.
The Clerk advised that if the Review Body was minded to uphold the Notice of Review then he suggested that the application be deferred to allow appropriate conditions to be submitted to the Review Body for approval.
Thereafter the Planning Review Body AGREED that their requirement for information had been satisfied by the Notice of Review documentation contained in the Planning Review Body agenda papers and the site visit.
The Clerk advised that Members should assess the application against the development plan and all relevant material considerations taking account of the documents lodged by the applicant, the planning officer and any interested parties.
Debate and Decision
Having considered all of the supporting paperwork the Planning Review Body (PRB) discussed the Notice of Review. In the course of discussion and responding to questions the Planning Adviser confirmed that the proposal was classed as a ‘local’ development in terms of the hierarchy of developments and that the available guidance on the distances between developments and properties for proposals of this nature was not definitive. She also clarified the terms of the series of consultation responses to the application received from SNH and the RSPB. The Planning Adviser further clarified the difference in the terms and methodology used to assess the impact on landscape character as opposed to visual impact. She advised that in terms of the Environmental Statement the impact on landscape character was not considered to be significant but that the visual impact was considered to be significant, noting the visual impact had been assessed as being ‘substantial’ on six properties and as ‘moderate’ on a further six properties. In discussion one Member commented that the existing wind farm had not had a negative impact on the rich biodiversity of the area. It was also suggested that the proposed extension of the wind farm was significant in that it would effectively double the size of the existing development. Reference was also made to a an application for a wind farm at nearby Borrowston which had been refused. During further discussion there was agreement amongst the Members of the PRB that that the linear configuration of the proposed development spread out along the coastline would have an unacceptable visual impact on the open landscape in this part of Caithness, and on the views enjoyed along the A836, the main tourist route in the area, and that the development was therefore contrary to policy. Members of the PRB also expressed their concern at the cumulative visual impact of the development when considered along with the other consented wind farms in the area. It was also suggested that account should be taken of the views expressed in consultation by SNH and Historic Scotland in regard to archaeological remains and ancient monuments while noting that neither organisation had objected to the application.
The Planning Review Body therefore DISMISSED the Notice of Review for the following updated reasons to reflect the terms of the Highland wide Development Plan and the weight attached to ‘landscape character’ in the Environmental Statement, namely:
1. The proposals are contrary to Policy 28 of the Highland wide Local Development Plan 2012 as they would have significantly detrimental impacts on individual and community residential amenity and on landscape and cultural heritage because of proximity to dwellings, proximity to scheduled ancient monuments and predicted extensive visibility impacts.
2. The proposals are contrary to Policies 28 & 57 of the Highland wide Local Development Plan 2012 as they would not conserve and promote sites and areas of Highland identified as being of high quality in terms of archaeology because of adverse impacts on Green Tullochs broch and cairn, scheduled ancient monument.
3. The proposals are contrary to Policy 67 of the Highland wide Local Development Plan 2012 as they would have significantly detrimental impacts with regard to visual impact and cumulative visual effects caused by this proposal in combination with the broader dispersed spread of other undetermined, consented and operational wind farms across northern Caithness. In particular Forss 3 in combination with the existing wind farm at Forss and the proposal at Baillie Hill.
4. The proposals are contrary to Policies 57, 67 & 78 of the Highland wide Local Development Plan 2012 in that the proposals would not protect important scenic views enjoyed from the A836 tourist route and scenic viewpoints.
5. The proposals are contrary to Policies 49, 61 & 67 of the Highland wide Local Development Plan 2012 in that the proposals do not maintain or enhance present landscape character because taken with other constructed, approved and proposed wind farms the proposals would have a significant adverse effect on the coastal landscape of Caithness.
The meeting adjourned at this point and re-convened at 2.30pm.
4. New Notice of Review to be Determined
4.1 Erection of House at 2 Annat, Torridon, Achnasheen, for Mr Arthur Macdonald 12-0014-Macdonald
Mrs I Campbell declared a non-financial interest in this item on the grounds that she was one of the local Members for Ward 6, Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh and therefore not permitted to participate in the determination of the Notice of Review. Mrs Campbell left the room for the remainder of the meeting.
There had been circulated Notice of Review No. 12-00014-Macdonald for the erection of a house at 2 Annat, Torridon, Achnasheen for Mr Arthur Macdonald.
The Clerk confirmed that the Notice of Review was competent.
The Planning Review Body AGREED that their requirement for information had been satisfied by the Notice of Review documentation contained in Booklet B of the Planning Review Body agenda papers.
The Clerk advised that the Notice of Review related to a condition which had been attached to the planning permission for the development and that the principle of the development was not under consideration. He indicated that the Review Body was being asked to consider the appropriateness or otherwise of the condition subject to the Notice of Review, taking account of the documents lodged by all parties.
Debate and Decision
Having considered all of the supporting paperwork the Planning Review Body (PRB) discussed the Notice of Review. The Planning Adviser confirmed that Members had been circulated with copies of the Council’s approved guidance on ‘Access to Single Houses and Small Housing Developments’. In discussion Members of the PRB suggested that while the guidance was aspirational there were many existing accesses across the Highlands which did not meet the specification as set out in the guidance. Responding to questions the Planning Adviser explained that if the access was designed to a lesser standard it may not secure a road construction consent which would allow the road to be adopted and that if the road remained as a private access there may be technical issues in ensuring the integrity of the public road and issues in regard to responsibility for maintenance. He also clarified that any debris on the road arising from the private access could be controlled through the relevant Roads Act, rather than as a planning condition. During further discussion Members of the PRB suggested that the conditions relating to the construction of the access road were too onerous in this particular case taking account of the low volume of traffic on the road and suggested that a compromise be considered, to include the provision of a tarred service layby at the junction with the main road, while continuing to safeguard the integrity of the road and take account of road safety issues.
The PRB therefore UPHELD the Notice of Review and AGREED that Conditions 4 (c) and 4 (d) be deleted and replaced with a new condition to a lesser specification which provided for a tarred service layby at the junction and which also provided comfort in terms of road safety and safeguarding the integrity of the public road, including measures to prevent debris from the private access being deposited on the road. The PRB further AGREED that it be delegated to the appointed officer in consultation with the Chairman and Clerk to approve the wording of the replacement condition.
The meeting ended at 2.50pm.