Minutes of Meeting of the Planning, Environment and Development Committee held in the Council Chamber, Council Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness on Wednesday, 14 March 2012 at 10.30 a.m.
Mr I Ross, Mrs I McCallum, Mr G Farlow, Mr D MacKay, Mr R Coghill, Mr W MacKay, Mrs I Campbell, Mr R Durham, Dr A Sinclair, Mr C Fraser, Mr B Clark, Mr P Cairns, Mr D Chisholm, Mrs H Carmichael, Mr D Henderson, Mr I Brown, Mr J Gray, Mr A S Park, Mrs C Caddick, Mr T Prag, Mr D Fallows, Mr G Rimell
Non-Members also present:
Mr M Finlayson, Ms M Smith, Mrs M Paterson, Mr G Marsden, Mr R Pedersen
Officials in attendance:
Mr S Black, Director of Planning and Development
Mr G Robson, Head of Environment and Development
Mr M MacLeod, Head of Planning and Building Standards
Mr A McCann, Economy and Regeneration Manager
Ms S Lunn, Business Support Manager
Ms A Hackett, Principal Projects Officer
Mr A Webster, Regeneration Adviser
Mr B MacKinnon, Employability Team Leader
Mr D Mudie, Team Leader, Development Management
Mr T Stott, Principal Planner
Mr D Cowie, Principal Planner
Mr S Hindson, Planner
Mr B MacKenzie, Planner
Mr C Simpson, Tourism Co-ordinator
Mr K Macinnes, Economic Advisor
Ms M Peter, Business Gateway Officer
Mrs R Moir, Principal Administrator
Ms L Lee, Committee Administrator
Mr S Taylor, Administrative Assistant
Also in attendance:
Mr M Barlow, Systems Manager, Scottish and Southern Energy
An asterisk in the margin denotes a recommendation to the Council. All decisions with no marking in the margin are delegated to Committee.
Mr W J Ross in the Chair
The Committee NOTED (i) an announcement that the Office of Fair Trading would be holding an event later in the day in relation to local choices and pricing; Members were encouraged to attend; and (ii) information provided on Ranger Guided Walks and Events for 2012.
2. Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Dr M Foxley and Mr J Crawford.
3. Declarations of Interest
The Committee NOTED the following declarations of interest:
- Item 9 – Mr I Ross, Mr I Brown, Mrs H Carmichael, Mr D Henderson, Mr J Gray, Mrs I McCallum (all Non-Financial)
- Item 13 – Mr D Fallows and Mr G Rimell – (Financial - each with a Dispensation)
- Item 21 – Mr G Farlow (Non-Financial)
4. Presentation – Update on Project TransmiT and Transmission Grid Connectivity
A presentation was given by Mr Mike Barlow of Scottish and Southern Energy briefing Members on SSE/SHETL’s (Scottish and Southern Energy/Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission Ltd) current programme of grid upgrades and the future proposals contained in their business plan for 2013 to 2021. In this regard there had been circulated Report No. ped-17-12 (755kb pdf) dated 5 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development providing information on a number of major infrastructure projects designed to increase the capacity of the grid in the Highlands and to ensure that renewable energy projects in the region gained access to the transmission system. The report also provided Members with an update on related transmission grid issues such as the current status of the Project TransmiT consultation, as well as the impact of proposals to introduce changes to the Renewable Obligation Scotland (ROS) Order.
During his presentation, Mr Barlow provided information on:
- progress with current projects: Beauly-Denny - progressing well; Knock-nagael substation – complete; Beauly/ Blackhillock/Kintore reconductoring – phase 1 complete; Beauly-Dounreay upgrading of existing towers - commencing in 2012
- SHETL’s business plan to 2020/21: this had been agreed with OFGEM (Office of Gas and Electricity Markets) – project designs would be prepared, but works would not start until there was reasonable certainty that relevant renewable projects would be going ahead; OFGEM had agreed 1Bn of base funding for refurbishments and connections, and a central case of 3Bn for major projects; future projects included: East Coast 400kV reconductor, Western Isles link, Caithness/Moray/Shetland, Kintyre/Hunterston subsea link, Orkney reinforcement, other local reinforcements
- marine and tidal projects: several applications had been received for the Pentland Firth and Orkney waters, with a phased deployment from 2015/16; further applications were anticipated; generation from the Beatrice field (1k MW) and Moray Offshore (1.5k MW) were phased from 2016
- economic and employment opportunities: these were significant - for every job created directly by the renewables industry, an estimated 20 related jobs (e.g. supply chain, civil works to ports/harbours, operation and maintenance) could be generated
- current and proposed training opportunities, including SSE’s pilot apprentice programme at Inverness College and consideration given to developing a training centre.
In the course of discussion Members were advised that:
- the consented route for the link from the Western Isles ran from Little Loch Broom to Beauly
- upgrades to grid infrastructure for Skye and the West Coast would be triggered by demand levels
- renewables developers were required to meet the cost of connecting to the grid
- SSE was aware of new pylon designs following a recent competition in England and was open to new ideas, however pylons must be able to carry the required loads
- SSE treated all electricity produced from renewables equally – one technology was not prioritised over another
- it was SSE’s view that the Crown Estate had a role in facilitating development of the renewables industry
- SSE recognised that there would be a lot of development activity in Caithness, that Dounreay was a potential source of skilled staff, and that excellent facilities were available at the North Highland College
- decisions with regard to training would be informed by the Inverness College apprenticeship pilot, but had not yet been made.
Members strongly welcomed the economic and training opportunities arising from the renewables industry and grid enhancement projects. The Council worked closely with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Orkney Islands Council and Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership and met regularly with the Crown Estate to support development of the renewables industry. An equitable charging scheme for connection to the grid was crucial.
The Committee NOTED:
i. the content of the report and the information given;
ii. that, as a result of Project TransmiT, connection costs for renewable
energy projects in the Highlands would be likely to be reduced by as much
as 60% over the next three years; and
iii. the submission made by the Highlands and Islands Transmission Grid
Working Group (HITGWG) to the Scottish Government’s consultation on
changes to the Renewables Obligation (Scotland) Order, as summarised in
section 6 of the report.
* The Committee recognised the importance of maximising the potential of the renewable resource from Scotland’s Islands to assist in the development of a low carbon economy, and AGREED to recommend to the Council that it support the HITGWG’s Islands’ Members’ request that OFGEM re-examine its charging regime to ensure that Island resources too were developed to their full potential.
5. Revenue Monitoring Expenditure 2011/12
There had been circulated Report No. ped-18-12 (30kb pdf) dated 2 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development commenting on the Revenue Monitoring Statement for the period to 31 January 2012 and the then predicted over-spend at the year-end of £0.369m, primarily caused by lower than budgeted fee income.
The Business Support Manager reported verbally on the position at the end of February, reminding Members that the Resources Committee on 15 February 2012 had approved the Committee’s request for a supplementary budget estimate of £0.577m. The estimated overspend on Public Inquiries had risen further, but the position with regard to fee income had improved slightly. While a number of uncertainties remained, it appeared likely that an overall under-spend of £0.208m would be returned to the Council at the year end. The position would be closely monitored.
In response to questions raised, clarification was given of the figures relating to the Employability Service. Members were also advised that an adjustment of the 2012/13 allocated budget for Public Local Inquiries was unlikely - balances would be sought from elsewhere in the budget if required.
The Chairman having commended the way the budget had been managed, the Committee NOTED the monitoring report to 31 January 2012 and the update provided to the end of February 2012; and APPROVED the management action taken to date to reduce the projected overspend against budget at year-end to £0.369m, which, taking into account the agreed supplementary budget estimate of £0.577m, would produce an end of year out-turn of £0.208m underspend against the revised budget.
6. Capital Expenditure Monitoring 2011/12
There had been circulated Report No. ped-19-12 (69kb pdf) dated 7 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development outlining expenditure and income to 31 January 2012 and the projected year-end position. The report also provided an update on Vacant and Derelict Land Fund (VDLF) projects.
The Principal Projects Officer summarised the main points of the report. A significant number of invoices were expected prior to the year end, which would bring the anticipated out-turn closer to budget. An underspend of £544,000 was anticipated, as detailed in the report.
The Principal Projects Officer also gave a presentation illustrating a variety of interpretation projects and innovative approaches, including a “virtual ranger”. The use of Facebook was also being explored. Effective interpretation supported strong communities and tourism. Members welcomed the Council’s interpretation activities and emphasised the importance of involving local communities when compiling information. Appreciation was expressed for the work carried out by the team, with reference to a number of projects, including Beauly Square and Munlochy.
The Regeneration Advisor reported that £968,000 VDLF expenditure was now legally committed for 2011/12, including £652,000 (rather than £630,000 as stated in the report) for Nigg. The Scottish Government had agreed that the Council could carry forward £1.1m to 2012/13, subject to works being committed by the year end. Substitute projects would be taken forward to help achieve this. It was likely that £370,000 would remain uncommitted, but there was optimism that the Scottish Government would nonetheless permit this to be carried forward also. The Scottish Government had provisionally offered £1m VDLF funding for 2012/13, subject to submission and approval of the Council’s delivery plan.
Members welcomed activity at Nigg, and the optimism to which this gave rise. Good progress was also being made with the Nairn Town Centre project, the Co-operative Group having now consented to the required demolition. In response to questions raised, Members were advised that a decision was awaited as to whether the Kishorn Masterplan would qualify for VDLF funding; that data from traffic and site studies at the Longman was being closely analysed prior to bringing forward recommendations; and that, whilst it was recognised that preparatory work for substitute projects might give rise to community expectations which could be disappointed, this was a risk that had to be taken.
The Committee NOTED:
i. the content of the report, and the amended figure of £652,000 for VDLF
funding at Nigg; and
ii. that the outcome of studies into the Longman site would be included in
future capital monitoring reports.
The Committee HOMOLOGATED the decisions to award the contract for Rogie Falls Suspension Bridge and to revert to full tender process for Portree Quay Brae Steps (as per paragraphs 1.5 and 1.6 of the report respectively).
The Committee AGREED:
i. the proposed strategy for capital expenditure on interpretation projects as
outlined in section 2, subject to inclusion of liaison with local communities on
the content of interpretation materials; and
ii. that delegated powers be given to the Director of Planning and
Development, in consultation with the Committee Chair and Vice Chair, to
agree the detail of the 2012/13 Vacant and Derelict Land Fund Delivery
7. Audit Scotland: Statutory Performance Indicators – Third Quarterly Review 2011/12
There had been circulated Report No. ped-20-12 (57kb pdf) dated 5 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development advising Members on the delivery of the Development Management, Building Standards and the Development Plan services for the third quarter of 2011/12, with comparative figures for previous years.
The Head of Planning and Building Standards summarised the main points of the report. Development Management performance had improved by around 8% on the previous year, exceeding the 5% target. Performance in relation to pre-application advice, building standards and development plans was positive, with continuing improvement.
Members congratulated staff on the good performance and spoke highly of the pre-application advice service. In response to questions, Members were advised that the reasons householder applications could take beyond two months to determine varied, but could include changes to plans or consideration by a Planning Applications Committee. Further information relating to the value of building works would be provided to individual Members outwith the meeting.
The Committee NOTED:
i. the encouraging improvements in performance across both Development
Management and Building Standards and the ongoing work of the
Development Plans Team; and
ii. the sickness absence levels for the Service.
8. Audit Scotland National Report – The Role of Community Planning Partnerships and Economic Development
There had been circulated Report No. ped-21-12 (53kb pdf) dated 7 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development on the main findings and recommendations from the National Audit of Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs) and Economic Development, produced by Audit Scotland. It provided information on how well the Highland CPP, and the Council as a key partner, performed against the audit findings, and set out areas for improvement. Most of the recommended actions were underway.
In response to questions raised, further information would be provided to individual Members outwith the meeting on the integration of localised CPPs and similar groups with the Council’s core CPP activities. The Economy and Regeneration Manager also advised that Audit Scotland generally regarded the self-assessment process carried out by some CPPs as a strength, rather than a weakness.
The Committee NOTED the seven recommendations made by Audit Scotland, the proposed response and the summary of improvement points for the Council and its CPP partners.
9. Business Gateway
Declarations of Interest:
Mr I Ross, Mrs I McCallum, Mr I Brown, Mrs H Carmichael, Mr D Henderson, and Mr J Gray, as Directors of Highland Opportunity Limited, declared non-financial interests in relation to this item but, having applied the test outlined in Paragraphs 5.2 and 5.3 of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, concluded that their interests did not preclude their involvement in the discussion.
There had been circulated Report No ped-22-12 (33kb pdf) dated 7 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development updating Members on the new contract arrangements for the Business Gateway service delivery.
The Business Gateway Officer reported that, by the time of the Committee’s August 2012 meeting, Business Gateway would have assisted over 1,000 people to start a business. This was in addition to the support given to existing businesses.
Members having congratulated staff on their achievements and NOTED that the figure given at paragraph 3.1 of the report should read £50k, rather than £50; the Committee AGREED that, once contract negotiations had been concluded in a satisfactory manner, the Director of Planning and Development, in consultation with the Committee Chair and Vice Chair, agree the final terms and enter into a contract with Highland Opportunity Limited for the delivery of the Business Gateway service from 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2015.
10. Employability Service Update
There had been circulated Report No. ped-23-12 (30kb pdf) dated 7 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development proposing transitional funding for organisations during the first part of the financial year 2012/13. The services provided by these organisations were currently funded through the Employability Service Strategic Projects but would be subject to the joint service procurement being undertaken for implementation in 2012/13. The funding was proposed to ensure continuity of services for clients while the procurement exercise was being concluded and contracts awarded.
The Employability Team Leader summarised the main points of the report. Where required, projects would be supported on a month to month basis, until the new funding arrangements began. Unsuccessful projects would then be closed in a managed way – existing clients would continue with their current provider until their programme was finished.
In response to concerns raised, Members were advised that the issue of the level of support for client groups other than the young unemployed (e.g. women returners, over 50s, adults with disabilities) was recognised and would be factored into Officers’ work. Members also sought information as to what would happen to organisations which were unsuccessful in the tender process.
The Committee AGREED:
i. to grant delegated powers to the Director of Planning and Development, in
consultation with the Committee Chair and Vice Chair, to approve individual
service payments within the principles outlined in section 2 of the report;
ii. that the Employability report brought to the August 2012 Committee would
reflect the concerns raised in discussion.
11. Tourism and Film
There had been circulated Report No. ped-24-12 (45kb pdf) dated 2 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development updating Members on recent activity in the tourism and film sectors, including proposals for a Service Delivery Agreement between The Highland Council and VisitScotland (VS) for 2012-13.
The Tourism Co-ordinator drew attention to the growing impact of the film industry on tourism. It was estimated that the forthcoming Disney production, “Brave”, would bring an additional £150m to the Scottish economy.
In response to questions, the Co-ordinator advised that VS produced an annual report for the Council detailing the activities it had carried out in the Highlands, and the estimated return on the Council’s investment. This had previously been distributed to all Members but, bearing in mind that it was unlikely to be available before the May election, it would be distributed to Members of the new Council. He also advised that Destination Management Organisations were effective in bringing the industry together, particularly for specific projects; however, the return on their spend was not monitored. Future trends within VS were likely to include an increased use of technology and the provision of more Visitor Information Centres (VICs) through shared services – communities would be consulted on any such proposals.
In discussion, Members commented that, as tourism was the most important industry in the Highlands; the Council must provide the best support it could. Publicity brought tourists to the area, and films were an important part of this. Other activities which could help promote the Highlands included advertising in larger VICs in the Central belt, and responding quickly to developments and trends arising through social media.
The Committee NOTED:
i. the current situation with the tourism and film sectors and the Council’s
contributions to these sectors; and
ii. the range of projects and activities supported by the Council’s Tourism
The Committee AGREED to authorise the Director of Planning and Development to conclude a Service Delivery Agreement with VisitScotland for 2012-13 that would incorporate the activities included in Appendix 3 to the report; and APPROVED a payment to VisitScotland of up to a maximum of £295,000 for the financial year 2012-13.
12. Development Plan Scheme and Highland-wide Local Development Plan – Action Programme
There had been circulated Report No. ped-25-12 (324kb pdf) dated 1 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development outlining the content of the Development Plan Scheme, including the final steps towards adoption of the Highland-wide Local Development Plan and the next stages of the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan, together with an Action Programme to accompany the Highland-wide Local Development Plan.
The Planning Officer briefly summarised the main points of the report, and presented a slide proposing the following amendments to the recommended Action Programme as appended to the report:
- an adjustment of the timescale and next steps for Onshore Wind Energy: Supplementary Guidance
- insertion of an additional action into the West Highland and Islands section relating to support for the development of a Masterplan for the Kishorn Yard, in partnership with private developers and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
In discussion, Members commented that development planning was generally not well understood by the public, and that the document provided useful and clear information which would be helpful in this regard. The document also showed how much had been taken forward by Officers and scrutinised by Members.
The Committee AGREED:
i. the content of the Development Plan Scheme 2012, in order for the
document to be submitted to the Plain English Campaign and subsequently
submitted to Scottish Ministers;
* ii. to recommend to the Council that it agree at its meeting on 5 April 2012
to adopt the Highland-wide Local Development Plan Action Programme,
including the tabled amendments, alongside the Highland-wide Local
13. Planning Policy and Guidance for Onshore Wind Energy
Declarations of Interest:
Mr D Fallows and Mr G Rimell declared financial interests in this item as Board Members of the Cairngorms National Park Authority but, in terms of the dispensations granted by the Standards Commission, remained to participate in the discussion.
There had been circulated Report No. ped-26-12 (455kb pdf) dated 7 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development dealing with the amended version of the Council’s Supplementary Guidance for Onshore Wind Energy, which had been revised and redrafted following public consultation. The report sought Committee approval of the revised guidance for adoption as interim Supplementary Guidance alongside the Highland-wide Local Development Plan.
The Principal Planner gave a presentation expanding on the points summarised in the report. In particular:
- The spatial framework was required in order to demonstrate alignment with Scottish Government policy and advice.
- Once approved, the revised Guidance would bear significantly more weight as a consideration in decision-making than did the earlier draft.
- Parts of the Guidance relating to landscape and visual (including cumulative) impact were not yet finalised – these would be brought to the Committee in due course.
- Noise considerations in relation to residential amenity were being worked on with Environmental Health.
- Aspects which had been removed from the Guidance to reflect modifications recommended by the Examination Reporter to the Highland-wide Local Development Plan included: the section on public health and safety and the specific content on the film industry interests.
- Key revisions had been made to the spatial framework maps for this version of the Guidance – namely, some recategorisation and updating of constraints and exclusion of: project viability considerations, small ‘point’ constraint features such as listed buildings, and landscape and visual areas identified through pilot work; the excluded issues were in any case covered by the HwLDP and would be addressed through ongoing work as necessary.
- Aspects of the Guidance which had been expanded following consultation included: types of wind-farm (a “very large” category had been added); references to legal tests relating to heritage and species protection; peat and habitat issues; rights of way; explanation of what the Council required in the way of visual standards; references to transport requirements; guidance on design and layout.
- Larger scale maps would be made available.
- Clarification had been provided with respect to use of the terms “community” and “commercial” to explain that they did not imply any difference in how applications from either source would be handled
- The guidance for small scale turbines would be progressed as a stand-alone document and brought to the Committee later in the year following public consultation.
Members broadly welcomed and supported the Supplementary Guidance, and the continuing consideration being given to cumulative impact. The Guidance would assist the Council in making decisions that could withstand challenge. Strong and diverse views were held on wind energy, and the Guidance needed to be objective, robust and correct. It was important that time was allowed to achieve this, and that the document could be reviewed when required. Scottish Government policy supported onshore wind energy developments. The Guidance provided a tool that could be used to moderate pressure from Government, should this be required in future.
In response to questions raised, Members were advised that:
- consideration of any revision of the Guidance relating to distance of turbines from roads should be deferred pending Transport Scotland’s publication of its relevant guidance for Trunk Roads
- for the largest windfarms in particular, a rigorous approach, involving the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), was taken with regard to carbon balance calculation; peat extraction for turbine bases was taken into account
- turbines were usually white as this was appropriate when viewed against typical sky conditions – however, planning permission conditions could stipulate other colours
- developers were required under Policy 67 in the Highland-wide Local Development Plan to fully remove windfarms after an agreed period; bonds or similar arrangements were put in place to ensure this happened
- once work being carried out by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) on the identification of wild land was completed, the Council’s existing commitment in the Highland-wide Local Development Plan to produce wild land supplementary guidance would be actioned; draft guidance would be brought to Committee and any implications of this for the Council’s Onshore Wind Energy Guidance would be identified for consideration; it was likely that SNH’s wild land areas would coincide with a number of areas which, although not part of a designated landscape, might be regarded as of particular visual amenity value, but which at present were identified as search areas in the Guidance
- discussion of community benefit must be kept separate from consideration of planning issues
- risk assessments had already been carried out for existing turbines at schools and were currently in the process of being revisited
- Council policy was generally to promote tree planting and seek compensatory planting; where there was an opportunity for restoration of peat-bog in connection with wind-farm development, this did not prevent compensatory off-site planting also being sought.
In discussion, Members commented that it could not be assumed that the wind energy developments would have a negative impact on the tourism and film industries – similar fears surrounding hydro developments in the 1950s had proved unfounded. Members also advocated that turbines in any location which had a through-put of people should be risk assessed.
In conclusion, the Chairman commented that the Highland economy had much to gain from renewables. However, in the mid-term (5+ years hence), it could be envisaged that the potential for large scale developments would become increasingly restricted. The Scottish Government should be encouraged to reconsider sensitivity, landscape and community issues.
Having NOTED that further reports would be brought to future meetings, the Committee AGREED that:
i. the revised Supplementary Guidance for Onshore Wind Energy, as set out
in Appendix 1 to the report, be adopted and used as a material
consideration in decision making;
ii. the stand-alone guidance for small scale wind turbines be issued for public
consultation and the outcomes of this reported to the Committee at a later
iii. the work on visual and landscape impact, including cumulative impact,
continue with key partners, and any update required to the Guidance be
brought forward in due course; and
iv. all Council planning applications for small scale wind turbine developments on
schools sites require a site specific risk assessment to be submitted.
14. Sandown Development Brief
There had been circulated Report No. ped-27-12 (173kb pdf) dated 7 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development detailing the outcome of a recent Charrette consultation exercise for a town expansion site at Sandown, Nairn, and presenting a draft Sandown Development Brief for approval as interim supplementary guidance.
In speaking to the report, the Principal Planner clarified that the draft Development Brief reflected those matters on which consensus had been achieved. Other issues had been left open to permit further local debate and would be brought to Committee at a later date.
During discussion, the use of the Charrette process, and the resulting draft Brief, were welcomed, with thanks extended to the Planning and Development officials for their input. In response to calls to use the Charrette process again in future, Members were reminded that the recent process had received substantial Scottish Government support. The Council would have to examine the scope for taking this forward in other cases from within its own resources.
The Committee NOTED the outcome of the Charrette process, as detailed in the report, and AGREED the Sandown Development Brief at Appendix 1 to the report as interim supplementary guidance.
15. Flooding Supplementary Guidance – Report of Consultation and Final Approval
There had been circulated Report No. ped-28-12 (682kb pdf) dated 7 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development providing the outcome of recent consultation on the Council’s draft guidance on flooding.
The Committee NOTED the results of the consultation and APPROVED Appendix 2 to the report as the Council’s interim supplementary guidance on flooding.
16. Historic Environment Strategy and Standards for Archaeological Work - Outcome of Public Consultation
There had been circulated Report No. ped-29-12 (480kb pdf) dated 1 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development presenting the results of two public consultations: The Highland Council Historic Environment Strategy(329kb pdf) and the Highland Council Standards for Archaeological Work (279kb pdf). The consultation drafts of the documents had each been subjected to a 12 week consultation period, as detailed in the Consultation Reports, with responses to the consultations appended to the report. The amended Historic Environment Strategy and Standards for Archaeological Work had also been circulated.
In response to a question, it was reinforced that these drafts related primarily to the built environment, with protections for the natural environment and related cultural legacy issues addressed rather in the Highland-wide Local Development Plan.
The Committee NOTED the consultation responses received on the Draft Historic Environment Strategy and the Draft Standards for Archaeological Work, and the amendments proposed to each; and APPROVED:
i. the Highland Historic Environment Strategy, as set out in Appendix 1c to
the report, for formal adoption as Interim Supplementary Planning
ii. the Standards for Archaeological Work as set out in Appendix 2c to the
report as guidance for those undertaking or commissioning archaeological
work in Highland.
17. Supplementary Guidance for Public Consultation: Developer Contributions (including Affordable Housing); Public Art Strategy
There had been circulated Report No. ped-30-12 (28kb pdf) dated 6 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development summarising the content of and seeking approval to move toward public consultation on two pieces of Supplementary Guidance: Developer Contributions (231kb pdf) and also Public Art Strategy (35kb pdf), the former comprising a consolidation of a number of existing pieces of guidance with a view to consistency, and the latter constituting new proposed guidance.
During discussion, in relation to Developer Contributions, it was suggested that local communities needed a better understanding of the concept of planning gain and how they could influence its use. The work of the Developer Contributions Officer Working Group was acknowledged and the appointment of a Planning Gain Officer welcomed. In response to a suggestion that references in the draft to circumstances where the Council “might” seek a contribution should be strengthened to say “would”, it was argued that there was advantage in having flexibility to make a case by case judgement as to whether such an approach was appropriate.
In relation to the draft Public Art Strategy, it was pointed out that the concept extended beyond large sculptures, which might represent the traditional perception, into broader design considerations, and that this awareness should be embedded throughout the Council’s services. It was also suggested that Inverness Old Town Art should have a consultative role, not necessarily limited to Inverness. In response to a comment that the younger generation should be involved, an assurance was given that the Council’s engagement with Highland Youth Voice provided a vehicle for this.
After discussion, the Committee APPROVED both the draft Developer Contributions: Supplementary Guidance and the draft Public Art Strategy: Supplementary Guidance for public consultation for a period of six weeks; and AGREED that:
i. prior to public consultation, non-material changes could be made to the
documents, including formatting, insertion of Gaelic titles and photographs;
ii. a report be brought back to the Committee in August 2012, to include a
summary of responses and recommended final versions of both pieces of
guidance, for adoption as Supplementary Guidance to the Highland-wide
Local Development Plan.
18. Pressured Rural Areas – Balnafoich Housing Capacity Study
There had been circulated Report No. ped-31-12 (901kb pdf) dated 5 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development considering the outcomes of work undertaken to assess the remaining capacity for housing development within the Balnafoich area of Inverness. The Housing Capacity Study provided more detailed policy guidance to assist in the determination of planning applications within the areas defined in the study.
The Committee NOTED the content of the Pressured Rural Areas – Balnafoich Housing Capacity Study; and AGREED that the study be used as a material consideration in the determination of planning applications within the areas as defined in the study.
19. Six Cities Strategy: Resourcing Ongoing Activity
There had been circulated Report No. ped-32-12 (52kb pdf) dated 7 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development informing Members of the progress with the development of the Six Cities Strategy. The report requested approval of a commitment of £10,000 per annum for the next three years as the Council’s contribution towards the work of the Six Cities Alliance. This collaborative project involved representatives from Scotland’s six cities, the private sector and academia, working together in partnership with the Scottish Government. The Highland Council, representing Inverness, had previously worked together with Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling.
The Committee NOTED the progress of the Six Cities Strategy and APPROVED the commitment of £10,000 per annum towards the costs of delivering the two Six Cities enabling frameworks for the next three years, as detailed in paragraphs 3.2 and 4.1 of the report.
20. Highland Core Path Implementation Programme (2010-2013): Proposed Phase 3 Projects and Progress Report
There had been circulated Report No. ped-33-12 (55kb pdf) dated 2 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development advising that the Planning, Environment and Development Service Plan had committed the Council to developing and implementing the Highland Core Path Plan Implementation Programme (HCPIP) and to maximising the value of the LEADER Programme in the Highlands. The report updated the Committee on the first two phases of the HCPIP and sought authority to proceed with a third phase of community paths projects supported by the Council and the LEADER programme.
During discussion, attention was drawn to the importance of public awareness and observation of the Countryside Code when using the path network. It was suggested that the Council’s Countryside Ranger Service be asked to consider appropriate strategies/solutions, including whether the use of signage might be appropriate in certain locations.
The Committee NOTED progress being made on the Highland Core Path Implementation Programme (phases 1 and 2); and APPROVED the third phase of the proposed community path projects supported by the Council and LEADER via the Programme, as set out in Appendix 1 to the report.
21. Consultation – Exotic Fuels and Nuclear Materials: Dounreay – Credible Options
Declaration of Interest:
Mr G Farlow declared a non-financial interest in this item as Chairman of the Dounreay Stakeholders Group Site Restoration Sub-Group but, having applied the test outlined in Paragraphs 5.2 and 5.3 of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, concluded that his interests did not preclude his involvement in the discussion.
There had been circulated Report No. ped-34-12 (305kb pdf) dated 5 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development advising Members that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) had recently published a paper on the management options for unirridiated plutonium and high enriched uranium bearing fuels currently stored at Dounreay. The paper considered the implications of those options, taking into consideration other similar proposals, before providing its recommendation on what the Council’s response should be.
During discussion, it was recognised that the removal of this material from Dounreay to Sellafield by the NDA was a strong likelihood and that the issue was primarily how best this could be done. Emphasis was placed on the importance of safety and security considerations. It was acknowledged that the NDA had considerable experience in these issues and a strong safety record to date in rail transportation. There should, however, be proper communication with local communities. It was also important that Caithness achieve some legacy benefit from its long association with the nuclear industry.
The Committee AGREED a response stating that:
i. should the fuel/material be removed from Dounreay to Sellafield, transport
be by rail, not road;
ii. consideration be given by the NDA to invest savings arising from the
transferral of the hazard to Sellafield in infrastructure that would support
wider socio-economic aims in Caithness and North Sutherland;
iii. the Council as a stakeholder should be included in any future decision
making relating to this proposal; and
iv. the NDA should also take forward appropriate consultation with affected
22. Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Forum Minutes
The Committee NOTED the Minutes of Meeting of the Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Forum held on 8 November 2011 (39kb pdf).
23. Minutes of Planning Applications Committees
There had been circulated separately and were NOTED Minutes of meetings of:-
i. Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Planning Applications
Committee - 20 Dec 2011;
ii. North Planning Applications Committee - 10 January 2012; and
iii. South Planning Applications Committee - 17 January 2012.
24. Exclusion of the Public
The Committee RESOLVED that, under Section 50A(4) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, the public be excluded from the meeting for the following item on the grounds that it involved the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 1 of Part 1 of Schedule 7A of the Act.
25. Review of Building Standards Structure
There had been circulated to Members only Report No. Ped35/12 dated 7 March 2012 by the Director of Planning and Development seeking approval for changes to the Buildings Standards structure to reflect changes in emphasis and the outcomes of the re-evaluation of a number of posts.
The Committee AGREED:
i. the changes to the Building Standards structure; and
ii. to recommend the changes for approval to the Resources Committee on
21 March 2012.
The meeting ended at 2.50 p.m., having adjourned for lunch at 1.25 p.m. and reconvened at 2.00 p.m.