Time to put away permanently the CPO threat at Menie

I have now been contacted by all but one of those whose land was added to the outline planning permission on 1st September (see post below).  No-one wants to sell.  No-one feels it is fair or just to be asked to negotiate with Trump with the threat of CPOs on the table.

Yesterday I was told that part of the threat was very explicit - agree to our offer or as we have the people who wrote the rules on board, you'll be forced to sell anyway on our terms (see Rob Edwards article in the Sunday Herald)

It is not about money for the owners of Mill of Menie, Leyton Cottage, Hermit Point, Menie Fishing Station and Leyton Farm.  It is about their right to the peaceful enjoyment of their property.  If they wish to sell fine.  If they don't no-one should make them.

That is simply what the debate on Thursday should be about.

It's not a difficult question.   It doesn't need long reports on the legal and financial ramifications of CPOs.  This is something Councils have the powers to do.  But Councils can choose not to use those powers.

It's not about money.   It's a simply matter of principles and ethics.    And it is about people.

Planning Applications for Full Council Determination

It's likely to get lost with all the media circus we expect on Thursday because of the CPO vote, but the last item on the agenda is also important.

The new planning legislation mandates certain types of application, National and Major contrary to the development plan, to be determined by Full Council  There appear to be two of these current - the Buchan incinerator and an application for a brewery and associated development on the outskirts of Potterton. 

There will be pre-determination hearings for each of these to which all 68 councillors will be invited.  It will be an interesting sight to see a hearing with 68 councillors able to ask questions of applicant, objectors and supporters.  I suspect for some applications caught by these new rules, there may be more councillors than those wishing to be heard!

Now I am no fan of the changes - I hate rules set by central government unless strictly necessary - and am keen to keep planning decisions local.  But given the new rules imposed, one suggestion for Thursday concerns me.  It is proposed that the local Area Committee should "make arrangements for  .... the separate articulation of any Area Committee observations."  Now I think that is a problem: we are told not to make our views of applications known in advance of the meeting to determine the application - so how can we make "observations".

I do believe the local members views are important - but the mechanism proposed is a problem.

Trumpland clearance

At the Blue Lamp last night, the traditional acoutic music session included a couple of spots from contributors to the Trumpland Clearances CD (available from the Blue Lamp).as part of the CD launch.

The track listis
  1. More Money Than You - Caroline Kemp
  2. Trump's a Coof for A'That - Geoff Lamb/Robert Burns
  3. Trumped Up - Mark McCabe
  4. This Land is My Land - Geoff Lamb/Woody Guthrie
  5. Trump International Wants to Build - Sue Edwards/Ralph Butler/Peter Hart.

Extension to Wester Hatton refused

It's not all Trump/Menie here ... and occasionally all councillors agree!

On Tuesday the local planning committee here refused a twenty year extension to the period of operation for a landfill site at Wester Hatton, Aberdeenshire.  The planning service recommended grant. 

Oddly given the usual enthusiasm for moving Grant or Refusal by local members, three local councillors spoke expressing various shades of opinion before the final and fourth local member, Cllr Paul Johnston moved refusal. I was starting to think I'd have to move the motion .... and there was even a pause before Jim Gifford seconded Paul.  This is an interesting one that will almost certainly go to appeal - there is simply so much money at stake.  But just how long should a community have to suffer a landfill site?

This one was granted planning permission when I first became a councillor (in fact it was the first planning application I ever spoke on - the first item of the first committee meeting I attended and I was then the local member and had the priviledge of speaking first).  It was granted for a limited period of ten years - its then expected life.  But it operated for only two or three years without serious problems (some smell to some properties to the north) and then closed.  Another landfill opened in the locality not operating to quite such high standards was able to undercut its prices.    And yet another landfill opened nearby more recently.   It seems that even without this site there is sufficient landfill capacity in the area for decades ahead.  So the need case was dramatically different and the weight on this was the serious difference between the views of the planners and those of councillors.

But what now happens to the site?  Are the previous conditions for restoration robust enough?

Menie Liberation Front

The macDonald has received a tribute from the Menie Liberation Front in the form of masks over the faces of some of Scotland's most iconic statues.   You will have your own favorite, if you view the gallery of pictures.

I suppose that this harmless prank is meant to highlight the taking over our our heritage by the Trump Golf machine. 

The vote next Thursday, 1st October to stop Aberdeenshire agreeing to Trump's request to use compulsory purchase powers to acquire my constituent's properties is a key event.  Please do come to the Gordon Suite at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre and withness what my colleagues do.  The meeting starts at 10.15 am and Cllr Martin Ford's motion is the third item on the Agenda.

See STV news for a good summary of where we are.

Sustainability ... at Menie

Sometimes someone puts their finger on a key issue so elegantly that the only thing to do is point as many people in the right direction as possible so please read this letter in the Scotsman.  http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/opinion/Trump-cards.5663441.jp

Thank you, Erica Hollis of Whitecairns, Aberdeenshire.

Beachwatch 2009

I joined my kayak club for a beach clean today. The club has done this for a number of years at the same location and it is pleasing to report a reduction in the volume of litter collected.

Thanks for Rob for organising this again and to the team including a local fishing boat that turned out to work (and drink tea).

Marine litter is a problem. We picked up lots of small pieces of plastic which can be injested by animals. See Adopt a Beach for more information

Please do sign the petition asking for a government action plan to reduce marine litter at http://www.adoptabeach.org.uk/pages/beachwatch_petition.php

Trump Menie Sales Pitch .... Sorry, Masterplan Consultation

Today was the presentation of the Trump-Menie Masterplan/Sales Pitch to the great and good (plus me!).

I have no hesitation in saying the the developing zoning diagram (for that is all that yet exists) is better than the dreadful vision presented at the planning application and public local inquiry. But then neither of those could take into account the prospect of 8 storey apartment blocks and the ridiculously designed hotel (I tended to think of it as the bastard child of a Florida beach apartment and Marischall College (sorry, MC)) - it was after all outline planning permission.

For a nice summary of what is proposed see Jonathan Meades polemic at the end of this video.

But I found it interesting how jumpy Sarah Malone (the local quine face of the development) was when I asked the entirely predictable question about future public engagement beyond the current exhibition. And was highly amused to have Ann Faulds, Trump's legal advisor jump in with statements such as we don't have to do any public engagement and we have on board the people who wrote the planning advice notes. I'm just one woman asking a perfectly polite question that they knew in advance I would ask. Dear, dear. No need to be so defensive.

But according to Ann Faulds it does appear that there is a plan for public engagement ... but it won't be published. Why not? What is there to hide?

Other aspects of the presentation that interested me ....

Staff Accommodation
400 units are included in the outline planning permission. There was no mention of these units tonight nor can I find a reference in the nice glossy brochure they were handing out.
Are they being added into the residential area?
If so, why couldn't the 100 affordable houses also be included ... in fact why couldn't the 100 affordable units be incororated anyway?
If they are no longer part of the plan, doesn't that mean the Transport assessments need to be redone?

Separation of Resort and Housing
This still persists. Gareth Hoskins was brave enough to mention the words "gated community" and it wasn't clear to me whether this was what he was designing or whether the resort was to be "exclusive" in a very real sense but the housing was to be more permeable - or whether the whole gated community thing still exists for the whole development.

Community Facilities
The "vision" includes a village centre and words such as community facilities, shops, pubs, cafes were freely bandied about. But unless there is a firm connection to the 950 holiday apartments and the 450 bedroom hotel in the resort, a shop, a cafe and a pub will not be viable (unless Trumpton on Sea is a lot different to other villages in this part of the world) . I think there is a problem here that the zoning diagram thus far hasn't addressed.

Public Access
The zoning diagram shows routes from the land across the dunes and even a link from the residential area to Petten's church. So far so good.
But parking for the general public?
Details of access beyond Pettens into Balmedie?
What about access to/from Foveran and Newburgh? Balmedie village is about 1.5-2km from the houses. Foveran is a just a little further from the resort apartments and Newburgh is about 3km away. But these are all readily within walk/cycle distance.

To follow - but we don't know when as this is the big secret - is some form of Design Code to define the look of the buildings on the site.

Do go and have a look - and you may even want to fill in a comments sheet. Your comments will be confidential. Sounds good that, doesn't it? But it also means that we will never know what is said or whether anyone's comments, however valid, are listened to. Or, more likely, are we back in the Groundhog Day of the public local inquiry when Dr Dargie (environment), Prof Ritchie (geomorpology) and Mr Hawtree (golf course) all said that they have advised macDonald to stay off the SSSI and had been told this wasn't part of the plan.

That's all a bit depressing so to cheer us up a bit - beauty does that - let's remind ourselves just what a special place the Menie dunes are. Please click on this photo to see a stunning interactive panorama. Move your cursor to see the entire 360 degree view.

Thanks to www.RobinWilson.net for this superb image - and do come and walk on the dunes while you can.

Menie Ode

I was sent this yesterday and thought I'd share it with everyone. The author wishes to remain anonymous - but Thank you, Spirit of Iona.

A little poem just for you
To lift you up when you feel blue
Remember always right makes might
and let that be your guiding light
Ode to Cllr Storr
Now I pen this poem just for you
And hope that you will read it through
My hope is that it will bring relief
In the times that others cause you grief
Like when those opposing don't play fair
Ignoring the duty and office you bear
defaming your person and your name
And pointing out that you're to blame
Don't let these things take their toll
Dampening your spirit and destroying your soul
just learn to sing an uplifting song
then pick up the torch and carry on
So Never grow weary from this fight
just keep in heart that right makes might
And should opponents throw their sleaze
smile right back and just say 'cheese'
Keep young at heart as long as you can
And don't let your spirit be crushed by this man
just recall the Lyrics of the Labi Siffre song
There's Something inside so strong
Finally when Trump's cronies get you down
Give a big smile and dare not to frown
Just blow a raspberry and don't get to glum
Remember the 'Latin' 'illigetimi non carborundum'
Spirit of Iona (2009)
Keep up the good work at the Menie
AB53 Resident

Menie Masterplan Consultation

I have today been invited to a "preview of the developing masterplan exhibition and a presentation by Gareth Hoskins Architects".

The Exhibition will then run from 11am to 7pm on Friday 18th September and from 11am to 5pm on Saturday 19th September.

Venue: White Horse Inn, Balmedie.

Now PAN 83 Masterplanning makes some comments on people's involvement in the process

"When creating successful places, people must be at the heart of the process. The local community's understanding of the needs of an area are invaluable in establishing priorities and arriving at a vision for a place. Once the local community and key stakeholders (the community in its widest sense) have been identified, early discussions can provide a wealth of information about the area's history and how it functions. An engagement plan could be devised to identify mechanisms for involving the community. These will establish opinions and confirm local people's aspirations for the place. Various types of interests may have to be engaged in different ways. Those planning on engaging local communities throughout a masterplanning process may want to think about the following questions.

Some useful questions to consider when thinking about engaging with the community
  • How will the community be made aware of the programme for participation?
  • How will those most likely to be affected be given opportunities to make their views known?
  • Will the engagement be in a manner, location and at a time that allows a wide range of people to make their views known?
  • How will the masterplanning team analyse the results of the engagement and provide feedback to the community?
  • How will the masterplanning team respond in amending the masterplan?
  • How will the community be able to review any changes to the masterplan?
  • Where changes are made, how will details of revised plans be publicised with an explanation of how people's views have influenced it?
  • How will a management scheme be devised in collaboration with local communities? (For example, the developer may consider assigning community representatives on to a local project review or management panel.)
  • How will development agreements be developed in discussion with local communities?
The engagement process should be carefully planned and supported by the team involved in the project, or where necessary, skilled facilitators. The success of the process will depend on its participants playing a key part, and knowing that their involvement can make a difference. It's useful if they have access to appropriate information and support throughout the masterplan process, and preferably a single point of contact. Further guidance on effective community engagement is available in PAN 81: Community Engagement, Planning with People."

It will be interesting to hear what the process of engagement is proposed to be - 14 hours of exhibition is not the type of "engagement" that the Scottish Government holds up as exemplars of good practice.

I'll ask for a copy of the Engagement Plan to be published.

Update : Friday evening
Oh dear.

I asked about the Engagement Plan so I could keep the community informed and was told by email from the lovely Sarah Malone

"thank you also for your offer to help with our community engagement exercise. This, however, will not be necessary as we have a top team managing the process on our behalf, including the author of PAN."

This was confirmed last night by no less than Ann Foulds, Head of Planning and legal at Dundas and Wilson, who amplified that an engagement plan did exist but that it would not be made public. How odd that they are not willing to share this pretty innocuous information

More Menie Planning Permissions

I have now recovered from a depressing day on Tuesday when my colleagues decided to grant planning permission for Trump to extend the resort to include 5 new areas.

For clarity, as it is difficult for most people to understand what this is all about - and quite properly much of the focus is the threat via Compulsory Purchase to people's homes - I will try to explain why I moved rejection of the five permissions.

Overall there were two reasons for refusal

1. failure of applicant to show how the addition of the site would improve the masterplan for the resort.
This was purely an assertion by Trump. Architecture and Design Scotland said they could not comment as they had not seen any Masterplans and the council's planner oddly missed reporting the views of this vital consultee, charged with overseeing the masterplanning process. A masterplan was released by Trump on 28th August but this has not been agreed nor widely discussed.

2. failure to demonstrate any ADDITIONAL benefits to the wider public for the inclusion of the land

And individually for the sites:

A. Leyton Farm - loss of farmland: lack of environmental assessment

B. Hermit Point - lose of residential accommodation, lost of historic building, no demonstration that there was a conflict in continuing current use or issues with access.

C. Leyton Cottage - loss of residential accommodation and no demontration that there would be a conflcit in continiung current use or issues with access.

D. Menie Fishing Station/Mill of Menie - loss of residential accommodation and loss of farmland, lack fo environmental assessment.

E. Council owned land in the dunes last used as car park - loss of opportunity for public access.

I was pretty confident about the compatibility of use for Hermit Point and Leyton Cottage as the applicant oddly did not also apply to extend the resort into Coastguard Cottages which should logically have simil;ar issues. The Chair of the meetings stopped me from questioning the applicant's agent on why this was so but I have heard comments that it was no co-incidence that those targeted for the planning permissions and thence the CPOs are those who are unwilling to sell.

Low point of meeting : Cllr Isobel Davidson saying that she was supporting the grant so that the residents could "move on". Isobel - if you spoke to our constituents, you would understand they have no wish to move on and away.

Update: 3rd October. I have an apology to make here. Isobel - you spoke very clearly on 1st October saying that your were in principle against the use of CPOs at for the properties in question.  Thank you for that and I have removed further comment regarding this.  I am sorry I misinterpreted you.

High point : Cllr Rob Merson saying that landownership must be resolved on the basis of "willing buyer, willing seller". Well done to Rob for being the first SNP councillor to give an indication of their views on the CPO. Shame on the rest for not saying.

UPDATE (Friday and Saturday)
Rob Merson has taken exception to my comments regarding him. Please see Comments for his emails to me and my response. I have invited him to post comments here to set the record straight.

Paul Johnston has blogged on this topic.