Main Issues : Development in Countryside, Energy, Minerals, Coastal development, Green belt

Again, I try to summarise the policy proposals and give my comments on these.  Your feedback, especially before 20th January, would be appreciated.

Development in Countryside: divides Aberdeenshire into 3 : Accessible (around Aberdeen and the A90 and A96 corridors), Regeneration priority (Peterhead-Fraserburgh and the Moray coast) and Rural (everything else).  In Accessible, small scale developments suitable for Green Belt will be allowed plus refurbishment/replacement of existing.  For Rural, add economic development proposals, max 3 houses close to edge of existing settlements, or single house for retirement succession of viable farm holding.  (Rural includes Regeneration).
Wind Energy: technical rules re roads/railways, flights, TV reception, ice throw shadow flicker, noise, visual intrusion.  Impacts on Core Paths and Cumulative Impact.  Reference to existing Supplementary Planning Guidance.
Other renewable energy:   sympathetic if well sited and designed.
Minerals: Reference to maps indicting area of search (not published in these documents - I will ask for copy), sand and gravel - 15 years supply maximum, cumulative impact considered if 3 more more consents for landfill for mineral extraction within 5km of a settlement, explicit reference to buffer zones etc.

Coastal Development: similar to existing policy - limited to developments requiring coastal location and where social and economic benefits outweigh adverse environmental impacts and no alternative site. List of other hurdles - coalescence of settlements, character and amenity, flooding, water quality, coastal processes or habitats.  I make no comment!

Green Belt: extensions to existing; agri/forestry/horiticulture/nature conservation; recreation use compatible with countryside; sensitive restoration; worker in primary industry rerquired on-site; National Priority; Safeguarded resources in Areas of search (see Minerals above).  Comment that development in Green Belt may reduced travel compared to development beyond.

The 3 houses on edge of rural settlements seems a pragmatic way to allow organic growth - but it will be interesting to see what happens with the maximum 20% in any 5 year period limit.    It seems odd to allow retiring farmers in Rural but not in Accessible - the social factors are similar.   I'll need to see the maps for Minerals areas of search.   Coastal and Green Belt - very similar to existing.  However, we were also expecting a review of the Green Belt maps in this local plan and as a result of the AWPR.  We need this.

Local Plan: Main Issues: Employment, Offices, Homeworking, Tourism, Town Centres and Retailing

See below for details of the process and please get back to me with comments by say 20th January - else your concerns may not be raised.  I'll just post here very quick summaries and my comments - do see the original documents for the full version.

Employment land - existing employment land protected for employment purposes (rather than silence in current local plan)
Office development - new specific policy allowing in employment land, existing derelict, despoiled or underused, with encouragement for accessible by public transport, cycling or walking, and a sequential test.
Homeworking - new policy saying it's OK so long as it doesn't interfere with the neighbourhood.
Tourist facilities - new specific policy encouraging if well related to existing settlements or there is a locational requirement.  Resistance to converting tourist accommodation to other uses.
Town Centres and Retailing - retains (but does not strengthen) sequential approach to new retail.  Specifies some sites for bulky comparison outlets.  In Rural HMA allows new retail to support tourism.
Retail in Countryside - new policy allowing farm shops or ancillary to tourist or recreational use.

I'm generally supportive of the direction of this.  I want to encourage more employment in Aberdeenshire and recognise that the fastest growth and maximum employment is usually from small enterprises growing.

I have some concerns that there may be a few loopholes opened.  I find the identification of specific sites for bulky retail odd - the onus should be on the developer to find a site and make the case.  I am wary of the rules for converting tourist accommodation to residential use - it's the weasel word "reasonable".  And "the erection of a farm shop in the countryside does not require planning permission" seems a step too far to me.

The cost of destruction

If the Menie development didn't after all go ahead, there is a bond to pay for the restoration of the dunes.  So how much do you think it will cost to undo the marram grass planting, remove fencing, remove hessian sheet and fences and let the dunes revert to their natural dynamic state?

I have a copy of the legal agreement between Aberdeenshire Council and Trump so I know the answer.  But I'll let you guess for a day or two ....

A prize of some tablet for the nearest guess - and we will do this to the nearest pound.  Think of it as an Xmas quiz!

The restoration bind is for the princely sum of £157,752 so congratulations to Sue Edwards who guessed £2,000.  I owe you some tablet. 

Merry Xmas

Best Wishes for the Festive Period.

Next Local Plan

Today an inch of council papers arrived by post.  These documents are for me to look at part of the Main Issues for the next Local Plan.  My colleagues and I will discuss the policy issues on 27th January and our conclusions will help shape the development of Aberdeenshire for the next 10 years.  So we have a few short weeks to digest the contents of the Main Issues report and to look at the responses made to the report.  And then decide how policy should change.  I have a summary of comments made but there is also a searchable database to see the full richness of comments.

At our meeting on 27th January, we will only discuss the contentious areas so I need to read the report carefully over the next two weeks and highlight areas that worry me.  If you want to flag your concerns to me also - or indeed tell me that you think that any particular policy has got it spot on - do let me know.  I'll probably post more here as I digest the "heap".

There will be a further set of paper relating to settlements so I'd ask you to hang fire on comments about our towns and villages for now if possible.


The Scottish Government has announced that the AWPR is to go ahead but that the Aberdeen Crossrail project will not proceed.  All this just a few days after the close of Copenhagen at which Alex Salmond trumpted the Scottish Government commitment to reducing CO2 emissions.

I have always been a skeptic re the AWPR: the major problem with Aberdeen is peak hours commuter congestion.  And public transport and better planning could deal with these without building a dual carriageway around the city.

I will be fascinated to see hear any arguments detailing how this road will reduce CO2 emissions - and please don't just say that congested traffic is inefficient: high speeds are inefficient too and journey lengths may be longer.  Every new road built has generated more traffic and the planned developments in the Blackdog-Peterhead corridor will guarantee this.

But what is vexing me is how this road will be paid for.  The current estimates for the road are £295-395m of which about £100m has already been spent.  Now no-one believes the bill be simply be the £395m by the time it is built.  But let's take the £395 figure, in which case Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City Council will each need to find £37.5m.

Both councils have funding pressures and this will only get worse over the next 5 to 10 years.

How is the Scottish Government going to fund this?  Can the councils afford it?

Copenhagen - it up to us.

It seems the politicians have failed to deliver the necessary actions at Copenhagen.  There are some fine words - but there is a world of  difference between good intentions and long term promises and the concrete action needed.

So we need to do, without the help of the policies and initiatives that would help, what we can.   So please sign up to 10:10 and encourage everyone you know - individuals, organisations, and businesses to sign up to.

Hopefully this is a setback - the fine words may yet turn into the real action needed.  But the clock is ticking away and the longer action is delayed, change will then have to be harder and faster.

The planet will survive - but without action, the lives of almost everyone on earth will be affected and for some that impact will be deadly.  The Scottish Government's recent Climate Change Adaptation document makes interesting reading.  The kind of floods that we had in November may become normal.  

P&J says it will not report anti-Trump stories.

The Press and Journal has thrown away all pretence of balanced reporting on Trump today.  In a series of articles, it claims that Tripping up Trump has tenuous links to the NE of Scotland and finally says 

"This newspaper has given a voice to all those who have wished to become involved in the debate about Donald Trump’s plans. That courtesy was extended to Tripping Up Trump in the belief that it was bona fide group of local environmentalists. Today, it has been withdrawn."
This is sad day for freedom of speech and good journalism in the NE of Scotland. 

Read all four articles for yourself.

Councillor Risk

This is an extract from Aberdeenshire Council's Corporate Risk Register. I noticed this amongst 240 other risks as it was "Increasing".

Risk No Risk Risk Type Potential Impact Inherent Risk Mitigants & Controls Residual Risk Risk Status
Probability Impact Risk Rating Probability Impact Risk Rating
C019 Councillor objective may be at divergence from Council Vision and Objectives. Political Reduction in ability to deliver Council's Vision 2 4 8 Council:CMT communication CPP process Committee processes 3 2 6 Increasing

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.