I am glad that Aberdeenshire has decided to approve this scheme, We all agreed that the process of involvement with the town via the Enquiry by Design was an exemplar that we would urge other developers to seek to emulate. The idea of high density, high quality, walk-able neighbourhoods, where the public realm focuses on people rather than cars, has become common currency in planning and development circles but as yet there are no large scale examples in Scotland.
So I am pleased that we now have in the pipeline a development at the new higher densities and high quality of design that were called for by the then Planning Minister Sam Galbraith a decade ago. He asked "Where are the conservation areas of the future?" and I hope that with this bold step Ellon has answered with a very loud "here".
But I am also concerned that the move to determining major planning applications (more than 50 houses or 2 hectares) by all 68 councillors is problematic. Until today, we had only uncontentious applications at full Council and that introduced an unnecessary delay into the process. But when an application turns out to be contentious, as this one was, some people will feel aggrieved that councillors from far flung parts of Aberdeenshire have decided the fate of this application. Six members of the Formartine Area Committee voted to refuse: Five voted to Grant: a narrow majority in favour of refusal. But the local decision was outweighed by the decision of the Full Council. I can understand if objectors to the proposal feel aggrieved.
As I am getting some stick here, can I just mention that members of the Formartine Committee (Ellon ones in bold) split
Grant: Cllrs Duncan, Hendry, Johnston, Merson, Storr.
Refuse: Davidson, Gifford, Loveday, Norrie, Owen, Robertson.