Planning studies

I have just enrolled as a student on Aberdeen University's Urban Planning and Real Estate MSc course.  I spent Thursday and Friday on a field trip with some of my fellow students and three lecturers.

It is shaping up to be an interesting experience made even better by the range of backgrounds of my fellow students as well as the engaging and challenging approach of the academic staff.   So a warm hello to my new friends (I hope!) from China, Nigeria, Canada, Greece, Faroe Isles and those who are more local.  And it is already fun debating issues with people who are approaching the course with backgrounds as geographers, economists, environmentalists, architects - and me as the politician/planner.

And to those from warmer climes, I do promise that September in Scotland can be something other than cold, wet and windy.

But I suspect that the outdoor equipment retailers will do brisk business with my fellow students before we venture out again.

Local Development Plan

We are in the last few days of the new Development Plan consultation period.   So if you do have comments to make, please make sure you do so before 1st October.  You can email with you contribution but do be sure to give your contact details, clearly reference which bit of the plan or supplementary guidance you are concerned about and exactly what is you concern.  And finally clearly state what Modification you suggest.  

I do not find the online form or the pdf form they provide easy to use.  So I suggest that you make your representation being careful to include all the required information and leave council officers to sort out the format.

I have made two submissions. 

Along with my other Democratic Group colleagues, I seek to embed the requirements of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 as required by Section 72. The Aberdeenshire proposed local development plan does not do this.

 Secondly, the Council is gradually working their way to needing to reserve land within Cromleybank for the new Ellon Academy.  The developer is content with this.  The Community Council is content with this.  This is the best option for the traders.   So I've asked that the "may be required" is changed to "will be required" so that we can get on with it.  This is urgent as the funding from the Scottish Government is time limited and the timetable is looking increasingly tight.

It's slightly odd being a councillor asking for amendments to the Council's plan by this route.  But it's the best chance for common sense to prevail.

On the Holyrood road

Congratulations to my good friends Cllr Martin Ford and Rhonda Reekie who have been selected as the No.1 and No.2 places on the Regional List for the North East of Scotland by the Scottish Green Party.

While a Green, Shiona Baird, was elected for the seat in 2003, 2007 saw a retreat everywhere to the 4 establishment parties of Scotland.

I know Martin and Rhonda would both be very effective MSPs and I hope that Martin's high public profile will make voters consider voting for a politician whose views are well known and based on strong principle.

I wonder why the P&J failed to carry any news item about Martin's selection?  Are they that frightened of him? 

Another day at the office - another knife in the back

Yesterday my ward colleague Cllr Rob Merson (SNP) sprang an emergency motion to remove me as Vice Chair of the Formartine Area Committee.  To my astonishment, Rob was unable to clearly articulate what the emergency was - but the Chair Cllr John Loveday (LibDem) agreed to take the motion.  And the motion was passed.

Cllr Merson cited comments I have made about my colleagues indecisiveness re the siting of a new Ellon Academy and my failure to attend some site visits as the reasons for my removal as Vice Chair.  I don't think these have anything to do with me as Vice Chair.  And indeed I have received no complaints or even adverse comments regarding my role as Vice Chair.

So what motivated Cllr Merson and the other Formartine Councillors to act in this way?

I know Cllr Merson doesn't like me mentioning him on this blog (see comments to post below).  And of course we have political differences.

But I think this is simply a continuation of the divide on the Formartine Area Committee post Trump.  Faced with a planning application at Menie, my colleagues are prone to saying things like "We must press ahead as quickly as possible with this development".  No.  We have a duty to scrutinise all proposals and ensure that the conditions of the permission granted by the SNP government are complied with.

Not being Vice Chair will not stop me doing that job.  And it will not stop me speaking out to protect the Menie residents whose homes remain under threat because my colleagues refuse to rule out compulsory purchase and keep giving the Trump Organisation every reason to believe that they can ask and it will be given.

Myself as Vice Chair (may 2007 to 31st August 2010) in a display at the area office.