Planning changes in Aberdeenshire

Oh dear.

The Scottish Government is introducing new rules for how local authorities handle planning applications. There is lots of detail but if I can pick up a few issues

1. Applications are divided into National (determined by the Scottish Government), Major (50 + houses or over 2 ha of development) which is outside the Local Development Plan must be decided by Full Council, and Local (everything else).

2. More powers will be delegated to officers to grant/refuse applications (and Aberdeenshire proposes this continues to be in consultation with councillors). Appeals against those decisions will no longer be to the Scottish Government's Reporters but to Local Review Bodies (LRB). It's for each council to decide how many of these there are and Aberdeenshire is currently proposing just one. I think that is a mistake for such a large geographic area. And with a predicted workload of 50 or more cases a year, and each case potentially entailing a site visit, possibly a hearing and then the actual determination, I don't think this will be enough. I've yet to get a proper answer on why the Local Review Boards can't echo Area Committees - Scotland's Cheif Planner, Jim McKinnon certainly indicated that there was no bar for 6 LRBs in Aberdeenshire.

3. On the back of these changes, in Aberdeenshire, it is now proposed that objections must be lodged within 21 days of the application being submitted in order to be valid. Now I've always praised Aberdeenshire for being willing to accept objections so long as an application was undetermined. This does present problems - what reasonably can we do with a letter lodged a day or two before committee meets to determine an application? But I don't see the need to cut off objections so early. And applicants can and will add extra information about their application - and objectors should have an opportunity to respond.

It's worrying - we seem to be throwing babies out with bathwater.

State of the East Grampian Coast

I spent today at an enormously enjoyable East Grampian Coast Partnership Meeting. As well as a super lunch (the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses were showing off local produce, especially fish - and I can recommend their catering for any occasion), there was a lively an informative series of speakers.

The main topic was their State of the Coast Report. This should be a useful baseline for all agencies to use to inform decision making and help enhance our (already wonderful) coast. Do go and look at the draft and add your comments by 22nd June before publication of the final version.


From what I can gather from the information published on MPs expenses, I fear some of our elected representatives have been working the system. OK - they may not have actually broken the letter of the rules .... but some of the claims that seem to have been made clearly fail the "Evening Express" test - would a reasonable person reading this in their evening newspaper, think there was something wrong?

And some of the justifications cited would be laughable if the situation weren't so serious .... if we can't trust MPs to behave properly on the relatively small matter of expenses, how can we expect them to behave properly in their role as legislators?

On Radio 4 this morning Harriet Harman cited the roof-top protest on her house as a reason to keep MPs home addresses secret. But councillors home addresses are public - and we are also not immune from having someone turn up on our doorstep and behave in a threatening manner (as I know from November 2007) - and arguably, we are more vulnerable as the decisions we make are executive decisions that immediately affect people's lives rather than legislative ones that have a less immediate impact.

Routine full disclosure is the only way ... and I do hope that this will induce better behaviour, regardless of what the rules say. If you don't want your claim published, don't make the claim!

Local Plan Consultation

There are public workshops planned in conjunction with the Main Issues Report. They are at various locations around Aberdeenshire, starting at 7pm. Do pop one or more of these dates in your diary and have your say.

Mon 25th May - Ellon, New Inn
Tues 26th May - Stonehaven - Mackie Academy (TBC)
Wed 27th May - Westhill, Holiday Inn
Thurs 28th May, Balmedie, White Horse Inn

Mon 1st June, Banff, Fife Lodge
Tues 2nd June, Newmachar, Newmachar Primary
Tues 2nd June, Oldmeldrum, Meldrum Academy
Wed 3rd June, Laurencekirk, Mearns Academy
Wed 3rd June, Aboye, Community Centre
Thurs 4th June, Fraserburgh, Fraserburgh Academy (TBC)
Thurs 4th June, Kintore, Primary School

Mon 8th June, Inverurie, Town Hall
Mon 8th June, Peterhead, Palace Hotel
Tues 9th June, Alford, Alford Hall (TBC)
Tues 9th June, banchory, Burnett Arms Hotel
Wed 10th June, Cruden Bay, Port Errol Hall
Wed 10th June, Huntly, Stewart Hall
Thurs 11th June, Turriff, Turriff Academy
Thurs 11th June, Mintlaw, Mintlaw Academy (TBC)

Mon 15th June, Blackburn, Kinellar Primary School
Tues 16th June, Insch Carriages Hotel
Wed 17th June, Torphins, Learney Town Hall
Thurs 18th June, Portlethan, Portlethan Academy