Cults Bieldside and Milltimber Community Council
Response to Planning Review
CULTS, BIELDSIDE AND MILLTIMBER COMMUNITY COUNCIL RESPONSES
P.15 MAKING PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
A: Do you agree that our proposed package of reforms will improve development planning? Please explain your answer.
Not as they stand – some aspects are far too vague and others rely on bodies which do not really embrace community input. The Aberdeen Community Planning Partnerships do not have much real community involvement or engagement yet and so they do not reflect the views of the community. Consultation must reach the residents in a community and processes must therefore allow adequate time and resourcing to gather information. There also appears to be a move towards greater central government control; we would expect the opposite in a reformed planning system.
Optional technical questions
Yes, they should but as noted above there needs to be genuine engagement and involvement of the local community and their views need to be respected
No – the current Strategic Plan process brings together the key authorities for the area to set out the long term view and plan; it helps set the context and direction for the Local Development Plan. The regional partnership working proposal is far too vague and does not offer a clear structure that will require affected parties to work together. There is the possibility that some will agree to cooperate and others will not.
Regional views can help establish the longer term strategic needs and inform national plans.
Major infrastructure works e.g. roads, railways, utility provision are best directed at the national and regional level
If regional groups are to be established then formal duties will be required. There must also be a requirement for consultation with local communities.
The scale of the partnerships needs to be large enough to justify taking a strategic view over long term planning matters e.g. infrastructure delivery. Ideally the partnerships will have similar issues to address.
The Scottish Government agencies will need to be supportive and provide the information and possibly resources needed to help the regional groups complete their analysis.
The NPF and SPP can be useful in guiding decision making and the setting of local policies. There is a preference for greater devolved authority so it would not be appropriate to give more weight to NPF and SPP.
Overall yes e.g. 10 year cycle period, extended review periods. The process needs to incorporate a two way direction of information, drawing requirements and needs from the local/regional Strategic plans then feeding back to Local Authorities what actions will be taken nationally so that Strategic and Local Development Plans can be updated.
No, a cycle time of 10 years is too long for Local Development Plans. Circumstances can change quickly and even allowing for some form of interim update process, a period of 10 years is too long. The plan could have a detailed assessment of the next 5 years with a 10 year look-ahead, drawing from the Strategic Plan. Communities will find it difficult to engage and maintain contact with a 10 year planning process. Time must be allowed for Communities to engage and then receive feedback on comments made, with explanations of why a particular aspect has been chosen.
No, a cycle time of 10 years is too long for Local Development Plans.
Yes, flexibility to review to accommodate unexpected events can be useful but there must be careful scrutiny to ensure that any new proposals are addressing urgent community needs; if they are not then the proposals should be rejected. Time must be allowed for Communities to engage and then receive feedback on comments made, with explanations of why a particular aspect has been chosen.
No. The model used by Aberdeen City appears to strike a good balance of detail. The 5 year plan presents the Vision, the Spatial Strategy, the Policies which will guide the developments and a summary of the Supplementary Guidance which will apply. The detailed Supplementary Guidance is provided in separate documents. This gives readers a comprehensive reference when reviewing planned developments. Breaking elements into several documents will not be helpful.
The examination process can be helpful in ensuring local plans are addressing Regional Strategic and National Planning objectives. What we should avoid is central government second guessing or over-ruling what are clearly local decisions e.g. recent circumstances where the Scottish Reporter went against Local Authority proposals without consulting the local communities directly impacted.
This could be helpful if the Main Issues report process is removed, however we do not support that change. The early gatecheck could be sole central government review to ensure the plan will address regional and national strategic objectives.
Could be a small body of planning experts at the national level charged with testing fit with regional and national strategic objectives
The contribution that the local plan is making towards the delivery of regional and national strategic objectives. How well the planning process is working locally, regionally and nationally. Testing that the process is engaging communities adequately and responding to community needs.
If the gatecheck process is invoked then a final examination should be light touch to confirm that local plans are contributing to regional and national objectives. It is not desirable to have central government looking at and changing details of the plan. Recent experience with the Scottish Reporters review of the Aberdeen Local Development Plan shows us that central interference is neither helpful nor welcome.
Potentially but at present developers appear to have little difficulty in persuading Government and Local Authorities to release land.
Most definitely – an allocated site should not automatically receive planning permission in principle. Communities and Local Authority Planners must have the ability to review and comment upon Masterplans and detailed applications to ensure that what is being proposed is right for the community.
Some elements may be helpful but some are not required
Surely this is already well understood by developers and any new parties can get advice from the local planning department. Developer’s proposals should make a full disclosure of their plans for public review.
This could help persuade communities and local authorities that a site would be suitable for development. The study must show both the positive and negative aspects to demonstrate its viability e.g. susceptibility to flooding, access, impact on local traffic, contribution to local services.
Ideally there should be no applications considered for sites not included in the local development plan; if allowed at all, there should be exceptional circumstances and the proposals must offer something that a community urgently needs. In these cases there would be a need for detailed consultation with the affected community.
Yes as long as this does not preclude an examination of a Masterplan and detailed planning application
A nice principle and it would be helpful to have local authorities given some power to press developers to move forward with approved development sites e.g. removal of consent. In reality it will be the developer who determines the pace of development which will be driven by economic and local market conditions and they would most certainly raise legal challenges against any forced activity.
Agreed milestones and a review process.
P.27 PEOPLE MAKE THE SYSTEM WORK
B: Do you agree that our proposed package of reforms will increase community involvement in planning? Please explain your answer.
We are doubtful that community involvement would increase in reality unless we can have trust that our contributions at each stage will be respected and given equal weight with those of developers. It is also essential to develop the capacity and competence of representative groups, especially community councils, to deliver constructive input and critique. We dislike the implication in Section 2 of the consultation paper that community involvement should simply rubber-stamp development.
Optional technical questions
Yes in principle but preparation of such plans will require resources and some technical competence to be meaningful. Training could be provided to those who require it.
Ideally this should be an iterative process. It is difficult to see that communities will be satisfied to produce a local place plan which merely reflects development proposals already made. Equally there is no point in them producing local place plans which fail to reflect wider realities faced by the local authority.
Pre-plan preparation: While we can understand that there may be circumstances where a special interest or expertise group wishes to produce or contribute to a local place plan, we believe that the default option should be for these plans to be developed by community councils. Otherwise it is difficult to see what the latter bodies are for. It would be sensible for plan boundaries as far as possible to align with community council boundaries.
Plan preparation: We accept that local place plans should be generally in line with planning policies and legislation but not to the extent of stifling innovative ideas. We dislike the suggestion that the plan should “play a positive role in delivering development” as this makes an a priori assumption about all development being good. It must also be recognised that “consulting the community and getting approval” is likely to challenge many community councils since most members of the community most of the time do not take an interest in planning matters until they are directly affected. We would be interested to hear the Government’s proposals for making this process affordable and comprehensive. We would prefer to see the resolution of discrepancies between the LDP and local place plans being held at local level possibly with the support of a Reporter.
It is not clear to us that adding a further statutory duty will improve the planning process.
It would be better to retain the current approach of using Community Councils as the conduit for community input and review.
In order to encourage greater involvement in planning issues, people need to feel that their views are being listened to and respected and that they can trust the integrity of planning decisions. Opposition to a specific development proposal should not automatically be seen as NIMBYism. This should run right through the planning process and in particular it is essential that an Equal Third Party Right of Appeal is allowed.
We wonder what question this is the answer to! It would be better to give priority in the education system to improving understanding of “civics” in general before getting into the detail of planning. However, we can see that communicating with parents via their young children can sometimes be effective and involving children and young people in planning issues which directly interest or affect them e.g. playparks, sports facilities or school travel could be a useful introduction to planning processes for them. Involve learning specialists to design suitable approaches for engaging children.
The quality of PACs is highly variable in our experience. Some (usually smaller) developers take the process seriously and are prepared to iterate to an acceptable proposal through several meetings or events. However others regard it as a box-ticking exercise and are happy to renege on commitments made when it suits them.
We think that the second (or more) public meeting is important to demonstrate that the developer is either taking community input on board or can show good reasons to disregard it. However as public meetings are unlikely to deliver consensus (between developer and community or even within communities) we think that repeated engagement with the community council during the PAC process is also essential.
Normally the developer advises the planning authority what community consultation has taken place. There should also be a requirement on the local authority to obtain confirmation from the relevant community council that it is satisfied with the scope and quality of PAC.
Obviously there needs to be some schedule discipline in the process but there should be a mechanism for either the local authority or the developer to “stop the clock” if it is clear that more time will deliver a better quality outcome.
We agree in principle as long as repeat fees for individual householders (for example making a repeat application to address detailed objections from neighbours) are waived.
We would welcome stronger enforcement powers for local authorities in the area of planning control as we have seen too many cases where developers and/or their sub-contractors breach planning conditions. However proper investigation and enforcement of breaches requires the local authority to have sufficient resources, and the will, to do this. We support making it easier to recover costs from the developer or landowner and increased financial penalties for breaches.
Yes, in particular an Equal Rights of Appeal process is badly needed to restore public trust in the planning system. We strongly disagree with the contention that an Equal Rights of Appeal would discourage early community engagement and that it would ignore the role of elected members. It would encourage developers to take more notice of and respond to community concerns.
In principle we would prefer planning decisions and reviews to be kept as local as possible except perhaps for matters related to nationally important infrastructure. The current size of development at which developers may to appeal to Ministers is set far too low.
We would prefer the default appeal option to be to a Local Review Body of elected members – obviously not directly involved in the prior planning process. Perhaps the Scottish Government Reporter could be usefully engaged to offer a professional planning audit of the process but not to have a decision-making role.
Yes, we support this. Some dispensation may be allowed for with individual householders addressing neighbour concerns.
We would hope and expect that elected members are competent to take planning decisions! Training needs to be meaningful and not just a box-ticking exercise. A possible model of how this might be undertaken is the “Trustee Toolkit” offered by the Pensions Regulator to non-professional pension fund trustees.
We totally disagree with the present system under which Reporters can make decisions with no third party (equal) right of appeal and no political accountability. So in principle we would always prefer Ministers rather than Reporters to take decisions. However as already stated, if the objective is to improve people’s trust in planning, the scope for appeal to Ministers should be kept to an absolute minimum.
A flexible approach as discussed in the document.
P.39 BUILDING MORE HOMES AND DELIVERING INFRASTRUCTURE
C: Will these proposals help to deliver more homes and the infrastructure we need? Please explain your answer.
The proposals go some way to help in delivering more homes and the infrastructure we need. They can be strengthened by:
Optional technical questions
Overall yes, but the assessment must include views of the local communities and Local Authorities. There must be a linkage with the local economy and business development plans – the current proposals are too Scottish Government centred.
We agree the need for an assessment of the viability of major housing developments, which should include an evaluation of the local and regional business need. The assessment should include a review of the housing types proposed and compare it with the types of houses needed locally
Working with developers on new approaches early in the process of setting National and Regional targets can help define different solutions. Involvement of communities should be a key part of the process. The introduction of competitions to attract ideas from architects and planners may also yield some good ideas.
Zoning can help in speeding up the delivery of homes but this should be restricted to those areas where there is a widely agreed urgent need for more housing. Where zoning is being considered, early involvement of the local community should be a requirement and any concerns they may have should be addressed.
We are not convinced a wider use of Simplified Planning Zones is warranted. They should only be used in areas where there is a widely agreed urgent need for more housing
If a Simplified Planning Zone is justified then the Local Authority should be given extra support to help define the areas and conditions that will apply. There should be a clear assessment of the infrastructure needed and an agreement established to provide it before any development is allowed to proceed.
The infrastructure first approach is strongly supported – this is a clear gap in current development planning. While we note the reservation about establishing an infrastructure agency, we doubt an informal infrastructure and development delivery group will have the ability to ensure the required infrastructure will be built.
We need to avoid the situation seen in the Aberdeen Countesswells development where the developer was allowed to close a key link road for more than 6 months to install gas, electricity and water utilities rather than building the access roads on the site early and installing the utilities under the new roads. This caused great disruption and inconvenience to local residents and hundreds of daily commuters
It could help inform wider, more strategic infrastructure needs but we don’t see this as a major improvement
Each development should have a full assessment of infrastructure requirement and an agreed plan for delivery. There should be an obligation on the developer to fund and install the infrastructure required to incorporate the proposed development within the existing community e.g. road upgrades, schooling, medical services, and mitigate the impacts on the community. Where infrastructure upgrades outside the development are required to mitigate impacts on the community, there should be an agreed Government funding and infrastructure delivery programme which would be part of the planning permission process.
Yes, developers should be held to the agreements reached for infrastructure delivery in awarding planning permission. If a developer feels so strongly about the need to renegotiate the Section 75 agreement they may need to be encouraged to give up the planning consent to another developer. We would like to see stronger powers for Local Authorities to require that infrastructure be delivered early in the development when establishing Section 75 agreements.
The introduction of an infrastructure levy is supported
Major housing developments e.g. greater than 100 new homes and large commercial developments, either retail of offices.
All developments which will add to the use of existing infrastructure e.g. roads, services
The Local Authority in whose area the development is taking place together with the national government where there is a requirement to upgrade nationally managed infrastructure e.g. trunk roads, railways
Roads and rail links, education and medical services provision, green/recreational space
There is no evidence that new developments are installing and operating low and zero carbon generating technologies in the Aberdeen area. Thermal insulation techniques may be improving but there is no wide scale installation of solar panels, solar water heating, heat pumps – one might argue that the requirements of Section 72 of the Climate Change Act (2009) are being ignored by developers and planners.
P.47 STRONGER LEADERSHIP AND SMARTER RESOURCING
D: Do you agree the measures set out here will improve the way that the planning service is resourced? Please explain your answer.
Yes we believe that the measure will improve the planning service by providing:
1. Better qualified and Knowledgeable planners
2. Improve the skills of planners and their ability to interact with all levels of the community
Optional technical questions
Provide management training and ensure that planning leadership is well informed on all aspects of planning and are prepared to make decisions at all levels and provide guidance to less experienced planners. All leaders should be able to communicate well with all outside bodies.
Education ,make them aware of best practice, talk and meet with other planners from other areas in the UK/Scotland and identify best practice
Provide training in Team Work ensure that different disciplines understand that only by working together and understanding each other problems will provide the best solutions
By being involved at an early stage and provide feedback and comments on planning proposals; identify areas for improvement in the process.
Perform peer reviews of planning outcomes and measure the quality and impact of public engagement
The fees established should reflect the cost of running an adequately resourced planning system.
It is important to recognise that a quality planning process is essential for developing good communities – simplifying the procedures will not necessarily deliver that goal; clarity is usually helpful.
No, this could be counterproductive and inhibit the aim of getting approved developments started.
Yes, the procedures should be made more difficult to avoid developers trying to get around required conditions. Planners should be allowed to restate the conditions already specified.
It would be helpful if Planning Departments consulted with Community bodies e.g. Community Councils, before confirming that required conditions attached to a planning application have been satisfied.
We believe that it is very important to embrace modern techniques – digital transformation would be of great use.
For example 3D images could be developed for proposed buildings etc.
The use of drones may be considered to provide aerial views of proposed development areas.
Planners should be aware that some people are not computer literate, or even own a computer, and they may have to rely on assistance to review materials at their local libraries. Planning should consider providing materials on a DVD or memory stick which maybe can be used in conjunction with modern televisions.
P.49 NEXT STEPS – OPTIONAL TECHNICAL QUESTIONS
We believe that all proposals if modified as suggested above and properly actioned will provide a positive impact. As they stand, the proposals will not deliver improved public engagement or trust in the planning system.
We believe that these proposals will increase the cost to business and possibly the public sector; a price worth paying for improved quality of development.
If planners are properly trained and knowledgeable of all environmental issue and best practices, these proposals should generate significant environmental improvements. Failure to be rigorous and the taking of short cuts to allow a development could be damaging.