Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan 2017 agreed

Aberdeenshire Council has agreed a Local Development Plan (LDP) which will soon provide a new planning blueprint for the area for everyday use.

The decision follows an examination of objections to the proposed plan carried out by the Scottish Government Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals, on behalf of Ministers.

The plan sets out ambitious long-term and site-specific visions for the area, not including the Cairngorms National Park, and will provide a practical framework within which the outcome of planning applications can be decided with a degree of certainty and efficiency.

Approval by the full council yesterday (Thursday, March 9) follows nearly five years of work, involving extensive consultation with stakeholders, communities and the development industry.

At the meeting in Aberdeen, councillors debated a range of issues in detail. One important point made was their cross-party disappointment in the process, given that the Scottish Government Reporter was able to make changes to the plan counter to the views of local people.

An amendment from Cllr Paul Johnston seeking a meeting with the DPEA (The Planning and Appeals Division of the Scottish Government) to discuss how the DPEA will facilitate the communities’ aspirations in their considerations was agreed.

Following examination, the majority of the plan remains unchanged. The Scottish Government Reporters agree there is sufficient housing land for building, although additional homes were identified in settlements including Foveran, Pitmedden and Alford.

They also recommended significant changes to the climate change policies including energy efficiency in buildings and flooding.

The changes, for which there is little or no opportunity for the council or communities to challenge, have to be made before the plan can be formally adopted.

The council’s Planning Service Manager Bruce Stewart explained: “We feel the process we have gone through to get the LDP to this stage, including the extensive consultation with communities and developers, ensures we have a plan for the future, which is best suited to the needs of the local area in the current difficult economic circumstances.”

Cllr David Aitchison welcomed the report and the more efficient use of land that the framework would bring. Whilst recognising that the plan would never suit everyone, he recognised that it had been subject of significant consultation with communities and members and he urged all members to support it.

Cllr Peter Argyle seconded the motion. He expressed concern at the process, given the Scottish Government Reporter was able to make changes to the plan counter to the views of local people.

Councillors were advised that whilst area committees did not agree with all of the Reporter’s decisions affecting various local settlements, the plan was relatively unchanged from that agreed in March 2015 as the proposed LDP.

The full council considered the modifications proposed by reporters and the views of area committees in respect of these, before formally agreeing the Reporter’s recommendations.

Procedural steps to publish the modified plan, advertise the intention to adopt it and to send necessary documentation to Scottish Ministers were also approved.

Before it can be formally adopted, the council must advertise its intention to do so and the plan will now be published, and placed in libraries and planning offices.

It can also be found on the Aberdeenshire Council website: www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/ldp

Scottish Ministers can still call in the LDP if they decide it needs to be changed further and it cannot be adopted until such changes are made

Councillors also agreed to adopt the plan, and its supplementary guidance, should the Scottish Ministers issue no instructions to review, reconsult or republish elements of it. An amendment from Cllr Allan Hendry to defer the decision was defeated 53 votes to 9, with 1 no vote.

Following 28 days from the council notifying its intention to adopt the plan, if no such direction is made, the new LDP and associated supplementary guidance can be formally adopted, to replace the Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan 2012.

To see the changes proposed as a result of the Reporter’s recommendations, please see here: www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/ldp