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Working with our Community Councils

Stuart Mearns, our Head of Planning & Rural Development, provides an update following recent community meetings…

There has been a number of meetings recently that colleagues or I have attended, with more coming up. This included Strathard, Kilmaronock & Buchanan Community Council meetings, the Arrochar Forum and the Callander Partnership (both are quarterly local public body/community organisation forums). Planning is typically on the agenda!

Strathard Community Council meeting

I have been to a few Strathard Community Council meetings over the years, so it was good to be invited along and to meet the new members of the Community Council. There was a lot of discussion about planning, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the queries and questions.

Feedback and questions

The Community Council were keen to understand better how planning worked, what the ‘Vision’ or strategy was for the Park and Aberfoyle and also more simply, what are the different types of planning applications and what can communities influence or comment on. There is no doubt that planning is a complex process, so this is completely understandable!

Some of the views were that planning decisions appear to favour applicants/developers and we are overly pro-business and tourism. I really valued hearing this perspective and I recognise that others may have the same perception or interest, which is why I prepared this blog.

Our Local Development Plan – the vision, strategy and requirements for new development

Our Local Development Plan guides new development and contains planning policies which are used to assess planning applications. In preparing our Local Development Plan between 2011 and 2016, we spent a lot of time listening and talking with our communities about planning and development. We held design workshops with communities, businesses and partner organisations in Callander, Aberfoyle, Drymen/Balmaha, Tyndrum, Arrochar and Blairmore and these were central in informing our Plan and the Vision, Strategy and requirements on new development. You can read more about our Local development Plan and our work in developing it here.

Types of planning applications we receive

While the Authority does promote things to see and do in the National Park, I didn’t feel that tourism proposals dominated our planning application ‘in-tray’. I have now had a chance to look into this a little and out of the applications we received during the last year, tourism development makes up a relatively small proportion. In the 2016/17 financial year (April – March):

  • we received about 40 tourism related applications, out of a total of 238 applications for ‘local’ developments (which are generally small scale)
  • 133 of our decisions concerned housing or domestic property changes

You can view our full statistics on pages 30 & 31 of our Planning Performance Framework

How we make decisions

In terms of the perception that decisions favour the applicants, it is worth highlighting that the legislation we must operate to requires us to make decisions on ‘planning’ grounds; core considerations such as safe access, flood risk, suitable drainage, appropriate design & scale, suitable use for the location and no adverse impact on heritage, amongst other things. The Government expects the planning system to support economic development, so the system is set up to support proposals where they are right development in the right place. We certainly don’t attach more weight to an applicant’s view or proposals; we assess the information provided. We also work hard to provide good, clear advice to prospective applicants before they formally submit an application. This means that we get fewer applications for development that just wouldn’t be supported by our policies and in turn means we approve far more applications than we refuse.

Next steps

We are going to prepare some information on the types of application that appear on our ‘weekly lists’ to help Strathard and other community councils, as well as some training events over the winter for community councils.

We’ll be in contact on this soon and would hope to open out to any community organisation.

You can keep in touch with us and follow updates at www.twitter.com/ourlivepark or www.facebook.com/ourlivepark, or email us at livepark@lochlomond-trossachs.org

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