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LIVE Park at Buchanan Community Council

Thanks to everyone who stayed on for our slot at the Buchanan Community Council meeting on Monday night (3 November). We felt that it was helpful to spend some time with members of the community and share information about development proposals in the area, and hear about some possible new ideas, in advance of the planning workshop that’s coming up on Saturday 22 November.

We’ve met with the community a few times now and feel that we have a clear understanding of the concerns and aspirations held by many of you. We know that there are lots of different opinions. We know that there is no clear consensus about what development is needed, or even if development is needed. What’s clear though is that everyone cares passionately about this special area and that it must remain special. We need to think about our younger generation in all of this. But does this mean that no development should occur or that some development might be appropriate and is actually needed?

We need to know people’s views so we can prepare the new development plan for the National Park. We want to prepare more detailed planning guidance for this area to better guide and control development and to provide more comfort to the community as to what development might come forward in the future. Some people supported this approach, others didn’t.

Some concerns were expressed that the National Park Authority is not focussing enough on conservation with comment that we are going to turn the area into a building site. That’s not the case. We need to achieve the Park’s four aims in a coordinated manner and in some instances development might be appropriate if it helps do this. We need to consider what and where development might be appropriate and equally where development is not appropriate.

The former West Highland Way hotel site and the land behind Montrose House are key sites in Balmaha. Concern was expressed about some of the development taking place on the former West Highland Way Hotel site and it was highlighted that the owners of the land behind Montrose House had suggested that housing might be a possible option on this land. We can discuss these sites more on the 22 November and will be able to advise on the planning position and history to these.

Planning policy for housing in this area requires new housing to meet affordable housing needs. Some people were surprised by this and felt that this was unfair. This policy has been in place since 2011 and is actually a more relaxed planning policy than the previous one which only allowed housing that was necessary in connection with a land based industry such as farming or forestry. Open market is supported in the settlements, however none of the communities in Buchanan area are formerly designated as settlements in the local plan. We can discuss housing policy more at the workshop if people think that this would be helpful.

With regards to affordable housing, the best way to provide this is via a housing association or local authority as this will be affordable in perpetuity. However we are required to support a range of different types of affordable housing such as self build, low cost home ownership or private rented housing – these forms of affordable housing are not supported by public subsidy.

So far no housing of this type has been built in the Park as it is either unattractive for landowners to release land or not viable for builders to develop. We think that more housing will be developed if the requirement to retain the house as affordable in perpetuity was reduced to 10 years as this would offer some financial return and incentivise landowners to sell land. This would help some households in the area to address their housing needs in the short term albeit after 10 years the property could then be sold at open market value.

So it’s a quick fix and not an ideal solution. It’s a case of either continuing with the current approach which has not delivered anything so far or amending this to help address needs in the short to medium term. If this was implemented it would need to be closely monitored and reviewed regularly. We consulted on this through the Main Issues Report and suggested a change but have not yet reached a view on this, however we need to for the new development plan.

So, there is lots to think about. We hope to see as many people as possible at the workshop on the 22 November. If you can’t make it please leave a blog post or drop us an email if there is anything that you want to raise or share.

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