Nearly a year after councillors submitted it to Scottish Ministers, Aberdeenshire Council has received the results of an examination of its Local Development Plan (LDP).
The examination considered representations to the proposed plan and was carried out by the Government’s Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA), on behalf of Ministers.
Following examination, the DPEA reporter has now submitted a report to Aberdeenshire Council with conclusions and recommendations on each issue.
This report is largely binding on planning authorities, meaning that they may only depart from the recommendations if there are limited exceptional circumstances.
The examination was mostly conducted by auditing written representations to the proposed plan, but also through 10 formal public hearing sessions.
It focussed on whether the proposed Aberdeenshire Local Plan was “appropriate and sufficient” for the development needs of Aberdeenshire over the next 5-10 years and has taken over 11 months to undertake due to the scale and the complexity of the issues raised.
It considered a total of 161 issues, and concluded no modifications to the plan are warranted in response to over 60% of these, a further 25% of the modifications which have to be made are very minor in nature.
Generally, the remaining issues concern those places where additional sites have been added, or more commonly, deleted from the plan.
The council’s innovative approach to the production of the plan has been supported - much of the local detail for the LDP is contained in supplementary guidance.
The council’s head of planning and building standards, Robert Gray, said: “In some ways this breaks the mould of the traditional local plan, and demonstrates clearly how the Scottish Government’s hopes for a short, concise, map-based plan can be achieved.
“We hope it is a model that other authorities will choose to follow.”
The plan clears the way for major, significant and ground breaking local developments such as those for a new settlement at Elsick, near Newtonhill, and visionary proposals for Cromleybank at Ellon.
In a very small number of cases, sites have been removed and substitute sites put in their place within the plan. One significant area where change has occurred is in Inverurie, where reporters recommended additional land be allocated to the north of the town, with changes to the phasing of the release of land elsewhere.
Major changes in the approach taken to the siting and design of new development, particularly the proportion of open space which should be sought, which were promoted by the council are also supported.
There have also been changes to rules for the provision of affordable housing, also promoted by the council. In all but exceptional circumstances developers will be asked to provide 25% of all houses as affordable.
In responding to the representations, the DPEA has placed significant weight on expressions of support or opposition to the plan and has concluded some elements which generated a large public response, such as the reservation of land at Silverburn Park in Banchory for community facilities, should be overturned.
They have also endorsed the plan on other matters where there was clear public support, such as in Insch where the proposed plan was supported over aspirations for further development.
Chairman of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, Peter Argyle, said: “We are very pleased that, for the most part, the reporters have supported the plan that Aberdeenshire Council approved as its “settled view” of where development should and should not take place.
“It was always clear to us that the examination would result in change but, from first reading, it would seem that the reporters have listened to the arguments presented and have come to a clear and reasonable conclusions.
“There will inevitably be areas where we have some concern about the recommendations, but we have to respect that the examination report is largely binding on the council.
“In any case, the scale of the proposed changes is, in most cases, relatively minor and the reporters have recognised some of the clear principles being advanced by this plan and agreed by communities, relating to an overall land use planning strategy based on the capacity of services.”
Vice chair Jill Webster said: “Planning is a process of balancing competing demands, and throughout this process we have tried very hard to listen to the needs and concerns of communities.
“It is reassuring the reporters have recognised this is a popular plan, and have chosen to respect communities’ views, despite the huge pressure they have been under to make additional land available.”
The full report of the examination will be published on the Aberdeenshire Council website and can be seen at: www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/ldp/examination.asp
Recommendations made in the report of examination will go to the area committees of Aberdeenshire Council on Tuesday, March 20 (Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee, Formartine Area Committee and Buchan Area Committee) and March 27 (Banff and Buchan Area Committee, Garioch Area Committee and Marr Area Committee).
A meeting of the full Aberdeenshire Council will be asked to give notice of its intention to adopt the plan at its meeting on April 26.