Plan­ning depart­ment ‘not fit for pur­pose’

The Oban Times - - News - SANDY NEIL sneil@oban­

CON­FI­DENCE has been lost in Argyll and Bute Coun­cil’s plan­ning depart­ment, Con­nel Com­mu­nity Coun­cil re­ported at its meet­ing, af­ter a plan­ning mis­take re­sulted in a house be­ing built too close to a for­mer teacher’s home in the vil­lage.

The Plan­ning, Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices and Li­cens­ing Com­mit­tee voted five to four at a pub­lic hear­ing on Novem­ber 3 to mit­i­gate the nine-me­tre short­fall and pri­vacy is­sues suf­fered by Ann Colthart by frost­ing and re­mov­ing win­dows and erect­ing a hedge.

Con­nel Com­mu­nity Coun­cil sec­re­tary Roger Ash­forth, in a let­ter to Argyll and Bute Coun­cil’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of devel­op­ment and in­fra­struc­ture Pippa Milne, wrote that its Novem­ber meet­ing was ‘uni­ver­sally crit­i­cal’ of the plan­ners’ per­for­mance.

Com­mu­nity mem­bers deemed the depart­ment ‘not fit for pur­pose’, and claimed ‘scru­tiny ap­plied to plan­ning pro­pos­als by in­di­vid­u­als as op­posed to those of de­vel­op­ers ap­peared not to be con­sis­tent’. The let­ter also cited ‘the gen­eral per­cep­tion’ the hear­ing de­ci­sion was ‘a mis­car­riage of jus­tice’.

Mr Ash­forth said the ‘series of er­rors in­di­cate the plan­ning depart­ment lost con­trol of the mon­i­tor­ing of the site. The ques­tion now arises how it can avoid re­peat­ing these mis­takes and re­store pub­lic faith. There needs to be an open and trans­par­ent re­view to check it is “fit for pur­pose”.’

Re­spond­ing, An­gus Gil­more, the coun­cil’s head of plan­ning and reg­u­la­tory ser­vices, as­sured ‘the depart­ment is fit for pur­pose’, as­sert­ing it ‘scored very well’ in the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s in­de­pen­dent eval­u­a­tion, demon­strat­ing ‘con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment and per­for­mance con­sid­er­ably above the na­tional av­er­age’.

Mr Gil­more added: ‘Con­fi­dence in the depart­ment has been af­fected by the pro­cess­ing of the plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion at St Oran’s Place, Con­nel.

‘This is un­for­tu­nate but I give you my as­sur­ance all de­vel­op­ments, ap­pli­cants and mem­bers of the pub­lic are treated with par­ity and com­pa­ra­ble scru­tiny. There is to­tal trans­parency to the plan­ning process.

‘I ap­pre­ci­ate the de­ci­sions of the plan­ning of­fi­cers and plan­ning com­mit­tee have not been to the sat­is­fac­tion of the com­mu­nity coun­cil but they fol­lowed a ro­bust de­ci­sion­mak­ing route, in the view of all the facts, that can­not be con­sid­ered a “mis­car­riage of jus­tice”.

‘A pub­lic and per­sonal apol­ogy has been made to Ms Colthart due to the short­com­ings of coun­cil of­fi­cers. The site ad­ja­cent to Duriehill has been ear­marked as a devel­op­ment site for al­most a decade and the out­look would al­ways have been al­tered.’

On be­half of Ms Colthart, Maud Mar­shall told the The Oban Times the coun­cil’s chief ex­ec­u­tive Cle­land Sned­don vis­ited her Duriehill home last Fri­day to add a per­sonal apol­ogy.

Ms Mar­shall said: ‘Ann ex­plained the ef­fect the er­rors have had on her life these past eight months and on her en­joy­ment of her home of over 30 years.

‘He was open to seek­ing an ac­cept­able way for­ward which would avoid the last re­sort op­tion of le­gal ac­tion that, as he said “would be in no- one’s in­ter­est”.’

Ms Colthart added: ‘I ap­pre­ci­ate the time Cle­land Sned­don took on Fri­day. I think he un­der­stood how aw­ful things have been for me.

‘I’m still not rul­ing out le­gal ac­tion, but I can say we agreed to look at any pos­si­bil­i­ties avail­able to bring this un­happy state of af­fairs to a mu­tu­ally ac­cept­able close.

‘I will be writ­ing to him shortly with my ideas.’

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