Letters to the Editor

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Tree

Brilliant

Madam - You have published several letters recently about the merits and demerits of the Christmas tree in Stonehaven. I am disappointed that no-one has written about the one in Laurencekirk.

I have only seen it once but I thought it was brilliant! I was even more impressed when I read in your paper that it was designed and made locally by some young men. No doubt there will be some who don’t like it because it’s not a “real” tree, but surely one like this that can be used year after year is much more environmentally friendly. Congratulations to those involved. You made my day!

Yours etc,.

Helen Ritchie

Luthermuir

Development

Toucks / Feathers by Barratts & Drum Development

Madam - Here we go again. Yet another planning application submitted for Toucks / Feathers by Barratts & Drum Development, despite the fact that development of this site were turned down by councillors in 2010 (for current Local Development Plan 2012 to 2017), in 2011 (formal application by developers despite the site not being in Local Plan), in 2013 (for new Local Development Plan) and in 2014 (another application by developers, again despite the site not being in the current local plan).

So clearly a site which our planners, councillors and local residents have turned down many times – but yet a site which the developers do not seem to have recognised as one that is neither welcome nor required.

Some important points to note in terms of why this development plan is still a very bad idea and why it should not be supported. The need to build more houses?

Despite what the developers might indicate, Stonehaven and Aberdeenshire do not need the houses that this development will create. Aberdeenshire’s Head of Planning, Piers Blaxter, himself noted last year that the Scottish Government ‘s Strategic Development Plan (“SDP”) indicates that, by 2029, Aberdeenshire will need a further 36,000 homes but that the present “land bank” – ie land that has already been approved for development (notably including Elsick) – provided enough land for 42,000 homes.

In other words, there is in fact no strategic need at this time for any new development land for homes to be earmarked in Aberdeenshire.

With the current cutbacks in the Oil Industry in North East Scotland, it is also arguable that the Scottish Government’s SDP may well require updating which could mean a significant reduction to the number of houses required in this area.

Chapelton of Elsick is the major development in South Aberdeenshire and 4,045 homes for some 11,000 people are presently planned. The planners have indicated that there is a further 5.5 Hectares of land available for “strategic reserve” purposes - presumably if the SDP does indeed require more land beyond the 42,000 that is potentially available.

This reserve land – and much more that could also be made available – could easily provide more than enough for several thousand homes if required.

Note of course that, despite the developers (and presumably their marketing advisors) indicating that the site is “Mill of Forest”, the land in question is in fact known locally as Feathers and Toucks.

Is this name change to perhaps make local people think that it is a site within the town beside the area that is known as “Mill of Forest” – rather than acknowledging that this is a new green field site outwith the A90 and outside of the existing town boundaries?

Should it matter if a builder wants to take the risk of starting a new development that may be difficult to sell? Yes, if we allow this development to go ahead , it may well mean that we end up with an unfinished site at Toucks/ Feathers for very many years – not attractive to both any early buyers nor the whole community.

In addition, if a development at Toucks / Feathers gets the go ahead, it will then put the whole strategic and approved and public-supported Council plan for Elsick at serious risk. Approval of this site could mean ultimately that there are 2 significant unfinished building sites (ie Toucks/ Feathers and Elsick) for many years (20 plus?) in this area.

The developers are indicating that their new plan is for “only” 500 new houses. This may be less than the earlier applications for 1500 houses (2200 had originally been indicated) but it will still effectively create a New Town alongside of Stonehaven. Make no mistake – this is not just an extension of Stonehaven.

It will be a new town with a population of perhaps as much as 2000 people – 20% the size of Stonehaven. No doubt also, the developers will be looking to go back to their original plans at some point and will be looking longer term for up to perhaps another 1500 homes!

A supermarket! Yes, Stonehaven is not as well served in supermarket terms as many other towns in Aberdeenshire. But there are clear plans for other local developments that may be more appropriate – including the planners-supported site at Spurryhillock which I understand could be up to a size of about 2000 square metres – or about half as big again as the present Coop in David Street. Surely big enough for local residents?

Anything bigger at Toucks/ Feathers (4000 sqm is indicated by the developers) will only lead to significant leakage of sales (and a further blow ) for Stonehaven town centre itself.

Services – Stonehaven is struggling to cope with its existing population when it comes to health and education services. As most residents can confirm, it is nigh impossible to get a quick appointment at the Health Centre and, although the staff work hard, they are seriously stretched and lacking in many facilities at the present Robert Street site. The Mackie Academy is already at 100% capacity and well past its sell-by date – current plans are indicating it will be another 10 or so years before this is likely to happen.

Plus added Flood Risk for the area, loss of valuable greenbelt land and amenities, detrimental effect on the attractiveness of Stonehaven and surrounding areas, additional traffic issues, etc etc.

So why are we again at the point where we are having to even discuss Toucks /Feathers when what has already been approved in Aberdeenshire is more than adequate in terms of housing needs for the next 15 years at least? These are not just my numbers – these are the Scottish Government’s numbers - and numbers that may also need to updated (reduced substantially) given the current economic climate in the area.

As I have also noted, if a major development at Toucks / Feathers gets the go ahead, then I believe that it put the whole strategic and approved and public-supported Council plan for Elsick at serious risk.

But it will be Stonehaven that will have the greatest loss if this major development goes ahead. Everything about the town that makes it the place that we love will be lost for ever and we cannot let this happen.

I would urge all local residents who agree that this application should not be supported to write to their local councillors and/or complete an online form before the deadline of 31st December by going to Aberdeenshire website (www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk), clicking on “view Planning Applications” then click on “Planning” to get to planning search page – reference for the application is 2015/3583.

Yours etc

Name and address supplied

Panto

Well done

Over many years I have been entertained by fellow villagers at the Newtonhill panto. I have always been in awe of the enthusiasm, energy and talent. This year’s Cinderella was no exception. It would be remiss if someone didn’t say a big thank-you on behalf of us in the audience. Take a bow everyone. You were great! What’s next year’s panto?!

Cllr Ian Mollison

Newtonhill