Local Plan scrutiny is finally completed

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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.

In a very small number of cases, sites have been removed and substitute sites put in their place within the plan.

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.

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.

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.

Planning policy team leader, Piers Blaxter, said: “There are still a number of stages to be undertaken before the plan can be formally adopted, including a final review of the proposed modifications by Scottish Ministers and a period for legal challenge.

“We will be analysing the recommendations in detail before presenting them to area committees, and final checks need to be made as to whether the proposed changes are competent in terms of strategic planning documents, natural heritage legislation and the evidence that was in front of the examination.”