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Moray Councillors dispute Ferrylea development decision

By Garry McCartney

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A view of land designated for the ongoing Ferrylea development from Mannacie Road.
A view of land designated for the ongoing Ferrylea development from Mannacie Road.

LOCAL Moray Councillors are debating a decision to over-rule rejection of plans for a new housing development in Forres.

Springfield Property appealed to the Scottish Government Executive Reporter when the local authority knocked back a proposal for 316 homes on the southern edge of the town at Ferrylea, who is now minded to grant planning permission subject to a legal agreement being reached.

During a meeting of the Moray Council Planning and Regulatory Services Committee on October 8, members voted five to three with three abstentions in favour of refusing planning permission. The motion for refusal was proposed by Cllr Amy Taylor (SNP – Heldon and Laich), seconded by Cllr Marc Macrae (Conservative – Fochabers-Lhanbryde) and backed by members from all groups in the local authority.

Following the announcement from the Reporter of his decision to allow the appeal and grant planning permission subject to a number of conditions, Cllr Macrae said: "I am once again disappointed that a majority decision of councillors has been overturned by a Scottish Government Reporter.

"Councillors receive a wealth of information from officers as well as attending site visits and of course their own knowledge of the area combined with that of public representation before making an informed judgement on any application that comes before them. It is right that any large application comes before the committee for deliberation, with judgements being made on the facts presented before them.

"The site was originally identified as having capacity for 380 units, the proposal would bring the number on site to 575, and we felt that the additional 195 houses were an unacceptable change in the terms of density and consequently landscaping provision. Councillors made a democratic decision to refuse permission and whilst it is correct that an appeals process exists it is disappointing when we are ran roughshod over by external forces, bringing into question the actual need for elected members on such a committee."

Local councillor Claire Feaver (Forres ward) said her thoughts are with the people of Forres.

She said: "It's particularly galling because the outcome would almost certainly been of a quality more acceptable to local people if the 2020 development plan policies which will shortly be implemented had been followed which incorporate enhanced design principles. This would have made it better for people and for nature. Sadly, the chances of more natural features in the development have been lost."

However, her colleage Aaron McLean pointed out that the decision was not made by the Scottish Government.

He said: "It was by an independent reporter who is fully versed in planning law. The reporter came to this decision as the area was designated for housing in the local plan which was widely consulted on with the public and through the council.

"The houses will only go ahead if all parts of the planning order are followed, including all of the developer contributions to education, healthcare, sports facilities and road updates.

"The developer did enough to convince planning officials at the council that the proposal was competent however the planning committee on a vote of 5-3 disagreed. This was then appealed by the developer as we all know.

Far from bypassing democracy, it has followed it to the letter of the planning law that exists in Scotland.

"I hope that the Conservative councillors, instead of picking fights with Scottish Government and local developers who provide hundreds of jobs to our constituents, would instead put their efforts into asking their MSP’s to put forward relavent changes to the Planning act at Holyrood.

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