Local development plan approved

A NEW local development plan has been agreed by Aberdeenshire Council which will soon provide a planning blueprint for the area.

The decision follows an examination of objections to the proposed plan carried out on behalf of Scottish ministers.

The plan sets out ambitious long-term and site-specific visions and will provide a practical framework within which the outcome of planning applications can be decided with a degree of certainty and efficiency.

Approval by the full council follows four years of work, involving extensive consultation with councillors and communities, far more than any previous development plan for the area. The council was commended for its engagement with all stakeholders during the process.

At a recent meeting of Aberdeenshire Council, councillors debated a range of issues in detail, particularly focusing on their disappointment in the process, given that the Scottish Government Reporter was able to make changes to the plan counter to the views of local people.

Following the national examination, Scottish Government Reporters asked for changes to the plan, with alterations to aspirations for the communities of Newburgh and Newmachar being most significant.

The changes, for which there is little or no opportunity for the council or communities to challenge, have to be made before the plan can be formally adopted.

The council’s director of infrastructure Services, Stephen Archer, told councillors: “We are able to present a plan which we think as a whole reflects the aspirations of Members and the communities you represent.

“I would point out that the scale of the changes proposed by the Directorate of Planning and Environmental appeals is very, very small, and for the most part are merely acceptance of points we have put to them ourselves as possible improvements to the proposed plan.”

The council’s head of planning, Robert Gray, said: “Aberdeenshire Council was the first local authority in Scotland to take the development of a local plan forward under Scotland’s new planning laws, and this is a significant event for us.

“We feel the process we have gone through to get to this stage, including the extensive consultation with communities and developers, ensures we have a plan for the future which is best suited to the needs of the local area.

Procedural steps to publish the modified plan, advertise the intention to adopt it and to send necessary documentation to Scottish Ministers were also approved.

Councillors also agreed to adoption of the plan by 54 votes to six with one no vote.