Solution found to Caroline’s Well Wood legal impasse

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Councillors on the Formartine Area Committee have agreed to allow a five year temporary construction access through a local woodland, after a protracted wrangle over the terms of a charter which gifted the land to the people of Ellon.

The legal difficulty relates to Caroline’s Well Wood, the proposed Barratt/Scotia development at Castle Meadow and the provision of access from the site to the town’s Golf Road.

Councillors met in private session for around an hour to discuss the legal complexities of their position, which sees them acting not just as elected representatives, but also as Trustees over the land.

When the meeting re-opened to the public, Aberdeenshire Council’s Formartine Area Manager Keith Newton advised that although it was not possible to change the terms of the 1928 Blench Charter, the council was trying to find a way forward.

Initially, councillors were advised by officers that granting permission for an access road would be incompatible with their obligations as trustees. However, by agreeing to a 2 metre wide access strip for construction traffic, which allows for a foot and cycle path and which can be restored to woodland at a later date, officials believe they have found a way in which benefit could be deemed to have been conferred to the parkland. As such, development could be made compatible with the terms of the charter and with the responsibility of Councillors to act as trustees.

To get around the problem, a ‘Section 75’ agreement attached to the current planning consent will be signed and the planning consent issued, despite the fact that it can not be implemented due to the Councillors’ twin role as trustees of the land and the need for an access onto Golf Road. A ‘Section 42’ “Major Variation” application will then be submitted, which deletes the access to Golf Road, leaving the only accesses to the development at Woodlands Edge and Knockothie Crescent. However, with a pedestrian and cycle route, together with the temporary construction access through the wood, the need for any heavy construction traffic to use either of the two main access points would be avoided. The application would also be accompanied by a revised Traffic Impact Assessment.

Cllr Rob Merson acknowledged that given the concerns expressed by residents, there was a need for a construction access away from those streets. While a temporary access would do that, he urged officials to explore means by which vehicle access to the site could take place in future. Cllr Debra Storr agreed, describing the temporary access proposal as “pragmatic.”

Cllr Isobel Davidson said that while she agreed that a construction route should be built, everything should be done in order to ensure that it was limited to the five year period. While acknowledging that this may be a challenging timescale for developers, she did not want to see a situation arise where the access had been allowed to “lapse into normality.”