Jo has written to Alex Salmond to ask why Scottish Ministers saw fit to let the unelected Reporter decide on the Kilmardinny appeal.
In particularly controversial planning cases, Ministers can decide an appeal themselves rather than leaving the decision to a Reporter. Jo Swinson asked why, if the decision on the controversial Beauly to Denny power line appeal could be decided by Scottish Ministers, has the decision on the Kilmardinny development been left to a Reporter.
The letter also highlights that the Reporter’s Notice of Intention, in which she announced she was minded to approve the development, was based on the Key Policy Directions Report, a draft planning document which was not part of the Local Plan and which was rejected by Councillors. She criticises the Reporter for basing her actions on a document “substantially different” from the real Local Plan.
Commenting, Jo Swinson said:
“Local people are furious that someone who has not even been elected has acted against the will of the local community. I have asked the First Minister why the decision over a highly controversial local development could not be made by someone who has been democratically elected.”
”Only two months ago the appeal over the Beauly Denny Power line was decided by Scottish Ministers. People in Milngavie and Bearsden deserve an explanation as to why the Lower Kilmardinny development has not been treated in the same way.”
The text of Jo Swinson’s letter to Alex Salmond appears below:
Rt Hon Alex Salmond MSP
Office of the First Minister
St. Andrew’s House
2nd March 2010
Planning Permission Appeal PPA-200-242
Lower Kilmardinny/Westpark, 1 Milngavie Road, Bearsden, G61 6AT
Dear Mr. Salmond
Following our previous correspondence regarding the Notice of Intention issued by the Scottish Government Reporter Janet McNair regarding the Lower Kilmardinny development, I am seeking clarification as to why the Scottish Executive delegated the decision on such a controversial planning appeal to a Reporter, rather than calling it in to be decided by Ministers.
As I explained to you in my letter of 14th July 2009, the proposal by developers CALA Management and Stewart Milne Holdings Ltd for a development on the area of land between Milngavie and Bearsden in East Dunbartonshire has been met with almost universal disapproval by local residents. This matter has been afforded a great deal of local press coverage, as you will be aware from the large number of articles taken from the Milngavie and Bearsden Herald which I included with my letter.
A great number of my constituents remain deeply unhappy that an unelected figure has been allowed to make a judgement contrary to the wishes of the vast majority of local people. Particularly frustrating is the fact that the Reporter’s ruling that the development was consistent with the Local Plan was based on a draft plan which was never approved by the Council. The ‘Key Policy Directions Report’ (KPDR) was a consultation document prepared as part of the process of producing a new Local Plan, however Councillors voted to reject it. The KPDR is substantially different from the actual Local Plan, however the Reporter’s Notice of Intention was based on the KPDR, and not the Local Plan as it actually stands. This is clearly a flaw in the Reporter’s consideration of the case.
In particularly controversial planning appeals, Scottish Ministers can and do call in the decision to make for themselves rather than delegating it to a Reporter. The recent case of the planned Beauly to Denny Power line, where the decision was made by the Energy Minister Jim Mather, is just one example of this.
I and a great many of my constituents would be grateful if you would clarify why the decision on the Lower Kilmardinny development, was not called in by Scottish Ministers. Schedule 2 of the Town and Country Planning (Determination of Appeals by Appointed Persons) (Prescribed Classes) (Scotland) Regulations 1987 gives Ministers the power to either appoint ‘statutory undertakers’ to hear an appeal or hear the appeal themselves. I have been advised that this decision is made based upon how sensitive or controversial is the planning application in question. I put to you that the Lower Kilmardinny development is, as I have already demonstrated to you, extremely controversial and too important for the local community to have been decided on by an unelected official.
I would be grateful if you would provide clarification on what criteria the Scottish Executive uses to decide which particular cases are heard by a Minister, and which are allocated to a Reporter. I hope that in the future you will reconsider asking unelected appointees to make binding decisions on planning applications as controversial as this one, so that other local communities will not suffer a similar fate to ours.
Jo Swinson MP