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Formartine councillors concerns over new planning notification rules

By Lewis McBlane

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FORMARTINE councillors have raised concerns about proposed planning scrutiny changes.

The Formartine Area Committee's members took aim at new rules which would make it harder for residents to have objections heard by elected members.

Currently, six objections from separate households are required to guarantee a hearing by the elected Area Committee, but new rules would require 10 objections, nearly double the amount.

Commenting during the meeting which was held on Tuesday, councillor Anne Stirling said: "I would not be minded to see that blanket move to 10 valid objections being needed.

"I think that would disadvantage some of our rural households considerably.

"We've got to help our communities and residents across Aberdeenshire play a part in the planning process and I think we should be making it as straightforward as possible for them to do so."

The committee was united in criticism for the move, across parties and areas.

Councillor Anouk Kloppert
Councillor Anouk Kloppert

Fellow councillor Anouk Kloppert said: "I'm not sure that the 10 letters rule works in the rural areas of Aberdeenshire.

"It would maybe work in towns and villages but I doubt that's going to work for rural areas where there is a settlement of maybe just a few households."

The proposed measures would see a dramatic decrease in the number of applications going before the committee.

According to council documents, elected members could see sixty fewer applications each year under the plans.

Committee chairwoman councillor Isobel Davidson said: "There seems to be a significant level of concern that small communities would be disadvantaged by requiring 10 valid letters of objection before it was referred to the committee."

Councillors were divided, however, on whether to go along with council plans to keep classifying objections by household.

Currently, complaints coming from multiple adults within a household only count as one objection.

Councillor Jim Gifford
Councillor Jim Gifford

Councillor for Mid-Formartine, Jim Gifford said: "I think households should have multiple representations.

"That would go a long way to addressing people's fears about going up to the 10-objections-rule.

"The application is still live – so I can't say much about it – but I know an application where a husband and wife put in representations of two different sides of the argument.

"Why shouldn't both of those be counted when it comes to determining applications?

Cllr Kloppert, however, said: "I just think there was a reason it was done that way originally even though it can be annoying when there are two or more adults in that household who want to comment.

"I would prefer for it to be kept to households."

No consensus could be found among the committee.

Ellon councillor Gillian Owen, said:"If I had a strong objection to something and wanted to lodge a strong objection to say that, while my husband agrees with it, I don't see why his view and my view shouldn't both be taken into account.

"I just think that just because you're married doesn't mean you have the same view as your partner and I think that does need stressed."

Their views were in line with those of the majority of fellow councillors in the Garioch area, who during their meeting last week also expressed concerns about the effect of the change of those living in the predominantly rural areas of their respective wards in East and West Garioch.

The proposals still have to go before a full Council meeting where the views of all six of the area committees will be heard.

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