Aberdeenshire Council has agreed a new Local Development Plan which will soon provide a planning blueprint for the area for everyday use.
The decision follows an examination of objections to the proposed plan carried out by the Scottish Government Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals, on behalf of Ministers.
The plan sets out ambitious long-term and site-specific visions for the area 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 focussing 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.
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.
“However that does not mean to say that it is a perfect plan, and it is deeply unfortunate that in some cases that imperfection has been introduced by the examination process itself.
“It remains the case that at examination a select number of Reporters from the Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals can impose their view over the considered view of the Council, with little or no opportunity to challenge such a position.
“However, 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.”
Mr Archer assured councillors that aspirations which had been set out in the plan but now have to be removed can still be achieved, but over a longer timeframe.
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.
“Although it took more than a year for the public examination to conclude, 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. For the most part, it is a plan by the people, for the people.”
Before it can be formally adopted, the council must advertise its intention to do so and the plan will now be published, placed in libraries and planning offices.
Councillors also agreed to adoption of the plan, and its supplementary guidance, conditional on any action taken by Scottish Ministers, by 54 votes to six with one no vote.
Scottish Ministers can still call in the Local Development Plan if they decide it needs to be changed further and it cannot be adopted until such changes are made.