THE BRAES OF THE CARSE CONSERVATION GROUP
www.braesofthecarse.org

       
Local Development Plan Team    
Perth & Kinross Council    
Pullar House      
25 Kinnoull Street
Perth
PH1 5GD      10th February 2011


Dear Sir

General Comments and Responses to Questions from the Main Issues Report (MIR)

The Braes of the Carse Conservation Group (BCCG) was formed in 2009 to try and conserve the unique beauty, character and historical environment of the Braes of the Carse of Gowrie.  One aspect of our vision is to secure recognition of the importance of this area for future generations by a special designation (our responses below to specific MIR questions provide further detail on this) and we would value the opportunity to work with PKC to explore and achieve this.  Our Group’s aim is to provide a voice for residents and interest groups in an area north of the Perth – Dundee dual carriageway (A90) approximately between Glendoick in the West and Knapp in the East as outlined on the attached map (Attachment 1).   We have more than 150 local members and thus represent a significant proportion of the population in this relatively sparsely populated area.   

We recognise the significant amount of work that has gone into the preparation of both TAYPlan and PKC’s MIR and wish to register our unqualified approval of the preferred spatial strategies of both TAYPlan and PKC’s MIR. 

We wish to provide responses to some of the questions from the MIR and also to provide comment on some of the submissions relevant to the Braes of the Carse area even although none of these is recommended for inclusion in the Local Development Plan (LDP) given that they would be contrary to the preferred spatial strategies of TAYPlan and PKC.

1. Responses to Questions

Q4.  We agree with minimum density policies, but, most importantly, only in respect of larger greenfield sites over 2ha.  For smaller greenfield sites we consider that density should always be appropriate to the character and density of any existing settlement to which the site relates so that such existing settlements are not “swamped” and retain their sense of community.  We further suggest that whenever a development would increase the number of households by a given percentage (say 10%) that prospective development should always require extra scrutiny and consultation.  A basic rule of this type would provide an additional safeguard to a small community and require the developer to undertake prior consultation where no obligation at present exists.

Q6.Yes.  We agree with the statement in the MIR that the 2005 HCP has led to some unacceptable steading developments (in terms of the landscape impact, the number of units, the lack of services for the new sizeable community relative to the size of the plot etc) and are pleased that the 2009 HCP has tightened up on this. However, we would like to see the 2009 HCP clearly state that conversion of steadings into housing should be limited to vernacular/traditional stone and slate steadings only and that also they are genuinely redundant for agricultural purposes (i.e. they are no longer suitable for modern agriculture in terms of their relatively small traditional dimensions) and that relatively modern purpose built sheds are excluded from conversion/removal/replacement with housing.
The push by developers to purchase relatively modern farm sheds for development is putting pressure on the future sustainability of agriculture in Perthshire as farming businesses cannot compete with the monetary value offered by developers for the opportunity of replacing a perfectly suitable agricultural shed with 10 or so houses. The potential for this pressure needs to be clearly excluded by clarifying the 2009 HCP to ensure that developers are clear that this ‘back door’ approach is closed to them. More requires to be done to ensure that vacant and/or redundant farm buildings can be retained for agricultural use or utilised for other employment uses as opposed to housing. The housing developments that have been previously allowed have been amongst some of the worst in Perthshire with high density urban-style housing, completely out of character with the surrounding countryside and the local housing stock.
The Perthshire Countryside is extremely attractive and it is good to see that PKC have responded to this by tightening up the 2005 HCP to create the 2009 HCP. However, it is essential that this policy is adhered to and that the pressure for new housing does not result in the policy being only partially applied.
A lot of extremely useful and detailed work has been carried out on the historic orchards in the Carse in recent years.  We consider it essential that the importance of the area’s historic orchards is acknowledged and the remnants of these orchards given appropriate protection against future development by making them subject to the recent changes to Tree Preservation Order rules or providing them with some kind of other conservation status.  We understand that Fife and other Council authorities now provide protection for their historic orchards and we would ask PKC to do likewise.  These orchards are an important part of the local heritage and owners should be prevented from following a strategy of “planned dereliction” in the hope of securing permission for the erection of houses.
PKC provide general support to tree initiatives such as “Big Tree County” but we would ask you to do more, for example, by strengthening planning policies imposing clear and enforceable requirements on the preservation and restocking of trees.  We would wish to see the continuous diminution of our stock of amenity and roadside trees and hedgerows halted and the trend reversed with replanting of trees, many of which were planted in the 19th Century, when they die or fall.


Q7.  It is essential that the HCP 2009 Policy is stringently applied if it is to be successful in protecting the smallest tier of settlements from on-going creeping expansion. The ‘Infill Sites’ Policy needs to be rigorously enforced when it comes to the refusal of applications which either lead to ribbon development or the extension of the existing natural settlement boundary. We understand and accept the reasoning behind the preference not to draw boundaries round the smallest settlements and agree with it but only if the Housing in the Countryside policy will be rigorously enforced. If there is any doubt at all over the efficacy of the policy then we consider that, in those situations where a small settlement could have a logical closely drawn boundary defined, then this should be done, especially in areas of local landscape value if not included in the Perth Green Belt.  Our overarching wish is for the “natural” existing boundaries of smallest tier settlements to be protected.
In addition, with any development, there should be a requirement that existing trees are retained and protected from any damage during the development following accepted industry standards. Also, it is essential that all protected species are surveyed for and that legal protection and any agreed mitigation is enforced.  Further reference is made in our response to Q18.

Q13. We consider that the protection of prime agricultural land in general and in the Carse of Gowrie in particular is of great importance and this ties in with the preferred spatial strategies of both TAYPlan and PKC’s MIR. This area has productive fields that, in the main are good quality and cropped intensively. They provide employment for farmers, farmer workers, food processors and shops providing local produce. On a local basis there are therefore sound financial reasons why such agricultural land should now be protected and retained. There are also many important non-financial reasons why the retention of agricultural land is important. The Braes of the Carse area provides a unique combination of gently undulating farmland with hedges and field boundary trees, mixed woodland and historic orchards. We consider that the rural landscape requires protection and, whilst business opportunities should be encouraged, they should be appropriate to their setting.
For example, we are strongly of the opinion that the proposed large scale development on land with an agricultural zoning at Westown (Sites 805 and 806) that includes proposals for a mart, car auction site, hotel and housing is totally inappropriate to its proposed setting. 

We believe that locally produced food will play an increasingly important part of our future economy. This will be of not only local but also national and global importance. To allow housing or other commercial development on our prime agricultural land resulting in its permanent loss would run contrary to PKC’s avowed green ethos and widely held current thinking as it would have detrimental effects on sustainability and increased food miles.  As a result of climate change it is generally accepted that some areas currently used for agriculture will no longer be suitable for such purposes.  We therefore consider that the preservation of agricultural land that is likely to remain prime agricultural land notwithstanding the effects of climate change in the future is paramount.
 
 
Q14 Yes.  As stated in our response to Q6, we would like to see the 2009 HCP clearly state that conversion of steadings into housing should be limited to vernacular/traditional stone and slate steadings only and that also they are genuinely redundant for agricultural purposes (i.e. they are no longer suitable for modern agriculture in terms of their relatively small traditional dimensions) and that relatively modern purpose built sheds are excluded from conversion/removal/replacement with housing.
The push by developers to purchase relatively modern farm sheds for development is putting pressure on the future sustainability of agriculture in Perthshire as farming businesses cannot compete with the monetary value offered by developers for the opportunity of replacing a perfectly suitable agricultural shed with 10 or so houses. The potential for this pressure needs to be clearly excluded by clarifying the 2009 HCP to ensure that developers are clear that this ‘back door’ approach is closed to them. More requires to be done to ensure that vacant and/or redundant farm buildings can be retained for agricultural use or utilised for other employment uses as opposed to housing.

Q17. Yes we are in general agreement with the approach proposed.  If a “tight” Green Belt is ultimately accepted for Perth (see our response to Q24) then the importance of designating and protecting high quality landscapes becomes even more important. 
As far as the policy approach is concerned we suggest that perhaps a combination of a landscape character analysis with a more subjective approach based on visual qualities might provide sufficient flexibility but also the necessary objectivity. 

Whilst we appreciate that the MIR is not the vehicle for designating such landscapes at this stage we would suggest that the Braes of the Carse could be an example of a landscape suitable for designation based on a combined objective and subjective approach.  As mentioned in the introduction to these responses, we would value the opportunity to work with PKC to achieve this.   Its distinctive qualities are both recognised objectively as of high value by SNH in their Tayside Landscape Character Assessment and the spectacular views from and to the Braes are appreciated and valued by the general public with the hills forming a spectacular backdrop when viewed from the dual carriageway by residents, commuters and tourists alike.  The variety of landscape in the area, to quote from The Illustrated Architectural Guide to Perth & Kinross is “remarkable” with the view from the top of the Braes at Evelick Hill deemed “spectacular”. 
We would wish the criteria based policies to regulate development to which reference is made to be robust and unambiguous so that proper protection can be afforded to areas which, although not within any Green Belt are, due to their landscape value, worthy of protection.  We would be very concerned that future Supplementary Guidance would not have the same legal standing and enforceability as a Policy.  Supplementary Guidance could provide a “get-out” for planners and would thus not provide appropriate landscape protection.  

Q18. We agree with the statement in the MIR that there is a need to avoid further fragmentation of habitats and wildlife corridors and also the need to consider the impact of climate change on biodiversity.
Designated Sites already have legal protection, so there is less need for PKC to focus on these sites and more need to focus on the EU/UK/Scottish BAP Priority species and habitats that are widespread in Perthshire, making Perthshire one of the most important counties in Scotland for many scarce and threatened habitats and species. Steps should be taken to identify local biodiversity hot-spots and also collect data on all Priority species and habitats within Perthshire to provide a comprehensive data base.  At present this information is extremely poor.
We do not agree that the approach to protection and enhancement of biodiversity outlined in the MIR is wholly appropriate for the following reasons –
Firstly, our concern is that the inclusion of Supplementary Guidance would not be robust enough to protect, let alone enhance, the biodiversity of Tayside. There needs to be clear policies (rather than guidance) within the PKC planning framework to ensure this aspect is fully taken into account and incorporated. Guidance alone will not be robust enough to deliver the objectives outlined by PKC.
Secondly, there is only very limited data available on many habitats and species in Tayside and yet the county is home to many of Scotland’s rarest species such as water vole, sea eagle, red kite, red squirrel etc. As PKC do not have the relevant information to hand, it will not be possible for PKC to determine accurately when an ecological survey is required, as often the impact of a development is not apparent until surveys have been undertaken. For example, it is a legal requirement to protect not only badgers and their setts, but also foraging areas, and as badgers mainly come out after dark, it may be that the presence of badgers is unknown until a survey is undertaken.
Thirdly, it should be assumed that all buildings are used by  protected birds (e.g. owls, swallows, swifts, house martins etc) or bats and therefore a survey of protected species should always be required as part of any planning application where buildings are involved. Likewise with any mature trees that could be affected by the application, a survey should be required to see if they are being used by birds or bats or even squirrels.
Fourthly, any approach needs to recognise that some agricultural areas (rather than just semi-natural habitats) are important as habitat to some of our nationally declining  species and that these areas are in need of protection – such as areas that are used by nesting wading birds. Also, as mentioned in our response to Q6, all Historic Orchards should be protected from development as they are of outstanding biodiversity, historic and cultural value. They should be subject to the recent changes in TPO rules to ensure that all remnants are protected with TPOs or a similar conservation designation.  These orchards are an important part of the local heritage and owners should not be allowed to follow a strategy of “planned dereliction” in the hope of securing permission for the erection of houses when there is a desire and willingness amongst local groups and residents to restore and manage the orchards for the benefit of wildlife etc.

We recommend that the entire process for protecting and enhancing biodiversity  within the planning system needs to be overhauled and that a different approach is taken to the one suggested in the MIR. We recommend that PKC should follow the policy of several other Scottish local authorities, such as Lanarkshire, where an applicant has to submit biodiversity surveys with a planning application, at the application stage, in order for the application to be considered complete. The requirement regarding legally protected species and habitats  should be clearly spelt out with the application process and that these surveys are a required component of the planning application process for all legally protected species and all EU/UK/Scottish BAP Priority Species and Habitats, and when the appropriate time of year is for the surveys to be undertaken. The species and habitats to be surveyed for should be determined by the PKC Biodiversity Officer and should always include a basic habitat survey, including all buffer areas, plus all legally protected species following the established survey protocols.  These surveys should be undertaken by an independent professionally qualified surveyor and be submitted with the application before determination can commence. This avoids the excuse that there isn’t time for surveys to be undertaken within the time PKC has to respond, or for the applicant to argue that they do not have to undertake surveys at the correct time of year.
As part of this new approach it is essential that the full ramifications of a development are taken into account when identifying the impacts and preparing mitigation. For example, the impacts of climate change are likely to have significant impacts on water quality, where future increased flooding will result in pollution from private sewage treatment works, adversely affecting watercourses and possibly wetland habitats, causing harm to BAP Priority Species such as otter, water vole, lamprey, salmon etc. Safeguards need to put in place to ensure that the increased risks of flooding and their impacts on biodiversity are taken into account prior to approving development proposals.
If the MIR objective of protection and enhancement of biodiversity is to be achieved by PKC, there needs to be a method of ensuring that mitigation is enforceable and also that it has to be continued in the long term. There are reports of mitigation not being carried out at all or that after a short while mitigation features such as bat boxes or swift holes are dismantled/blocked.  Enforceability is a key issue.
The MIR mentions enhancement of biodiversity as well as protection and yet there is very little in the way of enhancement that would be achieved by the approach out-lined in the MIR. The new approach should be that every development has to produce a net biodiversity gain. It should not only be limited to trying to reduce the losses, but these should always be compensated for if losses are unavoidable (i.e. through enforceable mitigation), but there should also be an Enhancement Plan agreed as part of the planning application process. This should not just be limited to tree planting, but should also include many other habitat creation options and built-in options. 


Q19 We agree that the key issues have been addressed.  We agree that the spatial strategy reduces the need to travel which is a key issue in climate change by ensuring growth takes place close to Perth and other existing larger settlements.  We would, however, ask that the likelihood of additional traffic using the minor, many being unclassified single track, roads over the Braes is recognised and planned for (or against) when more houses are built in for example Scone or Balbeggie.  There is a danger that these narrow roads become a “rat run” for those heading towards Dundee. 

Q20.  We are particularly concerned about flood risk in the Carse of Gowrie and are reassured by the assertion that development will be guided to areas that do not flood or increase flood risk elsewhere.  We have concerns regarding SEPA’s 1 in 200 year indicative Flood Map as we are already aware of areas in the Carse that have been deemed suitable for development when local residents are aware of existing, let alone future, flooding problems.
We consider that flooding is a key issue for Carse residents.  For example, serious flooding has recently (Jan 2011) occurred at the Grange adjacent to a new housing development where there had been no flooding prior to the erection of the houses and their associated hard landscaping. 
Large areas of the Carse are low-lying, flat with heavy clay based soil.  The drainage systems put in place, including the ancient system of pows built many centuries ago to aid drainage for agricultural purposes, are simply inadequate to cope with increased run off from new housing.  The effects of climate change will only exacerbate this problem.
Whilst much of the Carse is flat, a significant part of the Braes of the Carse north of the Higher Carse road is steeply rising land.  The small valleys that run North/South in this area contain various hamlets and form the route for the natural water courses that run off into the flood plain.  As a result of the topography and soils the flood plain land already experiences significant water run offs and this has resulted in regular flooding at the foot of the Braes and beyond.  We would also ask that cognisance is taken not only of recognised streams and water courses in this area but also of existing and likely future increased “informal” water run off from the Sidlaws as this presently causes, and will increasingly cause, extensive flooding on the flood plains.
We would also ask that all applications relating to sites where drainage is into any of the pows should be examined with particular care and that enforceable conditions in respect of future maintenance of the pows is included. This should include access for plant and compulsory regular maintenance and preclude culverting.
PKC has already acknowledged that the Carse of Gowrie is an area with serious existing and future flooding issues as it is the location chosen, in association with the Scottish Climate Change Impacts Partnership, for a series of workshops on the affects of climate change.  
 
Q24  We note that the proposed outer boundary of the Green Belt (GB) is the closer outer boundary suggested by David Tyldesley  and Associates in their Perth GB Study although the conclusion of the Study was that the wider outer boundary was justified.  The Study accepted that the area of GB could potentially extend outwards from Perth in all directions for any distance that it was necessary to achieve the GB objectives. 

We consider that Perth’s relationship to its landscape setting is of great importance. As acknowledged in the Tyldesley’s Study and even if the preferred TAYPlan and PKC MIR spatial strategies are adopted, there is a danger of modern development spreading over the Igneous Hills (Sidlaws) and down the Tay corridor so destroying that special relationship.
We endorse the terms of the Housing in the Countryside Policy 2009, but unless its terms are rigorously applied the lack of or limited nature of other current policies (although this of course may be remedied by the proposed policies to which reference is made in paras 4.4.1 – 4.4.14 in the MIR) may allow inappropriate development that would prejudice the landscape setting of Perth without an appropriate GB designation.

The existing AGLV designation around Perth appears somewhat arbitrary and to relate neither to landscape character nor quality.  The Tyldesley Study (6.6) suggests that “the Igneous Hills of the Sidlaws are of equivalent landscape value all along the range but the AGLV stops well short of Kilspindie”.  It then suggests a wider outer boundary of the GB (approximately to Rait in the east) incorporating a larger part but not all of the distinctive Sidlaw range.  There seems no logical reason why this boundary should not extend further east to Knapp to take in more of the Sidlaw range.
The Tyldesley Report’s justification for the wider outer boundary of the GB was the need to protect those rural settlements that would otherwise lie outwith the GB from the effects of the GB itself.  A wider boundary would provide protection for small rural settlements e.g. Kinnaird, Westown, Ballindean, Abernyte (and Rait, Kilspindie and Pitroddie if the proposed closer GB boundary was adopted) where development of any significant scale would be inappropriate but, notwithstanding the preferred spatial strategy of TAYPlan, could experience pressure for development if a closer GB boundary was adopted for Perth.
An extended east boundary could be well defined and could follow the route of existing roads. 

We do, however, acknowledge that the purpose of a GB is quite different from simply protecting the landscape.  If ultimately it is decided (and we would not necessarily disagree with such a decision) that either no GB is appropriate for Perth or a GB with a closer outer boundary then, as explained further in our answer to Q17, we suggest that the part of the Braes of the Carse outwith a GB designation should be protected and designated a “local landscape area” due to its remarkable natural beauty and importance as the iconic view seen by countless commuters, residents and tourists when travelling between Perth and Dundee on the A90.
 
Q25 We agree with the proposed hierarchal approach to the identification of sites to meet the additional requirement. 

Q30.  We endorse your view that none of the villages outwith the Perth Core area and within the BCCG area have potential for development.   


2. Comment on submissions within the BCCG area

As mentioned previously, we note and support the view taken by PKC that none of these submissions are in line with the preferred TAYPlan spatial strategy and note and support PKC’s preference to take none of them forward into the LDP. 
In our opinion the rural sparsely settled character of the Braes of the Carse deserves protection.  In the Tayside Landscape Character Assessment regarding development (5.8.10) SNH suggested that the previous creation of suburban houses extending from farmsteads or existing hamlets had had a “suburbanising influence” on the Sidlaws’ landscape.  In their, and our, opinion new development should be avoided in the Sidlaws and development in open countryside in general should be discouraged.

The following comments are relevant in relation to all of the submissions in the BCCG area.

Landscape character and setting
The natural environment within the entire Braes of the Carse area and especially the beautiful uninterrupted views northwards from the A90 towards the Braes are an irreplaceable asset for local residents, commuters and tourists alike and we strongly believe require protection for future generations.
As well as the outstanding natural beauty of its landscape the area is also rich in historic and cultural interest with a history extending back to the Romans, Picts and Gaels.  The hamlets within the Braes area, with previous protection by Perth & Kinross Council, have by and large retained their original character unlike some of their counterparts in the Carse south of the A90.  They fit well into the existing landscape, many houses fronting directly on to the unclassified single track road network and villages nestled into the valleys or at the foothills of the Braes.  These hamlets have a long established sense of place and community and have evolved sympathetically in their rural setting. 
The uninterrupted view towards the Braes at night is also to be cherished.  The absence of street lighting means that apart from small clusters of house lights from uncurtained windows in the hamlets in the foothills and isolated house lights shining in the hills the area is free from light pollution.  This would inevitably change with any large scale residential or commercial development.

Traffic impact –physical constraints of unclassified road network
The Braes of the Carse area is networked by mainly unclassified roads. Running parallel with the A90 and from the Glendoik to Inchture junctions the unclassified road, sometimes known as the Higher/Upper Carse road, is in the main suitable only for single vehicle traffic and there are only limited passing places. 
The Higher Carse road is the original Perth – Dundee high road and has historical significance.  Widening opportunities are limited due to its location just above the Carse flood plain.  In addition a significant number of houses and hamlets are located with boundaries directly onto this road further limiting capacity for road improvements.

There is limited South to North traffic as the minor roads into the Perth-Scone-Balbeggie-Coupar Angus valley are similarly limited in width with the only B class road being the B953 through Abernyte and all other South/North routes being unclassified and mainly single track with passing places.

SNH in their Tayside Landscape Character Assessment expressed the view specifically in relation to the Braes of the Carse area that the small scale and rural character of these roads should be retained and that widening and other “improvements” should be resisted.   

We believe that further developments leading to increased commuter traffic into Perth/Dundee via either the Higher Carse road or other unclassified roads would place an undue traffic load on these routes.

We also believe that allowing additional housing in this area, where is no regular public transport system, shops or services would of necessity increase commuting which is contrary to the Council’s policy of sustainable development.

Safety aspects
We believe that any significant development of the hamlets located on the Higher Carse road, for example at Ballindean, or on other unclassified roads, for example at Rait, or any change to zoning of currently agricultural land to other use, for example at Westown, would be damaging both to the road condition and also to the safety of residents. 

These roads do not have any pavements or footpaths or space for such and most are bounded with drainage ditches critical to reducing flood risk in the area.  As already stated, a large number of houses have boundaries directly onto the unclassified roads (and many have parking spaces through historical precedent and necessity) and as such increased traffic would be dangerous to local residents and children in particular.

Amenity/Leisure
The road network within the Braes of the Carse area is used by a variety of local groups including Perth and Dundee based formal cycling clubs and many individual cyclists as well as runners/joggers.  At an even slower pace the roads network is a facility well used by dog walkers,horseriders and various formal walking groups as well as individual walkers/ramblers. 

The Council has already recognised the importance of the Braes of the Carse for walking with the proposed establishment of several “Core Paths” within the area.  Some of these Core Paths involve walking on sections of the public road which is considered safe and to be encouraged due to the limited amount of traffic.  With little space for passing places, pavements/verges any significant increase in traffic would have a corresponding increase in danger to non vehicle users of the roads and would thus be at direct odds with the promotion of the paths network and cycle routes.  As one of the Council’s aims is to improve the health of its residents and to encourage healthy outdoor activities such as cycling and walking any development involving a significant increase in traffic would be incompatible with this.

Flooding and drainage
The BCCG area comprises two discrete topographical areas.  The land between the A90 and the Higher Carse road is primarily agricultural, clay soil based, flat land with little drop from the foothills of the Braes to the A90.  This land is primarily used for cereal crop growing with limited livestock raising.  This land is prone to repeated flooding.

The land north of the Higher Carse road is steeply rising land and wooded in many areas.  The small valleys that run North/South in this area contain various hamlets and form the route for the natural water courses that run off into the flood plain.

As a result of the topography and soils the flood plain land has significant water run offs and this results in regular flooding along many areas adjoining and south of the Higher Carse road.  In some areas the existing drainage system and the Pows cannot cope with the existing water and consequently there are serious problems with repeated flooding and serious drainage issues that affect both residential property and agricultural land, inspite of much money spent on maintenance of these systems. 

We are pleased that the Council is taking a lead to protect these areas from additional problems and is not proposing to accept submissions that relate to land that has any current or future flooding issues.

The existing houses within the Braes of the Carse are not connected to the mains sewage system.  On the flat, heavy clay saturation renders septic tanks problematic.  Any new developments would therefore require private sewage treatment works to be set up within the development and these are notorious for having problems and being unreliable.  If these were situated on areas that already suffered from significant drainage and flooding problems then they could become a serious public health hazard and also result in pollution of watercourses and agricultural land.

Summary
The Braes of the Carse has not previously been significantly developed due partly to the infrastructure restrictions noted above and partly, we hope, by Perth & Kinross Council’s appreciation that this is a unique area of such landscape and historical importance and character that it deserves to be treasured and conserved for future generations.

We consider that, apart from small scale development within the boundaries of existing hamlets appropriate in character, density and amenity, that all significant development should be in locations in accordance with the proposed TAYPlan and PKC spatial strategies.   

The concern of members of our Group is that solutions to road, flooding and drainage issues would only be surmountable with very significant investment and this could only be funded by inappropriately large scale residential or business developments which would destroy the character, architectural and natural heritage and amenity value of this area. 

We appreciate that as none of the submissions relating to land within the BCCG area are being put forward for inclusion in the LDP (all being contrary to the preferred spatial strategy) that the initial assessments of the sites are probably not as detailed as might otherwise have been the case. There are, however, glaring inaccuracies in some of the officer’s comments. We therefore hope that the following comments, given from our member’s local knowledge and making reference to the headings in the initial assessments of the sites, will be of assistance.

A. Ballindean (Sites 132 and 133)

Ballindean is not presently designated as a settlement although a boundary was put forward in the draft 2004 Plan.  The preferred LDP strategy does not seek to identify new small settlements (Ballindean would be classed a small settlement as it has less than 20 dwellings and no community services whatsoever) or provide them with boundaries and we are happy to rely on this if the Housing in the Countryside Policy 2009 is rigorously enforced.

However, in our view if it is considered that a settlement boundary is required for the hamlet it should be tightly drawn as shown in Attachment 2.  Both submissions 132 and 133 would allow potential development on a scale inappropriate to the setting of the existing settlement.  There are only 17 houses in the hamlet. Planning permission has within the last year been granted for a further 2 houses i.e. an increase of more than 10%.  It should be noted that BCCG and neighbouring proprietors did not object to the planning application as it was considered appropriate infill within the logical boundary of the hamlet and would thus allow modest expansion of the hamlet appropriate in both scale and pace.  There would be further limited scope for development within our preferred boundary and we consider that no development over and above this would be appropriate during the term of the LDP otherwise the hamlet could be swamped and its sense of community lost.

We would also ask that consideration be given to designating  Ballindean with Conservation status.  Some of the reasons for so doing are given below and the community would value the opportunity of exploring this further with PKC.

Assessment topic
Sustainable locations – Proximity to Services and Facilities
We disagree with the assessment and suspect that perhaps the wrong information has been detailed for the site.  It is indeed within walking distance of the village but the village has NO services of any description.  The bus service is very infrequent –just twice a week- (as acknowledged in the assessments of the submissions for Rait and Abernyte) and there is no bus stop in the village.  There is no realistic potential for sustainable transport links to services or other settlements (as acknowledged in the Rait and Abernyte assessments indicating they are not sustainable locations.)
Biodiversity
Part of the eastern section of site 132 would affect a marshy wetland area where Lapwing, Skylark and many other birds breed.  Lapwing and Skylark are both BAP Priority Species and therefore should be protected from the impacts of development. They require large areas of open habitat and also wetland areas for feeding. Any development within approximately 100m would cause these priority species to abandon this site, and as there are very few sites on the Carse where permanent wetlands occur, this would be likely to prevent them from establishing successful territiories elsewhere. There is also a barn owl that regularly hunts on the fields forming the east end of site 132 so that any development in this area would put this rare species at risk. 
The site also wraps around the Wester Ballindean Orchard that has been recognised as a Historic Orchard being an ancient orchard worthy of preservation because of its biodiversity.
Landscape
If a Green Belt designation does not extend eastwards to include inter alia Ballindean we would hope that the value of the Braes of the Carse landscape would be considered worthy of protection in terms of paras 4.4.1.-4.4.14 of the MIR.  Even if neither of these proposals find favour we suggest that that any development in either of sites 132 and 133 would still be inappropriate given the landscape setting of the village as we do not consider that development would be possible without adversely affecting the key characteristics of the Landscape Character type.  As suggested by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) in their Tayside Landscape Character Assessment  such development would have a “suburbanising influence on the Sidlaw’s landscape” and in our view also should not be allowed.
Cultural Heritage
The importance of the Wester Ballindean Orchard has already been mentioned in relation to site 132.
Any development of either site would have a material adverse impact on the setting of Easter Ballindean House and Easter Ballindean Lodge listed C(S) and B respectively.  These distinctive red sandstone Georgian buildings feature prominently and form the eastern end of the village with open farmland to the north and south enhancing their setting.  Even taking into account the topography of the sloping site the setting of these listed buildings would be materially prejudiced by development of either site.
The majority of the other houses in the village, several of which are also listed, are also built of the local red sandstone and form an attractive small settlement or, as stated in “The Illustrated Architectural Guide to Perth & Kinross” (a publication supported by PKC, PKHT and Perth Civic Trust and others) “a picturesque estate hamlet”.  It has evolved a characteristic form of development that cannot be replicated on a large scale and deserves to be conserved for existing and future generations of residents and visitors.
Site Description
We agree with the assessment that both sites would have significant adverse affects on the village setting with views into and out of the village being materially affected.  Development of either site would be visible from the A90. The size of the sites would have an adverse impact on the character of the village.
Access
The proposed re-routing of the road in connection with site 132 would be of no local benefit and would be contrary to SNH’s recommendation (Tayside Landscape Character Assessment clause 5.8.9) that “improvements” to rural roads in the Braes of the Carse should be resisted.  The distinctive sharp bend within the village has been in place for many generations.  The oldest resident in Ballindean, who has lived locally for more than 60 years, confirms that to her knowledge there have never been any serious accidents at the bend.  Indeed the bend in the road has the advantage of slowing down traffic as it passes through the village.
Air Quality
Again, we would wish to correct the comment in the initial assessment.  The sites are NOT proximate to public transport (in the same way as the Rait and Abernyte sites)
Soil
Where possible we consider that PKC should protect agricultural land.   
Water and Flooding
It is stated that there is no known flooding in the area.  This is patently incorrect.  The Roads Department from their records will be able to verify that the public road leading to and through the village, as in many other places in the Carse, frequently floods after periods of heavy rain.  (See Attachments 3 and 4) The water run off from the Braes immediately to the North of the village is significant and, from local knowledge, has worsened over recent years and, with climate change, is likely to become even more significant. After heavy rain or snow melt water pours off the hill along the route shown forming the east boundary of site 133. (See Attachment 5).  It continues down the driveway of Easter Ballindean House and directly into the field forming part of the eastern end of site 132. (See Attachment 6) As  previously mentioned part of the site and the adjoining land to the east is well established marshland and has been uncultivated for many years despite recent attempts to improve drainage.  The water runs into this field (north of the Higher Carse road) and it is often under water for lengthy periods (See attachment 7) as is site 132 south of the Higher Carse road – a haven for birdlife but not suitable for housing.  (See Attachment 8).
At Wester Ballindean water again cascades off the hill and frequently floods the site 132 to the south of the existing village.  More photos can be made available if required.
With the break up of farms and reduced labour forces there is less regular clearing of silt traps and so with increased water run off as a result of climate change the culverts that already block and overflow will do so even more frequently.
There is no public drainage system in Ballindean.  Any new houses would require private drainage arrangements which, from local knowledge, are sometimes problematic given the soil type in the Carse and the inability of the existing field drains and Pows to cope with the existing, let alone increased future, water run off.


B Rait (Site 720)

Green Infrastructure
Over the past the 3 years there have been 3 new houses built with a further 2 in progress leaving very little open space in the village.
Biodiversity 
The village plays host to a number of protected species such as bats, red squirrels and owls and the site is a valuable wildlife corridor.
Landscape
Any development sensitive or not would have a major impact on the village landscape both looking into and out of the village.
Cultural Heritage 
Not only does the village contain the archaeological sites and listed buildings referred to in the assessment it also has a C listed churchyard.  It is a Conservation area and would be materially affected by any development of the site.
Site Description
The view from the top of the hills to the west and up from the east would undoubtedly be affected.
Site Orientation 
The site is now extremely limited since the latest permission was granted.
Access 
Most of the local road network is single track with limited passing places, which are particularly difficult during bad weather.
Soil
Due to the lack of mains sewerage and occasional flooding old septic tanks can pose contamination issues.         
Water
Tailraces from septic tanks are discharged into Rait burn.
Flooding
The burn within the village regularly floods. (Photos can be provided by our local members.)

As a final point we would wish to comment that although Rait’s importance to the area has been acknowledged by it being designated a Conservation Area, as far as we are aware, it has not had any appraisal carried out on it since its initial designation.  We understand that there is extensive guidance given to Councils on the proper treatment of Conservation Areas and we would suggest that a reassessment of Rait is now long overdue.

 

C Abernyte (Sites 29,30 and 31)
Site 29
Biodiversity
Red squirrels and barn owls have been sighted at the north end of the Site.
Landscape
Development of the site would alter the character of the village and create a more linear settlement.
Site description
The size of the site would be out of all proportion to the existing village
Soil
The site is good agricultural land
Water
A burn flows under the site via an underground channel and has been recorded as overflowing during periods of heavy run off.  Access to and future enhancements of the burn could be an issue if the site was developed and it would cause difficulties building on unstable land. Under the Water Framework Directive, there is a requirement that all watercourses are protected from degredation, and, where possible, degraded watercourses are improved. Building over a culverted watercourse would make such improvements very difficult and cause the burn to be nothing more than a drain, with no habitat or ecological potential for many years into the future.  It is also understood that den through which the burn flows was filled in with “unknown materials” which could cause problems for future “daylighting” in the burn.
There is no mains sewage system currently in the village.
Flooding
The underground channel has been choked in the past and has overflowed in the area of the proposed site.

There is no initial assessment of Sites 30 and 31 but we would make the following comments.
Site 30
This area has been used for many years by the Abernyte community and by the School as amenity ground and a playing field.  The Abernyte Community has a Scottish Government approved “Register of Interest” in the field with the intention of retaining its use for the community as a park and playing field.
Site 31
We agree that this appears contrary to the Housing in the Countryside policy.

D Westown (Sites 805 and 806)
There is no initial assessment of these large sites and so we feel unable at this stage to make specific comments.  We would, however, wish to register our extreme concern about any large scale development on these sites.  We note that development of this area of agricultural land is considered contrary to the preferred spatial strategy and are reassured by this.
We are strongly of the opinion that the mooted large scale development on the land that includes proposals for a mart, car auction site, hotel and housing is totally inappropriate for the site.

E Flawcraig (Sites 426 and 427)   
Again, no assessments carried out of these sites and therefore no comments to make other than supporting the view stated that development of neither site complies with the Housing in the Countryside policy.