Letter to Head of Local Development Team, Perth and Kinross Council:
THE BRAES OF THE CARSE CONSERVATION GROUP
Head of Local Development Team 18 February 2010
Perth & Kinross Council
25 Kinnoull Street
Comments for consideration in Main Issues Report (MIR)
As Chairman of The Braes of the Carse Group I am writing to present the views of residents and users of the Braes of the Carse area. As previously outlined in my letter of 21st November 2009, a further copy of which is enclosed, the Group was formed 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.
This letter provides general initial comments which have been canvassed from local residents. It is intended to be followed up with specific boundary suggestions for the various hamlets within the Braes of the Carse area and in particular in relation to the boundaries at Abernyte, Ballindean and Rait for which submissions for significant boundary extensions have been received by you.
We would ask that our preliminary comments are included in the discussions that you are either presently having, or are shortly to have, with key agencies. We realise that we will have an opportunity to comment further after the issue of the MIR but hope you will take account of the views of local residents at this stage when formulating your various options and deciding on your preferred options for this area to be set out in the MIR.
At the outset we wish to re-emphasise that the Group and residents canvassed are not opposed to appropriate and controlled development of the area. This is to be encouraged. We appreciate that Perth & Kinross Council has a duty to fulfil its statutory obligation to provide land for housing and to encourage business and employment opportunities and that it is appropriate for the Braes of the Carse area to incorporate both. That said, we would ask that the following important issues are taken into account when formulating the options for the MIR due to be circulated later this year.
1. Landscape setting and character
The Braes of the Carse is an area of remarkable natural beauty of which the Council should be proud. It combines fertile agricultural land spreading from the dual carriageway towards the steeply rising land to the North, the Braes themselves, these magnificent hills forming a spectacular backdrop when viewed from the dual carriageway. It provides a unique combination of gently undulating farmland with hedges and field boundary trees, a network of unclassified roads with scattered trees, shrubs and wild flowers, large estates including Fingask and Rossie Priory both Designated Landscapes, mixed woodland and historic orchards. The variety of landscape, to quote from The Illustrated Architectural Guide to Perth & Kinross (a publication supported by The Council, Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust, Perth Civic Trust and others) is “remarkable” with the view from the top of the Braes at Evelick Hill deemed “spectacular”.
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 most 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. For example, the Illustrated Architectural Guide describes Rait as “extremely picturesque” and Ballindean as “a picturesque estate hamlet”. These are places have evolved a characteristic form of development that cannot be replicated on a large scale and must be cherished and conserved not expanded for short term developers’ profit to the prejudice of existing and future generations of residents and visitors.
The 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 twinkling in the hills the area is free from light pollution. This would inevitably change with any large scale development.
If further evidence of the area’s unique beauty is required one only has to look at the works of the renowned landscape painter J McIntosh Patrick whose many paintings of the villages and rural scenes and views to and from the Braes are nationally acclaimed.
2. Traffic impact
(a)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. There have been significant junction improvements on the A90 which have taken place over the last 20 years. Those affecting our area are at Longforgan, Inchture, Inchmichael and Glencarse and closure of all crossing points between these flyovers. The Council must be commended for these road improvements and the effect they have had on safety. There is limited through traffic on the Higher Carse road and the whole road network north of the A90 is primarily used by local residents and agricultural traffic access. Other than new roads at the Inchmichael junction, and unlike the road network south of the A90, there has been little widening or improvement of the Higher Carse road.
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.
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.
From the aspect of road safety we believe that the flyover improvements along with the closure of crossing points on the A90 has made a significant impact. As a result of these improvements the Higher Carse road has arguably seen a reduction in end to end traffic. However we believe that any significant development of the hamlets located on this 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.
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 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 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.
The area covered by our comments 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.
It is imperative that the Council takes a lead to protect these areas from additional problems and in particular we would call upon you in the MIR to reject outright any submission that relates to land that has any current or possible future flooding issues.
Unlike the villages to the South of the A90 the hamlets and 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.
The Braes of the Carse, unlike the Carse to the South of the A90, 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 existing hamlets appropriate in character, density and amenity, that all significant development in the Carse of Gowrie, whether residential or otherwise, would be more appropriately situated south of the A90.
The concern 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. For example, we are strongly of the opinion that the large scale development on land with an agricultural zoning at Westown that includes proposals for a mart, car auction site, hotel and housing is totally inappropriate.
We call upon the Council to recognise the importance and unique nature of the Braes of the Carse and to protect it in the Local Development Plan by promoting as your preferred option for the hamlets the existing boundaries where such exist and to class such hamlets which are not designed as small settlements as such in the current Local Plan with boundaries closely following the boundaries of the existing buildings. By so doing future development can be contained but opportunities still given for small scale residential infill development appropriate in density, amenity and character to the location. It is vitally important that the scale and pace of change within the hamlets is regulated so that these small settlements are not swamped as could happen if the submissions before you find favour.
We also call upon you to retain the existing predominantly agricultural zoning for the areas outwith the small settlement boundaries.
Finally, in recognition of the significant number of Listed Buildings within the Braes of the Carse and its historic and landscape setting we would also ask that the Council considers adding more of the hamlets to those of Rait and Baledgarno that are already designed as Conservation Areas. This would provide these areas with further protection from inappropriate development.
As our Group represents the views of many of the residents within the Braes of the Carse we hope that you will find our comments of value and will take them into account in deciding on your preferred options in the MIR. As mentioned previously, with regard the actual boundaries of the hamlets within our area we will provide you with the results of surveys of residents in this regard in due course. However, in the meantime, we hope that our general comments are of assistance to you.