Chairman’s Report 2009/10

This is our first annual report…and it has been a busy year. 

During the summer of 2009 it became clear that there were issues of a planning and general conservation nature that were relevant to the residents of all the small villages on the north of the A90 and, following support for the idea at a meeting held at Rait Hall, the Braes of the Carse Conservation Group was formed.  Our Constitution was adopted on 1st October 2009 in terms of which we undertake to conserve the unique beauty, character and historical environment of the Braes of the Carse area. 

Our membership is open to all those who live and/or work within the Braes area and we have a “friends of the Braes” category of membership for those who support our aims but live outwith the area.  At present we have an impressive 154 members and 25 friends from places as far afield as Canada.  We have tried during the year to increase our membership by use of our own website, the WhatsonAbernyte website, Inchture and area Newsletter and word of mouth.  For the future I would like to see more local residents joining the Group as our views will carry greater weight if we can show support from a large number within the community.

There have been two quite distinct aspects of the group’s work in relation to development and planning matters relevant to our area during the year.

Firstly we sought to influence TAYPlan (the Strategic Planning  Development Authority for Tayside and North Fife regions) and Perth & Kinross Council in the development of the Strategic Development Plan and the new Local Development Plan. 

In November 2009 with a view to influencing the Perth & Kinross Council’s strategic thinking in relation to the Braes of the Carse area, we submitted a letter to Mr Peter Marshall at PKC with comments that we asked to be considered before the issue of the PKC Main Issue Report. 

In May Alison Ramsay and I attended a presentation/workshop held by PKC Planning Dept about TAYPlan and during June/July we sought the views of our members on the TAYPlan Main Issues Report.  A detailed and well reasoned response was then submitted before the expiry of the consultation period.  We argued strongly for a variety of reasons that Option A should be the preferred strategy for major housing growth. This focussed most new housing development in the major centres of Perth and Dundee.  Option B proposed major development in the Carse of Gowrie corridor whether by the enlargement of existing settlements, the formation of a whole new town or a combination of both.

Later this year we will seek the views of our members on the PKC Main Issues Report that has just recently been issued by the Council for consultation and we will then submit a detailed response.   Both Main Issues Reports are of great importance as they will shape the strategy and direction for development over the next 20 years.  During the year we have tried to ensure that the interests of those living in the Braes of the Carse  have been made known to those who are to make these important decisions affecting the future of our area.

Secondly we sought to express the views of our members in relation to specific contentious planning applications lodged in respect of potential development sites within our area.

We have monitored applications for development lodged with PKC on a weekly basis so as to alert local members of any planning applications that may be considered controversial or significant. 

We have now developed a process whereby if we are aware of a significant planning application we try to notify all local BCCG members (as not all of them may have received formal notification by PKC) asking for their comments.  We then consider any responses and submit a letter of either support or objection to PKC planning department.  We hope that this adds weight to comments that may have been made by people individually.  Each application has, of course, been considered on its merits and, for example, we were happy to support an application for 2 houses in a village setting where the site was clearly within any logical boundaries of the village and it was in our opinion appropriate in density, amenity and character to its setting.  As I have already said many times this year but it does no harm to repeat - we are certainly not against all development – we simply wish to protect the unique nature and character of the Braes communities with any development being small scale and appropriate in type and density to its setting.
 
It was agreed by Inchture Community Council that a member of the Group should attend their meetings to provide input on rural planning issues.  I would wish to thank the Chairman and other Community Council members for their cooperation in this matter.  We have not always had a member of the Group present at ICC meetings and this is an area for us to improve on in our second year.
 
How effective our voice has been this year, and I hope will continue to be, in influencing PKC on strategic planning matters is hard to quantify.  On specific planning applications it is easier to assess and we were glad to be able to add further weight behind an already excellent campaign being waged by local Pitroddie members against the development of Myreside Steading into 8 new houses.  I and other committee members met with SEPA in connection with the withdrawal of their objection to the proposed development and letters were sent from the Group to the Council expressing our concern over many aspects of the application.  Despite all objections the application was recommended for approval by the planning officer and went to the Development Control Committee in August. Following a presentation by the applicant’s agent two BCCG local members spoke eloquently against the proposed development drawing to the Councillors’ attention many of their own and national policies that it would contravene and in particular highlighting flooding and drainage issues and the fact that the existing farm building was not “redundant”.  A good turnout in the public gallery also made sure the Councillors were aware of local feelings against the proposed development.  The positive result from this DCC meeting highlights just what can be achieved with well researched and reasoned argument and justifies all of the hard work and effort put into the opposition of the development by committee and local members.

Earlier in the year (March) we held a very successful open meeting at Rait Hall.  This was attended by more than 75 people.  We tried to cover a range of topics relating to the different aspects of the Group’s work,  Those who attended were given an overview of the Group’s formation and its aims and objectives, a summary of the submissions lodged with PKC for future potential development sites in our area and an excellent summary by local townplanner and resident David Littlejohn  of the whole planning process in 20 minutes!  We also welcomed Andrea Partridge who spoke about the Carse of Gowrie Historic Orchards and Graham Nicolson who also condensed 800 years of history of the Carse into 20 minutes!  The almost universal positive support expressed at this meeting for what we were trying to achieve was encouraging for me and our committee.

After a couple of months of discussion at committee and invaluable input from Gill Motion our local Community Capacity Building Worker, we settled on the terms of our own group’s Development Plan.  The 2 stated outcomes we are seeking to achieve relate to local involvement in planning issues and the protection of the local environment.  We are already well on our way with the former and our now turning our attention to the second equally important part of our remit.  Our intention is to carry out a Biodiversity Project across the area to find out which species and habitats we have, where they are, whether they are under threat and what can be done to help ensure they are protected or even increased. We also want to look at opportunities to increase habitats and enhance the landscape.  Over the coming months we will be looking at specific projects and funding applications.  The intention is that we will regularly monitor and evaluate how we are progressing with our twin objectives for the Group. 

As I said at the start… it has been a busy year.  I think we have already achieved a lot but there is much more we can do to achieve a real difference to the unique environment that is the Braes of the Carse.  I would encourage all of our members to give feedback about what you think we have done well and, more importantly, what we can improve on.  Finally I would like to thank all of the committee members who have willingly given up so much of their valuable free time to help the Group achieve what it has to date.