Proposed Plan – Representation

1. Introduction

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.  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.  

We have more than 150 local members and thus represent a significant proportion of the population in this relatively sparsely populated area.  We have extensively canvassed the views of our members (via email, letter, posters, direct contact and website survey) and this representation reflects their views.

In summary:

We support the spatial strategy. ( Our detailed comments in para 2.1 – 2.9)

We support the proposed boundaries of the Green Belt but wish to discuss our proposal for a Local Landscape area. (Para 3)

We support the proposed settlement boundaries for Kinnaird, Rait and Baledgarno.  ( paras 4.4-4.6)

We object to the removal of the existing settlement boundary for Abernyte and wish the existing settlement boundary of Abernyte reinstated. (para 4.7)

We have specific comments on Ballindean and Westown (para 4.9-4.11)

We support the Council’s proposal not to have settlement boundaries for small settlements (para 5) , BUT ONLY IF the proposed Housing in the Countryside Supplementary Guidance is adopted into the new LDP and is robustly, consistently and rigorously applied.  If there is any doubt over this we would wish boundaries drawn tightly round the existing built areas of settlements, whatever their size, allowing for small scale infill development.  Our wish is for the “natural” existing boundaries of smallest tier settlements to be protected whilst allowing for small scale infill development appropriate in pace and character.

We support the terms of the Housing in the Countryside 2009 Policy.  We support its inclusion as Supplementary Guidance in the LDP and consider that its terms, if amended at all, should be tightened not relaxed to strengthen its regulation of development in the rural environment.  We have specific proposals in this regard
(paras 6.1-6.5)

We support the Policies for the Natural Environment but have specific proposals with regard to Policy NE3. (paras 7.1-7.4)

2. Spatial Strategy

2.1 On behalf of our members we wish to register our full and unqualified support for the spatial strategies of both TAYPlan and the Proposed Plan and the principal of directing new development to the principal settlements – the 3 tier approach.  We also support the definition of the Perth Core Area.

2.2 We support the spatial strategies for the following reasons:   
The current economic climate is unlikely to improve in the short to medium term.  It will be absolutely vital that all money spent on costly infrastructure required for future development is spent so as to maximise benefit. We support the focussing of development on Dundee and Perth where the existing infrastructure could be expanded and improved in the most cost effective manner.  The Proposed Plan would maximise the ability to deliver development and transport infrastructure that would have economic benefits to the wider area and would result in development in areas best suited for it.  
2.3 Deliverability is a key issue in the current economic climate and we accept that infrastructure is very costly for the largest developments.  We have no reason to doubt that the proposed sites included in the Proposed Plan are deliverable within the required timeframe.  We believe, for a variety of reasons, including environmental reasons, that it is preferable to focus infrastructure on a small number of large sites rather than for a plethora of smaller sites to be promoted with the risk that a developer might be allowed to develop without the provision of adequate infrastructure due to the much higher proportionate cost.  
2.4 The Carse of Gowrie, and in particular the Braes of the Carse, is an area of remarkable natural beauty of which we are proud. It is an area where, particularly north of the A90, villages have by and large retained their original character. 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. These are places that have evolved a characteristic form of development that cannot be replicated on a large scale and deserve to be cherished and conserved not expanded to the prejudice of existing and future generations of residents and visitors.  Our members consider that this is properly recognised in the spatial strategy of the Proposed Plan.   We feel that the accepted need to develop has been properly balanced with the need to preserve the historic and the natural environment.

2.5 We support the view taken in the Proposed Plan that there is adequate land capacity for growth in the existing Principal Settlements and we support the rejection of the Carse of Gowrie corridor as an area suitable for major development.  The danger would be that a vast anonymous development could be created lacking any pivotal points and completely out of keeping with the small communities in the area.

2.6 The Carse of Gowrie is an area of great biodiversity including designated areas on the River Tay.  We support the Spatial Strategy in the Proposed Plan in terms of which development is focussed within the Principal Settlements and therefore no need to develop in areas with existing nature conservation interest and which would be contrary to the Biodiversity Action Plan.  Due to the wide range of EU/UK and Scottish BAP Priority Habitats and Species found within the Braes of the Carse the Central Sidlaws Farmland Wildlife Restoration Project was set up in 2008 with funding from the Scottish Rural Development Programme. The aim of this project is to protect, restore and sensitively manage areas of Priority Habits such as species-rich grassland (including Calcareous Grassland), wetlands, hedges, tree lines and watercourses to benefit species such as the Northern Brown Argus butterfly, otters, water vole, bats and lapwing. There is also an impressive number of Priority Species associated with the agricultural “habitats” of the Braes of the Carse including hare, skylark, tree sparrow, linnet, grey partridge and curlew. The farm buildings on the Carse of Gowrie and the Braes of the Carse are also home to other protected species including barn owls, bats, swifts, swallows and house martins. The historic orchards also add to the outstanding biodiversity resource of the Carse of Gowrie and the Braes of the Carse.

2.7 We further support the spatial strategy as it reduces the contribution to climate change as it reduces the need to travel. Development of the Carse of Gowrie would inevitably increase travel demand as there are limited local services and most residents work and socialise in either Perth or Dundee. There is a limited public transport system and inevitably there would be an increased car use with its detrimental effects on the environment with carbon emissions. The existing roads infrastructure in the Carse, and in particular in the Braes of the Carse area, is totally inadequate for any significant development.

2.8 We consider that locally produced food will be of increasing importance to our future economy.  We support the Proposed Plan as it does not countenance significant development of the Carse of Gowrie for housing with the consequent permanent loss of prime agricultural land.  To allow development of agricultural land would reduce our ability to provide local produce and would not deliver sustainable development or promote sustainable food security.

2.9 We further support the Proposed Plan in its recognition of the risk of future flooding issues.   The Strategic Environmental Assessment indicates that large areas within the Carse are already at medium to high flood risk which would increase with any sea level rise. The land north of the Higher Carse road is steeply rising land and its valleys 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. In some areas the existing drainage system and the ancient “Pows” cannot cope with the existing water and consequently there are 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. As well as risk to any new development our members are concerned that increased water run-off would exacerbate existing problem areas. Members of our Group attended Climate Change panel meetings organised through PKC last year.  It is an area of concern for our members.   With climate change we are told that rainfall is likely to increase and the Carse therefore has the twin threat of flooding from rising sea levels and increased rainfall. Schemes to protect areas from all types of flooding are costly and, as stated previously, in the current and likely future economic climate optimising investment is key. Money spent to alleviate flood risk in terms of the spatial strategy in the Proposed Plan would maximise its benefit.

3. Green Belt
We support the proposed boundaries of the Green Belt but would wish to engage with the Council to discuss the future inclusion of the Braes of the Carse as a Local Landscape Area.   

Our members consider that the Carse of Gowrie and its Braes warrant recognition for their outstanding distinctive characteristics and features.  The Tay Landscape Partnership Scheme recognises the value of the area as a whole due to its unique landscape and natural and built features, but this integrated aspect is not given sufficient explicit consideration in the planning process in the assessments of future development in the individual settlements in this area.  The Tay Landscape Partnership Scheme has secured substantial funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and is hoping to progress with Projects such as the restoration of the Historic Orchards found in the Carse of Gowrie and its Braes. Policy EP6: Lunan Valley Catchment Area provides an integrated approach to development where the Council seeks to protect and enhance the nature conservation and landscape interests of an area of Perthshire. The members would like to see this approach applied to the Braes of the Carse.

4. Small settlements – boundaries and the Housing in the Countryside Policy (HCP)

4.1 The question of whether small settlements should have boundaries and the terms and application of the Housing in the Countryside Policy (to be included, we understand, as enforceable Supplementary Guidance) are interlinked.

4.2 Whilst our members almost unanimously support the spatial strategy in the Proposed Plan and wish to protect the characteristics and identity of the small villages within the Braes of the Carse they have differing views regarding the most appropriate way to achieve this.

4.3 We understand and accept the reasoning behind the principle of not identifying settlement boundaries for the smallest settlements but are concerned that unless the terms of the current 2009 HCP are incorporated as Supplementary Guidance into the new LDP without any relaxation (and possibly with further strengthening as mentioned later) and are rigorously and consistently applied there is a risk of ongoing creeping expansion of rural “small settlements” and ribbon development outwith any existing “natural” settlement boundary.

It is proposed that there are to be only 3 settlements with boundaries in our area: Rait, Kinnaird and Baledgarno.  

4.4 Our local members agree with the proposed settlement boundary for Rait.  It provides the village, that has Conservation Status, with a tight boundary that protects its character.  It allows for appropriate infill, but precludes any large scale, development.

4.5 We have no comment to make on the proposed settlement boundary for Baledgarno, a village that also has Conservation status.

4.6 Our local members support the slightly extended  proposed settlement boundary for Kinnaird. They are happy that it protects the character of the village and protects open space whilst allowing for limited future infill development.  

4.7 Kilspindie and Abernyte have existing settlement boundaries in the current LDP but do not have boundaries in the Proposed Plan.   Our Kilspindie members appear happy to accept that, due to the size of the village, it will not in future have a settlement boundary but only provided that the HCP is rigorously enforced.  

4.8 Most of our Abernyte members are concerned at the proposed loss of their village boundary.  This is partly due to the fact that a submission for a fairly large scale development was made (albeit not recommended in the Main Issues Report and not included in the Proposed Plan) on land that lies outwith the existing settlement boundary.  The concern amongst some of our members that the removal of a boundary where one previously existed is an open invitation for development and that having a boundary provides them with certainty.   If the main driver for whether a settlement has a boundary or not in the new LDP is its size then we suggest that Abernyte would logically be entitled to retain its boundary.  Kinnaird and Rait (both having settlement boundaries) have fewer houses than Abernyte which already has 32 houses and existing planning permission for a further 4 or 5 houses at the current farm buildings in the village.   The figure of 20 houses had been previously mentioned in the Main Issues Report in relation to the size of settlement that might be classed as “small” and Abernyte has considerably more houses than this.  Abernyte also has its own primary school (Rait, Kinnaird and Baledgarno do not) and it has its own Church (Rait and Baledgarno do not.)   We would therefore ask you to reconsider the removal of the Abernyte boundary and to reinstate the existing boundary which allows for future development of a scale appropriate to the village.

4.9 In our area there are several small hamlets with less than 20 houses, for example Ballindean and Westown (and also now Kilspindie), or clusters of houses that are not classed as settlements in the current LDP and that have no boundary in the Proposed Plan.  The prime concern of our members in such hamlets is possible failure in the future of the planning authority to enforce the current Housing in the Countryside policy or a future relaxation of the policy resulting in straggling ribbon development and suburbanisation of the countryside.  

4.10 With regard to Ballindean, Sites 132 or 133 have not been included in the Proposed Plan and all of our members who do not have an interest in either site fully support their exclusion.  The inclusion of either area either as a development site or within a settlement boundary would allow potential development on a scale inappropriate to the character of the existing settlement.

4.11 Our members at Westown (and indeed our membership in general as the proposed development would adversely affect the whole of the Braes of the Carse area) support the exclusion of the sites 805 and 806 at Valleyfield from the Proposed Plan.  We are strongly of the opinion that the proposed large scale development at Westown that included proposals for a mart, car auction site, hotel and housing is totally inappropriate to its proposed setting.  We consider that it is important to retain the rural nature of the area and that the loss of agricultural land should be avoided if at all possible.

5. Settlement Boundaries
On balance we are therefore happy to support the Council’s proposal not to have settlement boundaries for small settlements to avoid arbitrary delineation and to allow case by case assessment of small sites for development, BUT ONLY IF the proposed Housing in the Countryside Supplementary Guidance adopted into the new LDP is legally enforceable and is robustly, consistently and rigorously applied.  If there is any doubt over this or the philosophy of the current 2009 Policy is likely to be relaxed in any way due to, for example, economic arguments by developers, we would wish tight settlement boundaries drawn round the existing built areas to prevent spillage of new build properties.  These boundaries should allow for limited future infill development to regulate the scale and pace of change within the settlements so that their character and sense of identity is not lost.

The current Housing in the Countryside Policy was unanimously approved by Councillors as recently as 2009 and we feel is generally still fit for purpose.  It amended and tightened up the previous 2005 Policy that, with the benefit of hindsight, had allowed inappropriate development to spoil areas of our rural landscape.

6. Supplementary Guidance
There are, however, a few additional points that we would wish considered and perhaps incorporated into the new Supplementary Guidance.  

6.1 (a)  Our members would wish the status of our historic heritage orchards to be properly recognised within the planning process.  There is evidence of a current disregard of their importance shown by potential developers of sites.  For example, we were disappointed to note the statement (P22 of  representation 0926) that part of Site 132 in Ballindean is located to the south west of “an existing copse of trees, formerly an orchard, but no longer recognised as such.”   The Wester Ballindean Orchard has historic value and importance and contains some extremely rare varieties of pear.  In the Historic Orchards of the Carse of Gowrie Survey Report by Dr Crispin Hayes it is recognised as “one of nine orchards in the premier league of what remains in the Carse”.  As such it is of significant interest to the Historic Orchard Forum and projects being undertaken as part of the Heritage Lottery funded Tay Landscape Partnership Scheme.  These orchards are an important part of the local heritage and are also of considerable biodiversity value.  Owners of orchards should be prevented from following a strategy of “planned dereliction” in the hope of securing permission for the erection of houses. Formal recognition of designated heritage orchards in the planning process would assist in preventing their further decline.

(b) Our members support Policy NE2B where a tree survey will be required to accompany all planning applications in order to ensure that the landscape of the area and significant trees are protected. However, the members would like to see the policy tightened to prevent the removal of trees, prior to the submission of a planning application, as has occurred on the Carse of Gowrie, where the developers deliberately remove any obstacle that may limit the amount of development that can be fitted onto a site.  The Policy should be amended to make it clear that this deliberate removal of trees will not be tolerated and that additional planting will be required to compensate.       

6.2 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 numerous houses. The potential for this pressure could be excluded if the purchase of actively used farm buildings with a view to leaving them unused and thus “redundant” no longer qualified the building as “redundant” i.e. “constructive redundancy” would not be permitted.  More requires to be done to ensure that farm buildings can be retained for agricultural use or utilised for other employment uses as opposed to housing.   

6.3 We do not consider that the HCP should be relaxed in respect of the conversion of redundant buildings.  Developers may argue that the current policy lacks understanding of the requirement for new build to crosssubsidise the conversion element.  We however support the restriction of a maximum of 25% of the total units or floor area comprising new build or rebuilt development which prevents developers overdeveloping sites.  Developers naturally seek to maximise profit and their economic arguments should not be allowed to override other policy and environmental considerations to the detriment of local people and landscape.

6.4    There seems to be some ambiguity in respect of the application of the policy in respect of Brownfield Land.  We consider that the policy, particularly with regard to small scale development and the maximum number of houses being 5, should apply whether the site is within or outwith a settlement boundary.  This would make having or not having a settlement boundary of less importance.   This would clarify the situation as we feel that the policy should apply to all Brownfield land in rural areas.  

6.5    We particularly support the wording in the sections regarding Building Groups and Infill Sites that “proposals in any location which contribute towards ribbon development will not be supported nor will proposals which would result in the extension of a settlement boundary.”

7. The Natural Environment and Biodiversity

7.1 Our members fully support the aims of Policy NE3: Biodiversity, which commit the Council to “protect and enhance all wildlife and wildlife habitats”.  Specifically, the LDP identifies four obligations on developers, based on criteria and principles identified in the Tayside Biodiversity Partnership Planning Manual.  However, the wording in this section does not demonstrate a firm policy and commitment to apply these principles.  For example, it states only that “developers may be required … [to follow the requirements 9a) – (d) as detailed in the Tayside Biodiversity Partnership Planning Manual. As the BCCG argued in its consultation response to the PKCMIR (10.02.2011), Supplementary Guidance on biodiversity is not robust enough to ensure that the LDP delivers the admirable objectives outlined in Policy NE3. Clear policies (rather than guidance) are needed 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.

7.2 As with Policy NE2B relating to Forestry Woodland and Trees, Policy NE3 relating to Biodiversity should state that a survey of all protected species and all habitats should be submitted with all applications for Planning Permission. This is essential as protected species are found across all areas of Perthshire, many on farmland (such as skylark, tree sparrow, lapwing, linnet) and buildings (bats, barn owls, swifts, swallows etc) as well as the priority/protected species associated with habitats such as hedges, woodlands, wetlands, moorland and grasslands (spotted flycatcher, bullfinch, reed bunting, song thrush, black grouse, red squirrel etc). Any proposed development is likely to impact upon wildlife and as such the precautionary principal should be adopted, if not the Council will not be able to meet its policies laid out under Policy NE3. Policies relating to Environment and Conservation (NE1), National Designations (NE1B), Local Designations (NE1C) and European Protected Species (NE1D) all affect Biodiversity. With the exception of Local Designations, legal protection commits the Council to apply these policies, and affords protection to such sites. However, EU/UK/Scottish BAP Priority species and habitats are widespread in Perthshire but rather few sites of Local Nature Conservation or geological interest have been identified. If PKC does not have the relevant information, it will not be possible to determine when an ecological survey is required, as often the impact of a development is not apparent until surveys have been undertaken.

7.3 If Policy NE3 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.  Additional resources would require to be allocated to the enforcement department of PKC.

7.4 The Braes of the Carse is unusual in that it is one area of Perthshire where badgers have been increasing. Perthshire as a whole has an extremely small population of badgers in comparison to other parts of Scotland in spite of having excellent habitat. Badgers are extremely sensitive to disturbance near their setts and foraging areas, and due to their faithfulness to their movement corridors they are very vulnerable to being killed on the roads. Although badgers and their habitats are protected by the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, developments and increased traffic can have a significant impact on badgers and therefore the members are pleased to support the proposed Spatial Strategy directing development away from the Braes of the Carse.