Government under fire as Torridon croft row continues

BY LISA FALCONER
lisa.falconer@whfp.co.uk

The Scottish Crofting Federation have hit out at the Scottish Government’s planning system for rating the scenery of the west coast over its people.

The criticism came after Scottish planning minister Derek Mackay said he had no intention of taking any further the matter of a Torridon crofter refused planning permission for a house.

In August, government planners rejected an appeal by Torridon crofter Elaine Holmes against Highland Council’s decision to refuse a planning application for a small single-storey house on her croft at Fasag at the head of Loch Torridon. There is no house on the croft at present and mother-of-three Ms Holmes currently travels from her home in Shieldaig to work her croft.

Following the failed appeal, the SCF wrote to Derek Mackay asking him to reconsider the decision, arguing that the planners’ justification for refusing the house on “landscape” grounds went against the advice of the statutory landscape authority, Scottish Natural Heritage. Mr Mackay has now replied, saying that he has no intention of taking the matter further.

SCF director Fiona Mandeville said: “Sadly, the minister’s response shows that he and his planning officials are still unable to provide a satisfactory answer as to why the advice of SNH, the locally-based expert body on landscape issues, was not properly considered in this case.

“They also failed to address our concerns about the apparent lack of any serious effort by the planning appeal official to quantify the social impact of Ms Holmes’ presence in Torridon despite the fact that this is a requirement of the planning process.

“By this decision, the government has demonstrated, unequivocally, that Scotland’s planning system regards the ‘dramatic’ appearance of the west coast as more important than its people.”
Ms Mandeville added that the case also raised concerns about broader attitudes towards crofting among planners. She said: “Crofting law provides a presumption that every crofter has the right to a single dwelling-house on their croft. Where is regard taken of that in these decisions?
“We are compiling a list of planning appeal decisions which do not properly consider the crofting interest and we would like to hear from anyone with further examples.”