PLANNING SNUB: Kyleakin house refusal a sign of Edinburgh influence

Caroline Clouston at the rejected house site in Kyleakin. Pic Willie Urquhart

The overturning by Scottish Ministers of a Highland Council planning decision on flooding grounds has “serious implications” for Skye and the west coast.

That was the concern voiced by the council’s North planning committee chairman Drew Millar at a meeting earlier this month when members noted the refusal by officials in Edinburgh of plans for a new house in Kyleakin.

Caroline Clouston’s application for the one-and-a-half storey dwelling on the site of a former post office was rejected by Scottish Ministers because of a one-in-200 years chance of a flood.

Councillors expressed fears that with over 540 miles of coastline on Skye, the new national planning policy could see many more new homes applications on the island rejected on similar grounds.

Last year, the application by Ms Clouston was unanimously approved by committee members on the basis that the site at Kyleakin had no history of flooding.

However it was automatically referred to the Scottish Government because one of its statutory bodies had formally objected, in this case the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

The committee’s approval was subsequently overturned by a Scottish Government reporter and Ms Clouston’s application was refused.  

At the recent meeting, Skye member Drew Millar said: “I have to say I’m disappointed with the reporter’s decision. Also it’s extremely disappointing that it’s taken almost a year to come to that decision and the area in question has never been flooded.

“However, under the current approach to flooding it would appear that new residential development is unlikely to be supported in such areas, whereas extensions or adaptations to existing living accommodation will be permitted.”

Councillor Millar said that appeared inconsistent and also voiced his dismay over the apparent inflexibility of the new policy. 

He said: “I have asked our council leader to explore with other senior members of our administration the possibility of raising this matter with the Scottish Government and I’m awaiting a response from the council leader.

“But I do believe that this could have serious implications, for not only places like Skye but right up and down our west coast and other areas as well.” 

Fellow Skye member Ruraidh Stewart agreed: “I think it’s disappointing that around 60 per cent of decisions made in this chamber have been overturned by the Scottish reporter.

“On Skye alone we have over 540 miles of coastline, so it does require a common sense approach when building and approving planning permissions. It’s disappointing to see that ethos is being overturned once again by the Scottish reporter.”

North area planning manager Dafydd Jones said: “It’s difficult to envisage the consequences of global warming when they will perhaps not be felt for 30 to 40 years, but when they do they will be very real.

“This doesn’t mean that developments can’t take place in coastal communities, but what we’re being asked to do is pause for thought and ask is the site in question the most appropriate one and are there other options.”

Councillors were also roundly unhappy that so many planning decisions, taken by local members with local knowledge, were being overturned on appeal in Edinburgh.

Easter Ross councillor Maxine Smith, the planning committee’s former chairwoman, said: “I think the only way to change it is to keep putting it in the press. Get your constituents to lobby MSPs. Our MSPs have to realise that people want local democracy and don’t want to be controlled by the centre.” 

Article by Jackie MacKenzie.