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Orkney councillor astonished at planning process as Kirkwall road closure decision goes to Scottish ministers

To go with story about Scapa Crescent closure
Scapa Crescent in Kirkwall, with Garden House to the right.

A councillor has stated his despair with what he called the “labyrinthine” planning process, as a contested decision to permanently stop up access to a road in Kirkwall went to Scottish ministers this week.

The decision was made during a meeting of the council’s development and infrastructure committee, on Tuesday.

This was a result of an earlier planning decision, the like of which committee chairman Graham Sinclair said he had never seen before.

The situation came after the council’s own plans to extend a former NHS administration building at the junction of Scapa Crescent and New Scapa Road included closing the access to the former. The original planning application had drawn 23 objections but had been approved.

The council were then required to advertise their plans, specifically around the stopping up of Scapa Crescent. This then drew another four objections, meaning councillors would be asked to refer the decision to Scottish ministers.

Councillor Leslie Manson said he was “astonished” that the decision would be made in Edinburgh.

Scapa Crescent closure plans approved by planning committee

He said: “It’s clearly a heated issue and there are merits on both sides of the argument, I concede that. But this council has made far more far-reaching decisions than this.”

He asked, if the matter had been an issue for the roads department, the same thing would have happened. He was told it would depend on why a section of road was being closed but it’s possible it would have been considered through the roads act.

Councillor Manson said: “This is not the only report on this agenda that makes me think that planning is an unnecessarily labyrinthine process. Frankly, I despair over the number of hoops that have to be jumped through in the name of planning.

Having to refer situation to Edinburgh branded ‘ridiculous’

“Because this was done through the planning process, we’re prevented from making a decision about our own locality. We’ve got to refer it to Edinburgh. It’s just ridiculous.”

He clarified that he was not criticising the planning officers involved.

Planning manager with council Jamie Macvie said it wasn’t a situation he had seen before either.

However, he also urged councillors to be mindful that the process gives objectors the opportunity to be heard.

He advised them that the same process could apply to a third-party developer, asking for a road to be closed. In this case, it just happened that it was the council itself asking

He said it may seem “neater” for the process to be carried out within the council. However, it is a process that may not always have the council as the applicant.

While councillor Manson’s misgivings were heard, the decision to refer Scapa Crescent’s closure to Scottish Ministers was approved without further dissent.

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