A furious Highland Councillor has lambasted Cairngorm National Park Authority (CPNA) planning committee for undemocratic behaviour in its choice of venue to decide a controversial planning development.
The CPNA meeting to discuss planning conditions for 74 homes at Dalfaber, Aviemore will be held in Ballater, Royal Deeside, 52 miles away.
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Critics point out the journey is an hour and a half by car and, if using a bus or train, the route involves multiple changes and could take anything from seven to 13 hours.
Badenoch and Strathspey councillor Bill Lobban said there had always been a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ by CPNA that major applications are dealt with in the area in which they apply.
He said: “Now it appears that the national park no longer considers that valid. Irrespective of what side of the fence you sit on, supporter or objector, and you want to see the planning being dealt with you have to go to Ballater. That’s disgraceful and it’s undemocratic and flies in the face of what local communities would like see.”
Mr Lobban added: “High time planning was taken away from CPNA and returned to the respective councils.”
Aviemore & Vicinity Community Council (AVCC) is a statutory consultee in the application by Davall Developments to build the homes on land around Dalfaber Farm, and has maintained its objection to it over the past twelve years since the development put before planning.
AVCC chairman John Grierson said no-one from the community council would be able to travel to Ballater.
He said: “In 2010 we complained to the park about holding major development meetings in Ballater because you can’t get there, you’ve got to drive, if you don’t drive and you take public transport you’ve got two overnights because you can’t get there and back in a day. They assured us they would hold major development meetings over on this side.
“But in 2014 they did it again, and now they’re doing it again. They have a low regard for locals and communities. They don’t care.”
Murray Ferguson, CPNA director of planning & rural development, said: “We try and keep our planning process as open as possible and, as part of that, we try to hold any meetings with large or particularly contentious applications close to the site location. But it is not always possible to do so as we have to keep the business moving and there are multiple applications on any one agenda.
“This particular application is not a major application and deals with very detailed matters to do with planning conditions that were decided some years ago.”