Proposals to demolish a garage to make way for a shop and housing has been described as “riding a coach and horses” through Moray Council’s planning policy.
Members of the local review body today rejected an appeal to knock down a service station on Forsyth Street, Hopeman to make way for a shop, light industrial unit and eight two-bedroom flats.
The planning application put forward by Springfield Real Estate Management on behalf of the Co-op, was refused at a meeting in March for breaching eight different policies in the local development plan and gaining more than 160 objections.
Senior solicitor Stuart Hoath told members a decision would have to be made on whether a hearing should be held following a request by the applicant, or if there was enough information in the near 800 pages of documentation for councillors to make a decision.
‘The developer is more or less asking Moray Council to rewrite its development plan’
Independent councillor for Speyside Glenlivet Derek Ross said: “We have a huge volume of material, I’ve read through it and I certainly feel I can make a determination. I don’t know what a hearing would bring to this.
“At the end of the day it’s a relatively simple case, it’s not as complicated as the amount of paperwork we’ve got leads us to believe.”
Independent councillor for Forres George Alexander felt there was too may problems with the development for it to go-ahead.
He said: “The impression I got was the developer’s agent was more or less asking Moray Council to re-write its development plan, because there’s so many examples where it’s riding a coach and horses through our planning policies.
“One of the toughest things at the moment in our smaller towns is to revitalise the town centre.
“To drop a supermarket right on the edge of Hopeman, that alone would make me wonder if it was a very wise move.
“I don’t see how we can sit here and approve this appeal and even pretend we’re abiding by our own policies.”
The site on Forsyth Street is earmarked in the development plan for business use with no shortfall of other suitable areas for housing available in the coastal town.
Other breaches of policy include a poor design frontage for the retail unit, not enough parking bays, access problems for pedestrians and traffic and insufficient vehicle charging points.
It was also felt the development would adversely impact on the distinctive character of Hopeman.
‘There’s a tendency from the public to think the pandemic is over’
Conservative councillor for Keith and Cullen Donald Gatt suggested it would be useful for members to go and look at the site to help make a decision.
He said: “This is a huge document that we’ve had to wade through and it’s not necessary as there’s lots of duplication.
“I’d like a site visit as they can be helpful, sometimes they’re not, but I think it would help in this case.”
Legal services manager Aileen Scott said the council had made a decision to stop site visits during the pandemic and nothing had been done to change that policy.
Mr Alexander said: “I think it’s important to recognise the number of positive Covid cases is still on the increase.
“There is a tendency from some members of the public to think this is all over but it’s far from being all over.”
Members unanimously agreed to reject the appeal as recommended by officers.