Scottish Government planning officials have been accused of “riding roughshod” over democracy after two planning decisions in Moray were overturned in two days.
The council’s planning committee had voted to throw out housing developments at Bain Avenue in Elgin and Ferrylea in Forres, which were both submitted by Springfield Properties.
Now Scottish Government officials have announced they want to reverse those decisions.
Yesterday Springfield explained the developments would contribute to affordable housing targets and expected construction at both sites to begin this year – while also pledging to work with councillors to reduce the need for appeals.
However, the move has attracted an angry response from Fochabers Lhanbryde councillor Marc Macrae, a former chairman of the council’s planning committee, who has accused the Holyrood reporters of ignoring local views.
He said: “Councillors made a democratic decision to refuse permission and whilst it is correct that an appeals process exists it is disappointing when we are ran roughshod over by external forces, bringing into question the actual need for elected members on such a committee.
“Time and time again across the north-east we see local authorities listening to the public, heeding communities, making informed decisions, only for these to be overturned by government in Edinburgh.”
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with The P&J newsletter
The application for 316 homes in the Forres plans would have taken the total amount on the site to 575 when included with previous developments – despite the council initially earmarking a capacity of 380 for the land in a masterplan.
Scottish Government reporter David Liddell agreed Springfield’s plans did not follow the blueprint but concluded their proposals were not “inappropriate”.
Meanwhile, the Elgin plans for 26 new affordable homes were backed due to their “much-needed” contribution to the affordable housing market despite nine objections from residents.
Springfield has described the Forres reversal as the “right decision”. Meanwhile, Tom Leggeat, the firm’s managing director for affordable housing, explained the Elgin development would help meet government targets.
He said: “The homes exceed building regulations and are energy efficient which keeps running costs low for tenants and is better for the environment.
“In addition to much needed affordable housing, the plans include an enhanced play area, a kick-about pitch, footpaths, tree planting and space for public art.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Scottish ministers are committed to seeing the right developments in the right place.
“The independent reporters fully considered all the evidence submitted by the planning authority, the appellant and other parties who made representations in relation to the proposed developments.”
Both decisions are subject to legal agreements being made between the council and Springfield for financial contributions towards local services.