Peterhead residents have called for an overhaul of planning regulations after a scheme to relocate a dental practice was approved by the Scottish Government – despite receiving dozens of objections.
Mick Bain, John Stephen, Mark Swanston and Jackie Stewart were among 49 people whose complaints were taken into account when Aberdeenshire Council knocked back plans for Queen Street Dental to move to a bigger premises adjacent to its existing base.
Local councillors agreed that the move would have a “negative impact”, with the new practice thought to look “too modern” compared to surrounding buildings.
But the application was later rubber stamped by the Scottish Government when developers appealed the council’s decision.
Now, the group of Peterhead men are calling for local objections to be given more weight during the planning process.
And they have issued a rallying cry for other residents to take a more robust approach when raising concerns about developments.
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Mr Bain said: “This is about more than just the applicant in this one case. We can’t deal with the fact that, as an objector, you barely get any information and constantly get ignored.”
Mr Stephen added: “You have to be really determined to raise objections as it’s extremely frustrating trying to navigate the council departments – you have to watch what’s going on and stand up for yourself to elected officials.
“I think we should have been listened to more.”
The objectors filed an ombudsman complaint after the government granted planning permission, but watchdogs found that minsters had followed the correct process.
Mr Bain said the men “want to raise awareness of the frustrations they went through”.
Peterhead councillor, Alan Buchan, said local members did not “ignore” complaints, but that their hands were tied by regulations.
He said: “Queen Street residents may not be fully aware of the planning and appeal system that makes it difficult for individual councillors to publicly comment on planning applications.
“These rules can cause great difficulty when replying to e-mails and talking to the press regarding such matters.”
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman said: “The council made every effort to keep all parties informed of developments whilst the application was heard.”
Government reporter, Jo-Anne Carrick, concluded that there were “no material considerations” that would justify refusal of the application.
Balmoor Dental Surgeries, which runs the practices as well as others in Aberdeen, Elgin and Ellon, was unavailable for comment.