Planning & Environment

The recent Minch Moor planning appeal decision is a good illustration of the practical implications of the new appeal procedures in Scotland.

It’s now up to the reporter to decide whether to hold a hearing or public inquiry. In this case he didn’t hold one. That’s despite the development being for 12 wind turbines, and the determining issue being landscape and visual impact.

The reporter refused permission on grounds of landscape and visual impact. So was the lack of further procedure good or bad for the developer? It’s impossible to know, but for a topic such as landscape and visual impact, the opportunity to debate the issue in person in front of the reporter can be valuable. A hearing or inquiry would have increased the developer’s costs, but that’s probably insignificant compared to the overall project cost. The decision would have taken longer if there was a hearing or inquiry, but even without further procedure it still took approximately 6 months.

The reporter also decided on the application of the no new matters rule. He allowed the developer to lodge a supplementary landscape and visual assessment document, on the grounds that it did not raise any matter that was not before the planning authority at the time the application was refused; and it was also an acceptable response to the reasons for refusal of planning permission. A sensible ruling, but if this is to be the general approach taken by reporters, it means that the no new matters rule will rarely be used to exclude evidence. Indeed, it might be invoked more against third parties seeking to widen the debate.

Neil Collar