This is a bit wordy (apologies!) but we wanted to share some key information regarding critical Community Engagement that should’ve taken place between Jan-Mar 2019, including information received from Aberdeenshire Council on the matter.
As a community, Potterton should’ve been engaged to participate in public consultation of the proposed bid sites (OP1 and OP2) between Jan-Mar 2019 (pre-covid) at the Main Issues Stage. This is a critical point as it allows the public the opportunity to persuade the plan (by making representations) before it goes in front of the council to vote on; when it then becomes the Proposed Local Development Plan as the “settled view of the council”.
This is what the Scottish Government wants to happen. It is an essential part of the planning process, it is not a luxury! They want communities to be involved in Local Development Plans at an early stage.
The purpose of the Main Issues Stage of consultation is to provide the council a “balanced view” of representations (views) before they vote to bring proposals forward i.e. including the view of the community. This ensures what is presented to the council is not simply a view of the planning officers, or that of developers. The Main Issues Stage is where Potterton has participated in past Development Plans. Each time sites have not been allowed past this stage due to reasons like lack of public infrastructure and Potterton not being within a Strategic Growth Area, but instead a Local Growth Area with only local housing needs being allowed.
However, there were no public meetings in our village for sites OP1 & OP2, or any information publicised locally, that would encourage us to take part in this critical point of consultation as the Scottish Government wants to happen. Neither the Potterton Community Group or Hilary Foxen (Potterton resident & Belhelvie Community Council Member) were informed about these sites and the Local Development Plan or the Main Issues Stage; there were no articles in the Belhelvie Banter or any notices on the Potterton notice boards. We asked the council what engagement activities took place with regards to Potterton during the Main Issues Stages and for these particular sites.
Aberdeenshire Council have confirmed the following: –“At a local level, we generally seek to engage through Community Councils as representing the views of their community. Belhelvie Community Council has been engaged in the Plan-making process from the outset including participating in a Place Standard exercise during the pre-Main Issues Report phase to identify key issues within settlements locally. This meeting took place on 2 October 2017. On 22 May 2018, representatives of the Community Council received early sight of the development bids received during a seminar undertaken with Councillor’s at which initial feedback was provided to assist Officers in the process of identifying preferred options outlined in the Main Issues Report. Upon publication of the Main Issues Report, we notified the Community Council as a statutory consultee and offered to provide assistance in the preparation of consultation responses.We held a number of drop-in events across Aberdeenshire, the nearest of which to Potterton was in Balmedie on 15 February 2019 and we enlisted the assistance of Community Councils to promote these events. We again notified Community Councils upon publication of the Proposed Local Development 2020 and indeed we provided advance notice to Community Councils of our intention to publish the Proposed LDP.”
The meeting held in Balmedie on 15th February 2019, has not been described in any communication with regard to Potterton and the Proposed Sites. This event was promoted for Balmedie sites.
As a result of the community not knowing about the inclusion of these sites, there were no comments/representations made by anyone in the community before the sites were voted upon by The Formartine Area Committee and Aberdeenshire’s full council.
However, somehow Belhelvie Community Council (BCC) submitted their representation at the Main Issues Report Stage in 2019 of the Local Development Plan. Included in this was “The settlement statement provides a vision for Potterton which includes the objective of protecting the amenity of the village. The scale of the proposed allocations to be included in the plan is considered to be excessive and at odds with the vision for the settlement.”The settlement issues relating to the lack of crucial infrastructure were not raised, because there had been no attempts to provide community engagement. There is no mention of poor infrastructure such as roads, education, water, waste water by Belhelvie Community Council.
A further concern is that Belhelvie Community Council wished for the community (that is Potterton) to come to terms with future growth, as an unavoidable expectation! This is an insightful statement and shows that Aberdeenshire Council Officers, and members of the BCC have discussed and reached conclusions about Potterton without the views of the residents and business owners being taken into account.
We have attached a copy of the Belhelvie Community Council Representation, which was submitted as part of the Main Issues Stage Public Consultation period in 2019.