Publication - FOI/EIR release

Enquiries of Site AUC002 Millflat inclusion in the current Fifeplan: EIR release

Published: 24 Jun 2019

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.

Published:
24 Jun 2019
Enquiries of Site AUC002 Millflat inclusion in the current Fifeplan: EIR release
FOI reference: FOI/19/01433
Date received: 8 Jun 2019
Date responded: 21 Jun 2019
Information requested

‘My enquiry centres on the information passed from Fife Council to Reporter Ms Katrina Rice. I am seeking information regarding the inclusion of Site AUC002 Millflat in the current Fifeplan adopted in September 2017. This site was situated outside the settlement envelope in the St Andrews & East Fife Local Plan 2012. This site has a long history of status being sought for housing development dating back to 2 applications by Forth Homes in 1981 (one rejected & one withdrawn) and another in 1995 when the local doctors had a planning application for a new surgery rejected. In the intervening years several attempts were made by landowners & developers to have this site (& adjoining sites still currently in agricultural use) included in development plans for NE Fife. All were rejected until Ms Rice endorsed Millflat's inclusion in the current Fifeplan.

The reason for my FOI request relates to why the Reporter, Katrina Rice who identifies all the adverse access issues pertaining to this site in paragraph 2 of her 'Reporter's Conclusions' can state with confidence : "the Council has confirmed that their transportation service has been fully involved throughout the development planning process and so I am satisfied that a solution could be found for a relatively modest development of 30 dwellings which would not result in unacceptable impacts on the surrounding road network."

1. I would like to ask who Ms Rice communicated with from Fife Council before she made her site visit ? Or was she forwarded information about the site without having made personal contact with anyone from the council before her site visit ?

2. Who confirmed to Ms Rice that Fife Council Transportation Service had been fully involved throughout the development planning process ?

3. Ms Rice requested further information from the Transportation Service. I would like to know what that further information consisted of.

4. What in this information caused Ms Rice to feel 'satisfied that a solution could be found' ?

Currently the Millflat site is subject to the following application Reference 18/02298/Full - Erection of 30 dwelling houses, access & associated works Land Between Millflat & Leckiebank Road, Auchtermuchty. It was validated in August 2018 and is now in its 8th month of deliberation. An independent Roads Report condemns the unsuitability of the site access & Fife Council Transportation Report published in October 2018 recommended refusal.

Response

If I might firstly clarify that , because, the information you have requested is ‘environmental information’ for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.

1 a) Who Ms Rice communicated with from Fife Council before she made her site visit.

By way of background in the first instance, the examination process is administered through the DPEA administration team who act as a single point of contact during the entire process. In the interests of impartiality, a reporter will not communicate directly with any party to an examination unless taking part in a public hearing or inquiry where all relevant parties are also present.

In terms of your specific question, I confirm that all site inspections that were undertaken during the examination of Fifeplan were unaccompanied, including the inspection, by the reporter, Ms Rice, to site AUC002 Millflat. This means that neither Fife council, nor any other party to the examination were contacted or communicated with, prior to the inspection of the site, nor were they notified of the inspection of the site. As you may be aware the purpose of a site inspection is to allow the reporter to see the site for him or herself and is not an opportunity for parties to discuss its particular merits with respect to the proposed plan. Where there are difficulties obtaining access or identifying particular features the reporter may invite the relevant parties, including the planning authority, to attend an accompanied site visit at a specified time and meeting place however no accompanied visits took place during this examination.

1 b) Or was she forwarded information about the site without having made personal contact with anyone from the council before her site visit ?

Information was provided to the reporter(s), by Fife council specific to the site in question (AUC002) at the time they submitted their plan for examination on 12 August 2015.

You may know that a key principle of the Examination procedure is that, as far as possible, the reporter should at the outset be furnished with all the information required to reach conclusions and recommendations.

The council must, within certain prescribed timescales, submit a number of required documents, to DPEA, at the time they submit their proposed plan for examination. I attach, for ease of reference, a link to our guidance for people who made representations to a proposed plan, which provides, amongst other things, a little more detail about the type of information the council are required to provide at the start of the examination. You can view this at paragraph 5, page 2.  guidance note for people who submitted representations.

I also attach a copy of Fife council’s document indexes, and a copy of the documents relevant to site AUC002 which were provided at the time of the examination.

2. Who confirmed to Ms Rice that Fife Council Transportation Service had been fully involved throughout the development planning process ?

As you know  page 1041, paragraph 2 of the report states : ‘However, the council has confirmed that their transportation service has been fully involved throughout the development planning process’

Therefore, as above, it was Fife Council who confirmed to the reporter their transportation service had been fully involved. 

To clarify further, please find attached below, an extract from Issue 18, page 1033, under the heading of AUC002 – Land West of Millflat, and under the sub heading of Transportation, Infrastructure and Services, where Fife Council confirm : “Council Services such as Transportation and Education, along with external partners and organisations such as NHS Fife, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Water, have been consulted throughout the Development Planning process. Where potential deficiencies in infrastructure have been identified, in some cases enhanced or upgraded provision has already been planned for as a result of Local Plan allocations while, in others, there will be "on-demand" provision or upgrades to existing provision. Detailed matters, such as the specifications of road access, Flood Risk Assessment and drainage arrangements for example, are dealt with at planning application stage.”

3. Ms Rice requested further information from the Transportation Service. I would like to know what that further information consisted of

As requested please find attached requests and responses to FIR 37 and FIR 100 which refer to Transportation service. (for site AUC002) 

4. What in this information caused Ms Rice to feel 'satisfied that a solution could be found' ?

In terms of the above request, you ask for a particular explanation for what within the information caused the reporter (Ms Rice) to ‘feel satisfied that a solution could be found’ however, under the terms of the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs (information not held), the Scottish Government is not required to provide information which it does not have. The Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested because a narrative or meaning of Ms Rice’s conclusions in this respect would mean creating new information or providing you with an opinion or judgement which I am unable to do.

If it may be of help however, the reporter records within the report, at page 1041, paragraph 2, in particular the latter half of paragraph 2, the extent and scope of her reasoning, an extract of which is detailed below for ease of reference : “2. I have noted the concerns expressed about the impact of increased traffic on the surrounding roads and issues of road/pedestrian safety.  From my site inspection I am aware of the reduced width of some of the surrounding roads and the extent of existing housing which already uses these roads including the proposed main access road, Lochiebank Crescent. However, the council has confirmed that their transportation service has been fully involved throughout the development planning process and I am satisfied that a solution could be found for a relatively modest development of 30 dwellings, which would not result in unacceptable impacts on the surrounding road network. The proposed plan requires the preparation of a transport statement as part of the development requirements for the site. This could consider traffic controls to prevent the unsafe use of Millflat, a recommended access point for construction traffic and take into account the location of the local play-park. Furthermore, I regard the proposed site as well located for pedestrian access to the facilities in Auchtermuchty centre which provides the opportunity for the use of alternative modes of transport to the car. The alleged problem with existing parking in the town does not alter my view.

With regard to your final paragraph about the site in question being subject to an application for the erection of 30 dwelling houses, I can confirm that the examination of a proposed local development plan is concerned with the local development plan rather than any specific development proposals. The details of any proposal would, as is currently ongoing in the application you mention, remain to be assessed through the planning application process. That process would include consultation and the further assessment of issues such access, as well areas such as traffic impact, layout, design, building heights and flooding.  The proposed plan once adopted, in the context of the reporter’s recommendations, sets out the policies and development principles which should apply in assessing the details of any planning application. This detailed assessment would fall, in the first instance anyway, to the council as planning authority. 

Finally, if it might be of some help to advise that the role of the reporter during the examination is to examine the appropriateness and sufficiency of the content of the proposed plan. Only if this is insufficient or inappropriate are they to consider other sites or approaches. Reporters are not tasked with making the plan as good as it can be, but with modifying those parts that are clearly inappropriate or insufficient.

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