Forres Road Land Development
A full response to the planning application for development on the land at Forres Road or more commonly known as the Morganti Land, was submitted by NRCC to the Highland Council Planning Department. Below is the full contents of the document submitted........
Nairn River Community Council (NRCC)
Highland Council Planning Department
For the attention of Ken McCorquodale case officer
Planning Application 17/03538/FUL –‘Erection of 31no. affordable dwellings - Land 125M SE Of The Bungalow Forres Road Nairn’.
We write in connection with the above planning application. We have examined the plans and we know the site well. We wish to object strongly to any development in this location.
As the site subject to this proposal is not included in the emerging site allocations development plan document, on which the public have been consulted, it goes against the development plan for Nairn. There are currently eight areas of consideration on the Local Plan and this area is not included. The proposed development for thirty-one dwellings is a huge overdevelopment of what this site could safely carry, leaving aside any other issues. Pressure to develop housing in Nairn is considerable but this development would make the current traffic and sewerage flooding problems much more severe. These infrastructure problems are not solvable without huge investment in both the roads and the sewers.
History of the site
This was originally a one house site which had been built some-time in the first half of the 20th century and was occupied by one family until the latter half of the 1990s and there is a separate field site alongside. An application (10/03432/PIP) to build five dwelling was proposed and approved in 2010. This was not acted upon. Another application (16/05512/PIP) was submitted in 2016 for an industrial development but was withdrawn after what appears to be an intervention by the Highland Councils forestry officer.
Sewerage facilities in Nairn are already a source of development restriction and this has been commented on by Scottish Water as a limiting factor in their agreeing or otherwise to other developments in the Town. There have been many instances in just very recent days where the system has overloaded and caused pollution to flow into the River Nairn. To add another development and the resultant effluents will only increase the number of times that the system overflows if not completely overwhelm it. The treatment plant has already been blamed for poor water quality at Nairn Central beach and Nairn East beach. It is believed that the sewer pipes themselves are overloaded so just upgrading the treatment works will not by itself solve the “overload” issue. Separating SUDS from the sewage will only go a limited way to resolving the additional issues being generated and not eradicate it. Although the application states that the site sewers will be joined to the existing Town sewers.
Health and the Road A96
The proposed siting of the development is particularly ill-considered, effectively being a landlocked site. As it is proposed to be social housing for families with children and for older or disabled people this location would be massively detrimental to the health and wellbeing of these residents and the other residents in the immediate area, due to a reduction in air quality as a result of the twin effects of removing trees and adding to the traffic congestion.
Children are not just smaller adults, nor are the elderly just older adults; they are individuals and pollution exposure levels present remarkable challenges to both. It has been reported that long-term exposure to traffic particles was associated with increased blood pressure, an established risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke in elderly men and it has been suggested that cognitive impairment was not just as a result of aging alone but resulted from the combined effects of risk factors, including exposure to traffic generated pollutants.
Children are more vulnerable to breathing in polluted air than adults. For their size, they breathe more air each minute than an adult. Buggies and prams put them at the level of car exhausts. If a child breathes high levels of air pollution over a long period, they will be at risk of their lungs not working as well as they grow older; developing asthma during childhood or as an adult - and if they have asthma already, air pollution can make it worse - suffer from wheezing; from coughs; lung cancer when they’re older and infections like pneumonia.
This development will have a huge detrimental effect on an already overcrowded transport system. The infrastructure, to carry the extra volumes of traffic that would be generated by this development, is just not available. It is a well-known fact, reported on many occasions, that the traffic congestion in Nairn is completely unsatisfactory and is currently driving traffic onto the back roads between Auldearn and Culloden Moor, roads that are not suitable for large volumes of traffic. Adding the traffic generated by this proposal directly onto the A96 will only exacerbate the situation; increasing tailbacks as motorists; delivery vehicles etc. try to either join or leave the trunk road at the entrance to the site. Most of the traffic movements would be, by necessity, at peak travel times. This would cause further frustration to other drivers having already suffered the notorious Nairn traffic lights system, increasing the risk of road traffic collisions and subsequent danger to life and limb.
Walkway /Cycle Path
The walkway/cycle path would cross over the entrance to the site.
Most cycle accidents occur at junctions/crossings. The road crossing the cycle path is a point of potential conflict between cyclists and motorists and puts the burden of responsibility onto the cyclist to slow down (especially going downhill) and to check for vehicles coming from three directions (both the A96 eastward bound and westward bound carriageways and also the proposed development site), through a visibility angle of approximately 270 degrees. It is not unreasonable to suggest that this situation could result in an unsafe facility where the likelihood of collision between a cyclist and a motorist is high as the cyclist, especially a young cyclist, may not be used to judging speeds or predicting motorist behaviour. The safety of pedestrians and cyclists could be impacted by vehicles crossing the footway/cycle path; especially as the drivers would be aware that their manoeuvre may be causing delays to other road users.
Infrastructure First Approach
Applying the “Infrastructure First Approach” shows that there is insufficient spare volumes in sewerage, water provision and road capacity for this development to be approved.
Microwave emissions from adjacent Network Rail Mast
There is a Network Rail Mast in very close proximity to the north east corner of the site.
There is very widespread and serious public concern over the adverse health effects of long-term exposure to low-intensity microwaves. These are implicated in a variety of ailments, including leukaemia and brain tumours.
The Government has recently adopted the guidelines issued by ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection), which are somewhat more stringent than the earlier UK standard. However, in the ICNIRP Guidelines it is stated that: "...these guidelines are based on short-term, immediate health effects such as stimulation of peripheral nerves and muscles, shocks and burns caused by touching conducting objects, and elevated tissue temperatures resulting from absorption of energy during exposure to EMF. In the case of potential long-term effects of exposure, such as an increased risk of cancer, ICNIRP concluded that available data are insufficient to provide a basis for setting exposure restrictions...."
In other words, the guidelines are not applicable to circumstances where people are exposed to emissions twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year, for years on end. The guidelines are also rather old (published 1998), and a great deal of research has taken place since. In any case, there are legal precedents supporting the view that "Genuine public fear and concern is a material planning consideration" that needs to be taken into account by planners (regardless of the views of the authorities and the scientific establishment), and supporting the conclusion of the Stewart Report (May 2000) that a "precautionary approach" should be taken.
This is not such a strange principle: the public's concern about rail safety, compared with the safety of other forms of transport, clearly is not rational, but politicians, bureaucrats, and even the judiciary treat it with the greatest respect. There is particular concern in the case of children, who are known to be more vulnerable than adults. A guideline that is often quoted, and is observed by many planning authorities, is that no mobile phone mast should be within 500 metres of a dwelling. All of these proposed dwellings at this site will be well within 500 meters of the mast.
Loss of outlook to the detriment of residential amenity
The trees on this site have magnificent visual aesthetic value from many aspects and it would be a disaster if the tree line were to be disturbed. They are seen from the A96 heading east against the skyline, also from Merryton and Lochloy, from the A96 heading west and the accompanying walkways. The southern access to the Town from the Grantown road enjoys a welcoming sighting of the trees. They have a brilliant impact; the estate opposite enjoys wonderful views of the trees and the hedgerows, which can also be seen from the A96, the A939 and the Cemetery. As can be seen this area is an important amenity for the surrounding area and is a very recognisable landmark within Nairn.
Trees are also important elements of green infrastructure, contributing to urban cooling through evapo-transpiration and providing micro-climatic effects that can reduce energy demands in buildings. They therefore represent a key resource that can significantly contribute to climate change adaptation. The trees themselves act as a sound barrier to those living to the North of the A96 as well as a wind barrier reducing wind speed and turbulence to those living to the South; this can be incredibly important when the wind blows in the winter months. They also play a very important environmental role in helping to absorb pollution resulting from the traffic going through the area, which is exceedingly busy and very often completely stationary, since Sainbury's was introduced.
There are many different species of trees on the land. There are numerous mature Scots Pines laid out in distinctive rows and groups, and others standing majestically on their own.
To quote Grant Stuart HC Forestry Officer on 10 March 2017: “This site is heavily treed with some mature planted conifers along the eastern boundary with the existing industrial estate; mature mixed broadleaves and conifers along the side of the A96; planted specimens associated with the run-down dwelling and a significant amount of natural regeneration from sapling to semi-mature throughout the site”.
The tree survey provided by ‘Property and Land Survey Ltd’ is incorrect in many ways.
The survey covers only seventy-one trees and mis-identifies a large number of trees therein. One example of which is the initial survey identifies (in section 2.1) the presence of a Beech hedge which “consists of mainly category B and C young to early mature trees”. This hedge is indeed sited alongside the A96. This hedge has been left out of section 2.1.1 “Species Mix” in both the text and the graph. On drawing Ref. No. 950601 this Beech hedge, along the A96, has been identified as a Leylandii hedge and appears to be marked for removal. The Survey breakdown explanatory notes report also does not contain any mention of the Beech hedge. These inaccuracies could be an error or it could be an effort to mislead to allow removal of the trees making up the “Leylandii” hedge. It is, in fact, a Beech hedge and it is an important part of the identity of the site.
The Survey breakdown explanatory notes report identifies the site as “House of Rosskeen” and not the Nairn site. House of Rosskeen is near Invergordon. These inaccuracies point to the rest of the report being unreliable.
Policy 51 of the HwLDP Trees and Development states:
“The Council will support development which promotes significant protection to existing hedges, trees and woodlands on and around development sites. The acceptable developable area of a site is influenced by tree impact and adequate separation distances will be required between established trees and any new development”.
We consider the proposed development to be a direct contravention of policy 51 as the proposal shows no protection to the hedges but in fact proposes to remove them along with far too many mature trees. This hedging is critical to the aspect of the site. Many mature trees are marked on the plans to be removed and these are critical to the visual aesthetic value. Nor is “Adequate separation distances” demonstrated clearly on the plans.
The proposal does not promote significant protection to existing hedges, trees and woodlands and so is contrary to policy 51 of the HwLDP.
Policy 52 of the HwLDP Principle of Development in Woodland states:
“The applicant is expected to demonstrate the need to develop a woodland site and to show that the site has capacity to accommodate the development. The Council will maintain a strong presumption in favour of protecting woodland resources. Development proposals will only be supported where they offer clear and significant public benefit. Where this involves woodland removal compensating planting will usually be required”.
“In all cases there will be a strong presumption against development where it affects woodland, designated woodland or other important features”.
The proposal does not demonstrate the need to develop a woodland and the plans show the site does NOT have the capacity for the suggested number of dwellings and to be over capacity so we consider the proposed development to be a direct contravention of policy 52 of the HwLDP.
Statutory Nuisance, Noise Impact Assessment and Vibration Assessment
We do not see any provision for a noise impact assessment or vibration assessment being made. Considering that the site is in very close proximity to both the Inverness to Aberdeen rail line; the A96 Trunk Road and the Balmakeith Industrial Estate, a noise impact assessment and a vibration assessment should both be carried out to ensure that the site is suitable for habitation and the findings presented. There is also a strong likelihood of nuisance to residential property from noise dust, smell and so forth arising from the current and from potential future, legitimate business operations on the adjacent industrial estate.
The granting of planning permission in this situation where there is an existing potential for nuisance would go against normal planning guidance and would likely elicit an objection from Environmental Health. The zoning of an area as an industrial estate in the HwLDP is precisely to prevent such conflict between commercial and residential areas. To approve such development so close to an industrial estate would fly in the face of all good planning practice and guidance
The impact of noise and vibration can have a major effect on amenity and health and can severely affect people’s quality of life.
An existing premises can become susceptible to nuisance legislation if residential premises are introduced into its vicinity. Were nuisance to occur, the Councils obligation to seek abatement by service of a notice under the EPA 1990, would leave the Council open to a complaint to the ombudsman for maladministration, by the business causing the nuisance, as the granting of planning consent would have resulted in the nuisance situation.
Artificial lighting is damaging to the environment and result in visual nuisance; have a detrimental impact on the quality of life of neighbouring residents, (especially those directly across the A96 trunk road and those residents in the Merryton area) can significantly change the character of the locality and will alter wildlife and ecological patterns. This is a well-known bird nesting site and is an area where bats hibernate, live and feed. Introducing artificial lighting will disrupt, if not curtail, their very existence in the area.
Although not strictly a material concern we see no evidence of any risk assessment on child safety in or around the site or indeed any consideration to the safety of children and to prevent them from harm. There are major hazards on all three sides of the site; the railway; the industrial estate and the extremely busy A96. Every year children get badly hurt or killed on railways, every year children get badly hurt or killed by manoeuvring lorries and every year children get badly hurt or killed on roads. This proposal introduces all these major hazards at an extremely close proximity. Anyone approving of this proposal will have to be sure they can live with their conscience after the inevitable happens.
We trust that, as this planning application clearly does not meet planning guidelines, it will be refused.
On behalf of Nairn River Community Council (NRCC)
A short disclaimer:
Finally, please note that our submission is in respect of the proposed development. While we have taken every effort to present accurate information for your consideration, we cannot accept any responsibility for unintentional errors or omissions and you should satisfy yourselves on any facts before reaching your decision.