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YOUR VIEWS: It is only fair that Highland Council reimburses planning fees

By Gavin Musgrove

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See: Highland Council brought in a STL control area for Badenoch and Strathspey at the start of March.
See: Highland Council brought in a STL control area for Badenoch and Strathspey at the start of March.

It is unfortunate that Highland Council have been put in the awkward position about short term let planning consent by following the (now crucially unlawful interpretation) of guidance from the Scottish Government.

The opinion by Lord Braid in the Court of Session makes it quite clear that it is unlawful to retrospectively apply the legislation requiring planning permission for a change of use for houses operating STL before 5th September 2022.

My wife and I have been hosting guests for holiday accommodation since April 2016 in a house built in 1970.

When the planning permission requirement for STL licensing was proposed we decided to apply early to avoid an anticipated rush.

We did not apply just because we felt like it, we applied because we were informed that it was essential to obtain an STL licence.

In May 2022 we discussed with planning officers how to apply for this change of use as there was no use class on the application forms to change to, that contained use as STL; the only appropriate one being housing, which we already were. The advice given was ‘just choose one use that seems appropriate and we’ll consider it’.

We were left to decide ourselves.

Imagine our surprise when using the pro forma to calculate the fee and in response to the only relevent question: “Do you want to permanently change the use of a building to a use other than residential... etc”.

The next page asks: “What is the area of land that you want to use to store waste/minerals?”.

What? The next pro forma response to the only other question being “If your proposal does not involve a material change of use, Planning Permission may not be required for your proposals” .

We were completely confused. How could the STL application form state that planning permission was necessary, but the planning form state that it may not be?

We applied in June 2022 and permission was granted on 15th September 2022 with no conditions and no adverse consultations whatsoever; we fully complied with all policies.

Lord Braid’s opinion states that it was unlawful to retrospectively apply the requirement, meaning that our application was unnecessary, effectively requested under false pretences.

There was no requirement at all for a change of use as we were already operating in the correct use class.

There was certainly no ‘material change of use’ which would have required an application.

Even now, within the e-planning application forms and the accompanying fee list, I can find no category for use as STL other than housing and no appropriate fee for this non change.

Could this be because there is no ‘material change of use’? How could anyone applying today do so with any confidence?

Highland Council along with Edinburgh Council have been caught up in this misinterpretation through no fault of their own but neither is it the fault of innocent applicants.

Only these councils in conjunction with the Scottish Government can and must remedy it and the recompense due to misled applicants.

In this situation we feel it is only fair that the fee for our application that was requested unlawfully should be refunded to us.

We have also written to the STL licensing department but they have indicated that it is a planning matter.

Grahame Lonie


* * *

The astronomical cost of failing to achieve Net Zero

Wind farms have a vital role to play in achieving Net Zero in the prescribed timescales.
Wind farms have a vital role to play in achieving Net Zero in the prescribed timescales.

Geoff Moore (Strathy letters, March 27) asks where CO2 emission reductions might come from to achieve Net Zero, as Covid reduced emissions by only seven per cent.

He does not give a source for this seven per cent, whereas Friedlingstein in impact of Covid-19 on CO2 emissions estimate it as 17 per cent. No matter, as his question is good. But we know the answer.

The 6th Carbon Budget shows how the UK can reach Net Zero by, among other steps, reducing waste, slowing growth in travel, improving energy efficiency of buildings, vehicles and industry, increasing low carbon fuels such as renewable electricity and nuclear, using carbon capture and storage, expanding woodlands and restoring peatland.

Hannah Ritchie in Not the End of the World shows how the world, by similar means, can reach Net Zero and secure a sustainable future.

There is no need to shut down education, hospitality and office work, as Geoff fears.

With Covid the world lost 6.7 per cent of GDP - https://www.statista.com/statistics/1240594/gdp-loss-covid-19-economy/.

But Swiss Re the insurance coompany estimate an 18 per cent hit to world GDP if global warming continues to 3.1 C.

This is more than two-and-a-half times worse than Covid.

It is not reaching Net Zero, rather than achieving it, that is likely to reduce education, hospitality and office work.

The Covid pandemic showed that we can combat a dreadful threat to our treasured ways of life.

The worst of that threat is now behind us. We can combat the far worse threat of global warming by reaching for Net Zero.

Dermot Williamson


* * *

Get this vital job done at town’s health centre

Re the Strathy’s online story ‘Cross-party support from Highlands MSPs to get job done at Grantown Health Centre’.

Please, NHS Highland, finish the second phase of our clinic.

We lost our hospital to Aviemore and we don’t want to have travel out of town, so please complete the project.

To put it on hold will cost more and we will never know when it will be finished – if ever..

John Farquhar


* * *

Ex Grantown hospital is still ‘fit for purpose’

Recently when sitting in the day room in Ian Charles Cottage Hospital in Grantown, I saw no sign of crumbling concrete but what I did see was a building fit for purpose and in good condition for its age.

NHS Highland maintained that the building was past its sell-by date and they used this as their main leverage to close this historic building and build a new hospital in Aviemore.

The hospital is now fit for purpose and playing a vital part in providing a temporary facility as a health centre until refurbishment is completed.

Unfortunately, due to a shortage of money the major works on the health centre have come to a grinding halt, along with other projects in many parts of the Highlands.

I was deeply saddened and hurt when I saw the photograph and the report in the Strathy, where a deluge of residents protested about the termination of the work at the health centre.

My crusade to keep our much appreciated local hospital lacked a solidarity backing from those who matter most but at least I tried to retain a facility donated to the good folks of Grantown open, providing essential medical help right here on the doorstep.

The future of the hospital building is unclear but health and social care in a rural area is essential as people are living longer and if the building could be utilised to provide care along with the refurbished health centre then this would be something the capital of Strathspey would gratefully appreciate.

Leonard Grassick

Coppice Court


* * *

Climate emergency: keep an open mind

Regarding Nicky Marr’s latest offering (Strathy, 21st March).

The Strathy columnist writes of the potential for electricity supplies from renewables. But in her piece she omits mention both of their well-known drawbacks: no mention of such matters as their intermittency of operation and their unreliability. Nothing of the heavy dependence on government subsidies using tax payers money.

Renewables are usually assumed to help offset adverse climate changes by releasing fewer greenhouse gases than those from fossil fuels.

Since the United Kingdom releases a negligible one per cent of the planet’s carbon dioxide (CO2) release, how could our present participation in net zero policies help to make the world climate safer?

Arguments about such issues continue at length.

But, surely, nobody could rightly claim that the United Kingdom’s decarbonisation is a useful way to spend our borrowed money, given our vast indebtedness?

For some timely topical viewing I would recommend Martin Durkin’s new video on You Tube.

“Climate Change – the Facts” would be interesting for Strathy readers involved in the great debate.

Especially those whose minds are not already fixed on currently received opinion that man-made CO2 is the main climate change villain.

Charles Wardrop

Viewlands Rd West


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