Holmehill Community Buyout

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Purchase Notice

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Heading of Town and Country Planning Act

Serving the Notice

Following the rejection by Stirling Council's planners of Mansion Two and Office Block Two, in August 2016 Allanwater Developments (AWD) served a "Purchase Notice" on Stirling Council.   A Purchase Notice is a provision of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, Section 88.   A land owner can serve a Purchase Notice on a local authority requiring them to purchase land where planning permission has been refused, and where the land is incapable of "reasonably beneficial use".   If the planning authority disagrees with the Notice, it is referred to the Scottish Ministers.   A Reporter is appointed to hear representations and makes recommendations to Ministers.   There are several possible outcomes: the Purchase Notice can be confirmed, or rejected, or planning permission can be granted.

The Council Disagrees

In November 2016 the Council responded to AWD, rejecting the Purchase Notice.   They gave three reasons:

  • The Notice demands that the Council should buy all 5.3 hectares of the hill, but the rejected planning applications only covered the much smaller area of the old house site. Hence the Notice is not legally valid.
  • It is not true that the site is "incapable of reasonably beneficial use".   The Council states that the site could be "put to other uses which in planning terms may be acceptable and that may also be reasonably beneficial. Other potential uses include leisure and recreation, play areas, woodland and allotments."
  • AWD have failed to produce any evidence that they have attempted to dispose of their interest in the site or demonstrate that it has become incapable of reasonably beneficial use.

To Scottish Ministers

The case then passed to Scottish Ministers. After some initial consideration, the Planning Decisions section of Planning & Architecture at Scottish Government was minded to reject AWD's case. In February 2017 they noted that they had

  • "... attempted to get further information from the applicant's Solicitor about why they thought the land no longer was viable and what they may have done to try and sell on the land. Unfortunately, this was without success and our Planner ... did an assessment based on the information before us (he has highlighted this in his assessment) and his recommendation was that Ministers do not confirm the Order." Source: DPEA website Appeal Documentation/Documents/PN-STG-001 - minute to DPEA - 10 February 2017

On being notified of the Ministers' intention to refuse, AWD exercised their right to ask for a Hearing.   As a result the case was passed to the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA).

To A Hearing, Almost

A reporter, Ms Frances M McChlery MA (hons) LLB, LARTPI, was appointed to hold a Hearing and report to Scottish Ministers.   She decided to hold a pre-examination meeting to discuss the issues to be decided and the procedure to be followed. This was to have been held on 25 April 2017, in the Cathedral Halls, Dunblane.   However, a few days before the meeting Allanwater withdrew the Purchase Notice: their solicitors said our clients are withdrawing the Section 88 Notice dated 23 August 2016.   They have taken this decision in order that they may issue notices that will focus and limit the matters and parties in dispute.   The documents on the case can be found on the DPEA's website.

Our Participation

We at Holmehill Community Buyout were to have participated in the hearing.   Although the dispute was apparently between AWD and Stirling Council, one possible outcome was that planning permission was granted for one or both of the original proposals.   The Purchase Notice could therefore have served as a backdoor way of re-running AWD's unsuccesful appeals for Mansion Two and Office Block Two.   We had made it clear to the Reporter that our participation related only to the undesirability of the original proposals, and that we had no views about the Purchase Notice per se.   Our submission can be found here.

The Future

We await the new "notices that will focus and limit the matters and parties in dispute".   It is unclear what Allanwater mean by this.   It is possible that there will be an attempt to exclude us at Holmehill Community Buyout from future proceedings.   However, we shall continue to argue the case against commercial development on the hill.

Image: Title page of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997

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Content: 24th April 2017