Swinney wades in amid anger over Scone housing talks

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Scone residents protest about the housing proposal outside Perth and Kinross Council offices.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has slammed council chiefs for asking new councillors to rule on a hugely controversial housing plan just a week after they are formally appointed.

The SNP MSP agreed to intervene amid outcry over the timing of the talks, which will determine the fate of proposals to build 700 homes at Scone.

Opponents have pointed out this gives new members of the development management committee just a few days to get to grips with the application, including about 1,400 pages of paperwork and more than 900 objections.

Mr Swinney said he was “staggered” by the decision and has now urged Perth and Kinross Council to remove the item from the agenda.

It has also emerged planning officers have given crucial support to the proposal, which was submitted by construction firm A&J Stephen last year.

They have recommended councillors approve the plan when it comes before them on Wednesday, May 24.

John Swinney at a public meeting about the Scone proposal.

Residents approached Mr Swinney, MSP for Perthshire North, after receiving letters about the upcoming meeting.

He responded: “I think it is wholly unacceptable for the council to propose to determine this application on May 24.

“I think councillors need more time to be acquainted with the nature of the decision making powers they must exercise before they consider such a significant proposal.”

Mr Swinney added that a dispute over the status of the planned Cross Tay Link Road has still not been resolved.

An early version of the council’s Local Development Plan stated the full Scone North housing development could not go ahead until the new crossing was “constructed.”

But the final version changed the word, so that the bridge project only needed to be “committed” before work on the new homes could begin.

Mr Swinney said the council needed to “satisfactorily resolve the issue” before the application could be considered.

A spokesman for Scone Community Council, which has led a series of protests against the plan, said the group was “absolutely stunned and extremely angry” by the timing of the meeting.

“Not only is this application being put forward for discussion, but it is being put forward for approval, regardless of the view of the village of Scone where 900 people sent in letters of objection to the application.”

He pointed out two questionnaires – in 2007 when the plan was first mooted and again in 2016 – showed 80% and 98% were against the new housing.

He added: “Bearing in mind that the new committee will have no previous knowledge of our concerns, we will not be able to speak to them prior which is our democratic right. So much for democracy.”

Among the main objections is the development’s potential impact on already worrying high pollution levels.

The SNP’s Pete Wishart has also called for the issue to be postponed. “This is a development that will alter the face of Scone forever,” he said. “It is hugely unpopular and there are outstanding questions concerning pollution, infrastructure, drainage and planning department process.”

A council spokesman has insisted that the meeting will go ahead next Wednesday and that the Scone North item will remain on the agenda.

A&J Stephen has declined to comment.