Highly controversial plans to expand one of Scotland’s largest villages have been approved.
Councillors gave their backing to 700 new houses at Scone North, despite widespread opposition from local residents.
Perth and Kinross Council was under pressure to delay making a decision on the scheme, to give new councillors more time to sift through more than thousands of pages of documents and objections.
But John Stephen, managing director of developers A&J Stephen, told members of the development management committee that if no decision was taken, he would submit an appeal to Scottish Ministers “within a week”.
“Jobs are at stake,” he said.
Opponents took to the streets with banners and placards ahead of Wednesday morning’s meeting. They believe the scheme will lead to a significant increase in traffic and pollution.
Councillor Willie Wilson called for the scheme to be approved. “I do so with a heavy heart,” he said. “I don’t quite appreciate the developer coming along to this meeting and saying if we don’t make a decision they will go straight to appeal. I don’t find that very helpful at all.”
He added: “It’s not a happy situation and we have a stark choice to make.
“If we don’t approve this, we will allow an outsider with no local knowledge to decide on this.”
The committee voted eight-three in favour of the plan. A strict construction embargo was put in place, stating that only 100 homes can be built before work begins on the Cross Tay Link Road.
And the next 67 properties cannot be occupied until the multi-million-pound crossing – which links the A9 to the north of Scone – is in place.
Two councillors – who were only appointed a week ago – walked out of the meeting, saying they were not trained to rule on such a significant application.
The site, on farmland between Spoutswell Drive and Angus Road, is already zoned for housing in the council’s Local Development Plan and would almost certainly have been passed on appeal.
Jill Belch, a professor at Dundee University’s school of medicine, said the housing expansion would lead to significant health problems.
“Any increase in traffic will increase pollution,” she said. “This will damage newborn babies’ brains, causing low IQs. Babies will be more likely to die in their first year of life.
“The pollution could be worse than passive smoking. Would you let your child sit in a car with someone smoking cigarettes, every day on the way to school?”
She claimed it will lead to a rise in dementia and heart problems amongst residents.
Mr Stephen defended the scheme. “This is the culmination of a planning process that has taken many years,” he told the committee.
“I don’t think we should be criticised – as we have been – for bringing forward a proposal that the national and local government have determined is necessary.”
Community councillor Donald McKerracher said he was “frustrated” but not surprised by the outcome of the meeting.
He said villagers would prepare to fight a follow-up, detailed application for full planning consent. “It was not on that Mr Stephen threatened the committee like that,” he said.
Local councillor Lewis Simpson has invited committee members to tour the site.
Talks teetered on the brink after councillor’s challenge
The Scone North talks nearly collapsed before they even began.
A motion raised by SNP councillor Henry Anderson, called for the full meeting to be postponed.
He said that new members needed about a month longer to learn the ropes and get to grips with the full background to major planning applications.
“The whole agenda needs to be deferred, until all newly elected members have a a chance to digest all the information that they have received during the hastily arranged training meeting held yesterday (Tuesday),” he said.
“I had previously been concern about the training delivered in such a short time span.
“The major applications on this agenda would be very challenging even for the most experienced councillors.”
He said: “If the newly elected councillors were given more time to bed in, then the decisions they made would be more robust and not subject to challenges.”
The meeting stalled for nearly an hour, while legal experts tried to determine whether the submission was competent.
Mr Anderson later agreed to withdraw his motion, after being told that if no decision was made on the Scone North plan, A&J Stephen would simply lodge an appeal with the Scottish Government and effectively taking the plan out of the council’s control.
SNP councillors Sheila McCole and Richard Watters then stepped out of the meeting, saying they had not had enough training to deal with applications like Scone North.
Ms McCole said: “I think that the induction we were offered was hastily arranged and concentrated on procedural matters, rather than contextual matters.
“I think it will take more than just seven days to learn the backgrounds to these major applications and appreciate the ramifications.”
Mr Watters added: “We’ve not had the appropriate training to fully understand the planning applications that are before us today.”