The decision on whether to allow a controversial, multi-million pound redevelopment of a former Perth hospital is being pushed back into next year.
Developers Rivertree Residential want to build more than 120 houses at the almost three and a half hectare site at the old Murray Royal Hospital.
The council’s Planning and Development Management Committee was due to rule on the application at the end of October after planning officials recommended councillors refuse the plan.
But a “highly unusual” set of circumstances has seen the council’s decision-making process reset – meaning applicants and objectors will have to give their deputations for a second time, pushing any decision into early in the new year.
Councillors say the “eleventh hour” submission of new material from the developer – coupled with the first request for councillors to go on a site visit in two years – has led to the delay.
In addition, a leaked email – sent to councillors on behalf of the planning committee convener – has said that the number of “substitutions” sent to the planning committee has meant the council’s decision-making process must be repeated in full.
If councillors cannot attend a meeting, they are entitled to send a substitute. The practice is common but can create further problems if, as in this case, a decision is deferred for a later date.
Perth City Centre councillor Andrew Parrott, SNP, said: “I believe that it is regrettable that delay has been occasioned in this planning process. However, I am confident that the decision to delay the process will have been taken for proper and sound reasons.
“It is quite proper for committee members to be substituted. Personally I seek to meet all of my committee commitments and only seek to be substituted for in exceptional circumstances.
“If there are a number of substitutes on a particular committee that might dilute the experience available to the committee in reaching any decision but as substitution is a proper procedure it does not prevent a committee considering business.”
The internal email highlights the October 24 committee meeting and goes on to say: “Due to the number of substitutions attending the committee on that date and the duration of time that it will take to bring these papers back to committee, I have sought advice from colleagues in both Legal & Governance and Planning & Development and intend that the application is considered again, in full, including all deputations.”
Councillor Peter Barrett, Liberal Democrat, whose ward incorporates the Murray Royal site, said: “At the eleventh hour a letter was received from the applicant’s agents. The decision to defer was taken to allow time for discussion on the issues it raised.”
A Perth and Kinross spokesperson said: “The planning and development management committee on 24 October agreed to defer both applications for a site visit to be undertaken by members.
The committee also agreed to the deferral to allow further discussion between the applicant and development management on issues which the developer introduced during the committee.
“All members of the committee have been invited to attend the site visit. Applicants and objectors who previously gave deputations will be invited to speak to committee when the application is back for consideration.”
The developer declined to comment before deadline.