New housing agreed at Blackhall Farm site

PLANNING permission for a major new development of 221 homes at Blackhall Farm, Inverurie was given the go-ahead by members of the Garioch Area Committee earlier this week.

However councillors added additional conditions regarding the employment land on the site and additional screening measures between proposed housing and Inverurie golf course before approving the application.

Area planning officer Darren Ross outlined the application from Kintore-based Malcolm Allan Housebuilders to committee members, pointing out that the proposed employment land included had been moved to the west of the site.

He noted that there had been one letter of representation had been received regarding the application from Inverurie Golf Club, whose course is adjacent to the site, expressing concerns regarding the distance of proposed housing to the 15th hole and the possibility of stray golf balls hitting the properties.

But the planning service did not consider this to be a “material consideration in the determination of the application”. Mr Ross said that additional issues over the tress bordering the course and the drainage had been resolved.

Inverurie Golf Club, which commissioned an inspection report by a golf course design specialist, asked for a protected zone between the new housing and their 15th hold wider than the 9m proposed by the developer and asked for “suitable protection” to be “built or planted by the developer to prevent balls entering the gardens”.

The committee was also informed by council solicitor Sandy Munro, following a question by Councillor Hamish Vernal over the legal liability by damage caused by stray golf balls, that golfers had a “duty of care” regarding any damage caused.

The main issues which arose during discussion of the application concerned the employment land on the site and the proximity of the golf course.

Inverurie and District councillor Martin Kitts-Hayes said that he supported the development in principle but wanted a “cast iron guarantee” that the land proposed for employment use to the west of the site would be used for that purpose. He was prepared to move to grant the application if a Section 75 agreement was included to guarantee that the land to the west was only for employment use.

Fellow Inverurie and District councillor Bryan Stuart noted that the developer had “done a good job to-date” but he agreed that employment land was much needed in Inverurie and that that part of the development should be “pulled forward”.

He also expressed concerns regarding siting housing close to existing businesses at Highclere. However it was pointed out that the Council’s Environmental Health Service had carried out a noise impact assessment and added conditions that a 1.8m high sound barrier fence be included and also a 2m earth bund.

Councillor Martin Ford said that he thought a Section 75 agreement was “entirely appropriate” regarding employment land and suggested that the land should be serviced and ready to use rather than just brought forward. However, it was pointed out that other application do not require land to be serviced other than allocated.

Councillors Hamish Vernal and Patricia Oddie both voiced concerns over the risk to housing situated next to the golf course. Councillor Vernal said that the risk should be accepted by the developer not Inverurie Golf Club and suggested removing the three closest houses to the 15th hole or make sure there was sufficient screening, saying that it was “a bit of cheek” that Inverurie Golf Club and golfers should be liable. Councillor Oddie agreed saying that additional protection should be stipulated so that members at the golf club did not have to pay higher costs to offset any possible damage.

Councillor Kitts-Hayes said that it would be difficult to say that you couldn’t build next to a golf course and that if you bought a house next to a course you had to expect some risk from stray golf balls but agreed to the addition of extra screening.

Councillor Richard Cowling said that one of his main concerns was the A96 roundabout connecting the site. He said that it was currently gridlocked every morning and wasn’t sure how the proposed larger roundabout would solve this problem. He was informed that Transport Scotland were happy that a larger roundabout with extra lanes would be able to handle the additional traffic.

The committee agreed to grant permmission subject to additional conditions over the guarantee that employment land was included and that further screening be provided between housing and Inverurie Golf Club.

The new development at Blackhall Farm will see 221 new homes with associated infrastructure including roads, the site is allocated in the Local Development Plan for 250 houses.

Originally the employment land in the allocated land was to the east of the site bordering Inverurie Golf Club, but this will be moved to the west to allow for a better layout of the site. Blackhall Roundabout will also require to be upgraded and increased in size.