The expansion of Westhill’s shopping centre has attracted a lot of comment. WECC put a number of key questions to a senior Aberdeenshire Council planning officer.
What will the elevation facing Westhill Drive look like when completed? Will it be plain green ivy living wall or will it have colour through it as per the architect’s pictures?
The contractor is introducing flowering climbers (3m high) at 500mm centres throughout the ivy screen to add colour as previously agreed with the Council’s Landscape Section.
Will the living wall be installed ‘fully grown’, and if not how long will it take to fully cover the ‘cowshed’ wall. The ‘cowshed’ term is being used to describe the building as it looks just now.
I am advised that the living wall will be installed fully grown at 3m high on a wire mesh frame with mesh above to allow it to grow to height of 5m in some locations (refer to attached visualisations).
What art / sculpture pieces have been offered to satisfy Condition 5?
I am advised that the developer is currently progressing proposals for these and will liaise with Westhill Art Project during this process.
Westhill Art Project seem to think that they were to be involved but it is not included in the Condition. Who will decide whether the pieces offered will be acceptable?
The condition clearly states that the Planning Service is to sign off the condition but the developer has indicated that they are happy to liaise with the community during the procurement process.
How can users when they consult AC Planning Website for APP/2012/2154 decide on which are the newest drawings and views? There are 187 documents.
I appreciate that there are a significant number of documents related to this development and this may lead to difficulties in finding what a user is looking for. There is a balance to be struck between providing full transparency in the planning process and only providing approved documents and reports. At the moment, the Planning Service publishes almost all documentation with the exception of invalid drawings, some internal administrative documents and emails that are not considered particularly relevant to the determination of the application. One tool that can be useful is to sort the 187 listings by clicking on ‘date published’ or ‘document type’ to get the most recent documents and drawings or to get all drawings grouped together.
There have been some Non Material Variations. WECC as a consultee have not been updated by AC on these changes. Are elected councillors consulted or advised that these NMVs are taking place.
The Council’s Scheme of Delegation allows for changes to developments granted by Area Committee that are considered by the Planning Service to be ‘non-material’ to be approved following consultation with the Local Members and Chair of that committee. There is no requirement to consult the community council on such minor alterations. In June 2013, an NMV was submitted to amend the roof design; this was notified to and accepted by the five councillors. In January 2014, an NMV was submitted to alter the internal configuration from five units to three units; this again was notified to and accepted by four councillors. A further NMV request for very minor alterations to this approved layout was granted without consulting the councillors. These final changes to floor plans and elevations are dated 30 May 2014. In comparing the originally approved scheme and the final, May 2014 scheme (see attached), it can be seen, that apart from changes to the external glazing and doors as a result of the internal approved changes, the design has not been significantly altered.
What actually constitutes a NMV? For example, the approved plans were for 4 shopping units, but a NMV was agreed that changed that to 2 units. Is that decision made by the Planner without consultation?
The Planning Service has discretion to determine whether a requested change is ‘non-material’. For this to be the case, a written request accompanied by relevant plans must be submitted. In assessing the request, the key considerations must be, whether the change sought:
- complies with the development plan and in this case no greater retail floorspace was being created;
- does not, in itself, require formal planning permission and in this case there was no change of use or other development requiring this;
- does not, in itself, require neighbour notification, which this change did not; and
- was not the subject of an objection during the initial application.
The Planning Service has also considered a range of drawings required to deal with several conditions that had to be satisfied before construction could commence, these are also available to view online. Finally, a recent application for a change of use from retail (class 1) to food and drink (class 3) under reference APP/2015/0005 was granted on 10 March 2015. This subdivides unit 26 again, returning the development to four separate units (see final scheme 2015).