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Material Considerations – what matters in planning? Most of what AFC say doesn’t matter!

material considerations to justify deviating from the local plan. Scottish planning policy states

“If the proposal does not accord with the development plan, it should be refused unless there are material considerations indicating that it should be granted.”
There are two main tests to determine if a claim made by the applicant (or someone against the application) is a material consideration and relevant:
  • It should serve or be related to the purpose of planning. This means it should relate to the development and use of land.
  • It should fairly and reasonably relate to the application.
It is very interesting to read AFC’s application for Kingsford as it is almost entirely lacking in material considerations to justify the granting of the application. Let’s go through some of their justifications and determine if they are material or not.
  1. The need for new stadium because Pittodrie is no longer fit for purpose for reasons given by the club (and disputed by supporters and others)

Consider this, if you own a home and allow that home to fall into a state of disrepair such that you can no longer live in it, do you have a right to tell the council that you want permission to build a new home? AFC have, during the tenure of Stewart Milne as Chairman (1998 to now), failed to invest in the current facility – this lack of vision to rejuvenate Pittodrie and to allow it to deteriorate brings us to where we are. Multiple sections of AFC’s application relate to why “Pittodrie is no longer suitable”. All of this is not material to the application because it refers to the current circumstances of the applicant. Material consideration?  No – the circumstances of the applicant are not a material consideration.  
  1. The need for co-location of AFC training facilities and stadium

The justification for this is particularly weak – much of it refers to financial considerations for the club or working with partnerships.  There are no strong precedents for co-location and the statements provided by the club are weak.  The Area Strategic Planning Authority (SDPA) said this:
“The attempt at justifying the absolute necessity of co-location of the stadium with the training pitches and academy are particularly weak, based on assertions rather than justification and based in some cases on information a decade old.  We are unaware of an up-to-date viability appraisal of the project. “
Material consideration? No – cost of the development and the financial means of the applicant are generally not material considerations.  
  1. Economic Benefit

AFC have made much of the “investment” in the North-East economy and the economic benefit of the stadium.  However, Aberdeen City’s own Economic Development Department have rubbished these claims. The development will only create 20 full time equivalent jobs for the city of Aberdeen.  ACC Economic Development stated:
“The net impact of the development does not constitute substantial growth or employment opportunity at an Aberdeen level.”
In addition, the SDPA pointed out the negative impact on the Seaton area of Aberdeen.  Seaton is a regeneration area within the city and a focus for investment.  The SDPA said:
“No attempt has been made in the economic impact assessment to assess the impact of relocating the stadium away from a regeneration priority area as would be required in line with draft Scottish Government advice on assessing net economic benefit. “
Material consideration?  Yes – the economic benefits and lack of them are a material consideration.
  1. Community Benefit

There is much noise of “community benefit” in the application – locating the club 8-miles from their current home, a longer distance from the city centre than any Scottish Club, adjacent to one of the North-East’s most affluent communities hardly facilitates the work of the trust in Aberdeen’s most vulnerable communities.  In fact, the SDPA said:
“If the Community Trust are trying to target the city’s most disadvantaged young people, the evidence presented in the economic impact assessment suggests it would be difficult to propose a less suitable location. “
Material consideration?  Yes – the needs (and lack of them) in an area are a material consideration.  
  1. Transportation

The presented plans are unsustainable.  They underestimate the use of private cars AND place an over reliance on them.  The bus strategy depends on a patchwork of providers who have acknowledged that they will struggle to provide sufficient transportation.  The development is in an unsustainable location (development of green belt land resulting in unsustainable transport patterns impacting on congestion and air quality). The site is located just under 1km from the Aberdeen Western Periphery Route (AWPR) however there is no direct access to the AWPR – access is only from the already congested A944.  The placement of the AWPR compounds the lack of sustainability of the site in terms of transport. Material consideration?  Yes – all applications to build on the unsustainable locations on the Green Belt should be refused.  
  1. Status of the land

There are many “claims” about the status of the land.  “It’s former landfill so it’s brownfield” etc.  These claims are all incorrect. The LEGAL status of the land is that it is defined as “open farmland” and “a natural green belt buffer”.  The former ‘landfill’ activities are historic and have an inert background.  The site is NOT listed on the Vacant and Derelict Land register. Two areas of the site are identified as being potentially contaminated and NKS has previously highlighted the likelihood of significant historic contamination of this area and the subsequent concerns for public health should the area be disturbed. Material consideration?  Yes – the site is Green Belt and a buffer to prevent urban sprawl.  It must be protected. [caption id="attachment_3043" align="aligncenter" width="409"] We need to protect the Green Belt between settlements to the west of Aberdeen[/caption]

Material considerations that matter for refusal.

The following are valid material considerations that apply to this development and justify refusal of the application by AFC and AFCCT.
  1. Local Development Plan

The current plan was adopted in January 2017.  As such it is relevant to the application.  It would be highly unusual for such a significant deviation from this plan to be allowed. Material consideration?  Yes.
  1. Visual appearance of the proposed development and its relationship to its surroundings

This stadium and site is in an area of Green Belt. It is a large red coloured structure and would likely appear an alien presence in its context to the detriment of the sense of place and buffer to the urban area.  The character of the area would be transformed from fields to that dominated by a stadium and all that goes along with that such that it is entirely unsuitable to the location. Material consideration?  Yes. [caption id="attachment_3044" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] “The big RED blot on the landscape” – it will sit like an alien presence in a rural setting.[/caption]
  1. Creation of an undesirable “precedent”, making it difficult to resist similar proposals elsewhere

The implications of allowing this development to proceed are substantial for Aberdeen City Council.  If not refused, this developed gives a “green light” to development along the AWPR corridor and particularly to the West of the AWPR. Given that the stadium includes retail, entertainment and food outlets it will be used as precedent to grant the change of use for the extension to Prime Four, just the other side of the AWPR from the stadium site. The granting of this change of use will have a negative impact on the viability of the city centre.  A key reason why Aberdeen City Council are investing and promoting the city centre relates to their borrowing on the London Stock Exchange.    The City Council is the first council in Scotland to borrow money as a bond – in fact they have borrowed £370 million pounds using this method.  In order to meet the conditions of this bond the council must show due diligence in their management of the city and ensuring that the city can generate income. Losing millions of pounds of spending over the next 30+ years from the city centre as a result of placing a stadium 7 miles out isn’t a smart move if you want to prove that you are serious about city centre regeneration. The granting of the Kingsford application would likely impact poorly on the ability of the local authority to continue to borrow money via the London Stock Exchange and the Aberdeen City Bond. It could affect their credit rating and increase the cost of their borrowing for future investment in the city. Material consideration?  Yes.
  1. Compatibility with existing uses

Locating a football stadium in a rural area, on a Green Belt site not allocated for development, where there is no existing significant footfall is clearly not compatible with any existing use of the area.   There are no facilities in the immediate area and limited facilities in Westhill to benefit from the increased footfall.  This will result in a loss of income for the city. The development of a stadium is entirely incompatible with the local setting. Material consideration?  Yes.
  1. Adverse safety impact

The impact of thousands of supporters accessing a rural town, crossing the busy A944 and walking along it to the Kingswells Park and Ride are considerable. It is not possible for AFC to stop fans using of the Core Footpath/Cycle Path and therefore the risk to people and drivers is valid. Material consideration?  Yes. [caption id="attachment_3046" align="aligncenter" width="531"] The busy A944 – a key route into Aberdeen and the narrow core path that football supporters would walk along to get to the Kingswells Park and Ride.[/caption] The case to refuse the application by AFC is very strong and Aberdeen City Council must apply their own planning policies to the development.  Based on the evidence, the officers of the council must recommend refusal of the application. You can check our opinion by reading a few key documents: Scottish Government – Circular 3/2013 Development Management Procedures http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0044/00441568.pdf Planning Aid for Scotland (known as PAS) – Material Considerations http://pas.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/17.03.17-3-Material-Considerations.pdf]]>

4 thoughts on “Material Considerations – what matters in planning? Most of what AFC say doesn’t matter!

  1. Great piece team, should be compelling reading for the councillors.
    Lets hope it compels them to refuse this application !

  2. Have just read through the material considerations. Thank you for the hard work in presenting the information. Surely this application will not be granted. Freda Imrie.

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