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Frequently Asked Questions
Given the prominent nature of the site the development will be viewed from across the City/Deeside/Pitfodels?
Landscape Architects have been appointed to the project and will provide a landscape assessment when the application is submitted. We don’t think the site will be visible from many public views, as established woodland at Tollohill and the Den of Leggart, and more importantly the overall topography of the site, will largely restrict ‘long views’ of the new development.
Why is the site allocated?
The Strategic Development Plan (SDP) for Aberdeen City and Shire sets the housing land requirement in both local authority areas. To put the overall housing land requirement across the region in context, the latest Proposed Strategic Development Plan from 2018, anticipates just over 64,000 new homes across the region up to 2040.
The Local Development Plan (LDP) needs to take account of the policies and housing numbers in the SDP. For Aberdeen, work on a new LDP has been ongoing for several years, and the landowners of this site have been making representations in support of allocating Leggart Brae in the next LDP through the various rounds of consultation organised by Aberdeen City Council. It is elected Members of the City Council that ultimately decides which sites are allocated in its LDP and which are not.
In January 2020, A team of Reporters (planning experts appointed by the Scottish Government,) published a ‘Report of Examination’ on their review of the 2018 Proposed Strategic Development Plan. Among their recommendations into the Report, they noted that an additional 1879 homes to those identified in the Proposed Plan should be delivered in the period from 2020 to 2023. The Plan’s spatial strategy, (which suggests where such development should go), specifies an 80/20 split between new housing being built in the ‘Aberdeen Housing Market Area’ and the ‘Rural Housing Market Area’. It also noted that there should be a 50/50 split between the City and the Shire in delivering this total. The site at Leggart Brae is within the Aberdeen Housing Market Area.
A further recommendation from the Reporters was that “allocations should be of a scale which would not inhibit the delivery of current strategic allocations and should not be extensions to any existing, strategic, development sites that have been subject to a masterplanning exercise”. This means that the new allocations should not simply be ‘add-ons’ to existing big development sites, nor should they take the form of one or two new big allocations that could have an adverse market impact on the existing big development sites.
In summary then, the overall effect of the Structure Plan Review for the City Council, has been that in preparing its next LDP, it has needed to identify sites for somewhere in the order of a further 750 new houses across the city, that it is confident can be built in the short to medium term, and which will neither have an adverse impact on big, strategic sites, nor will depend on the strategic sites themselves being built out. A medium sized development like Leggart Brae is therefore an attractive proposition, as it will deliver a decent amount of housing relatively quickly, and has shown itself to be largely free of constraints in regular representations already made to the Council.
Why do you wish to destroy ‘’our’’ Greenbelt?
Yes, the site is within the greenbelt. However, it’s often under-appreciated that ‘greenbelt’ is a fairly tightly defined planning category, and greenbelts are periodically reviewed and changed as part of ongoing Development Planning processes.
In Scotland, the Scottish Planning Policy (2014) states in paragraph 49 what greenbelts should be, and what they should achieve. The three defining criteria are that the greenbelt should assist the spatial strategy of a Local Development Plan by:
- directing development to the most appropriate locations and supporting regeneration;
- protecting and enhancing the character, landscape setting and identity of the settlement; and
- protecting and providing access to open space.
We would consider that none of these criteria are actually met on the current site as it is neither an important landscape edge, an important area of public open space, nor is it an area that is impacting upon regeneration taking places in the wider City.
Is there a need for new homes in this Area of the City?
In addition to answering questions on why the site has been allocated and why it’s allocation can be justified while other houses locally remain unsold, it’s also useful to bear in mind the following:
The National Records of Scotland show that in 1981 across Scotland there were a little under 3 persons per household. In 2020, calculations are based on there being a little more than 2 persons. This is a pretty dramatic decrease due to a whole series of factors including people managing to live independently for longer; fewer, later marriages; divorce rates; a declining birth rate, etc.
The general ‘rule of thumb’ that this change has created for communities across Scotland, is that the number of additional new houses needed per annum is 1% just in order to meet demand from diminishing household size.
So to use a simple example, in Elgin which has around 10,000 households, 100 new houses per annum are needed just to compensate for declining household size. Accordingly, it is only when more than 100 houses are provided that the resident population will actually increase. In the Elgin example, if 140 new houses are completed every year, the town’s population goes up by 40 × 2.2 (88) each year. This is just an approximate example, but it’s hopefully useful to explain how the development of new houses on the scale proposed at Leggart Brae is proportionate. A Development here will be part of a planned city-wide response to provide a reasonable supply of houses for the existing population without overwhelming current communities.
Which medical centre would the residents use?
The closest GP practice is Garthdee medical centre, approximately 0.5 miles away from the site across the river. There is also the GP practice at Kincorth medical centre approximately 1 mile away.
Which School would the children go to?
The catchment schools serving the proposed development site would be Abbotswell Primary in Kincorth and Lochside Academy in Altens. Data on the school rolls going forward can be derived from Aberdeen City Council’s 2018-Based Scholl Roll Forecasts, published in April 2020.
Abbotswell Primary is a 292 pupil capacity school. Aberdeen City Council’s forecasts are that it will have a maximum roll of 255 in 2021, falling to a roll of 197 in 2026. This means that there will be the spare capacity of between 37 and 95 places between now and 2026 when the houses are anticipated to be built.
Using a standard ratio of 0.3 pupils per unit, the proposed development at Leggart Brae would produce a ‘pupil product’ of 60. However, this would be spread over a number of years as the completion rates on a site like this are likely to be around 33 houses per annum. Detailed modelling would need to be done to understand exactly how this would impact on the school roll. However, with an overall declining roll from 2021 onwards, it seems likely that there would be sufficient capacity within the local school to comfortably accommodate the proposed development.
Lochside Academy is a new 1350 capacity school that is forecast to grow from a starting roll of 75% capacity in 2018 up to 85% capacity by 2022. Thereafter the roll is expected to decline to around 83% capacity in 2026. According to the Council’s forecasts, the quantum of spare capacity available at the school throughout this period will always be greater than 200 places.
Notwithstanding the likely build-out rates, using a standard ration of 0.3 pupils per unit, the proposed development at Leggart Brae producing a ‘pupil product’ of 60, will be well within the headroom available at the school.
Will development on this site impact drainage and flooding of near-by properties?
No. Comer Homes Group has appointed flooding and drainage engineers to advise the design team on how to ensure that the development of this site will not have any deleterious effect on any neighbouring properties, or indeed properties elsewhere in the catchment.
Why do you wish to damage our natural heritage and recreation space with this development?
Comer Homes Group has no intention of damaging natural heritage or any other assets that are important to the site. As a consequence, the project team comprises (among others): ecologists, archaeologists, landscape architects, arboriculturalists, and architects, who are working together to anticipate where sensitivities lie within the site. They will use a wide range of design techniques to avoid such assets altogether or offer mitigation and enhancement measures to ensure that the site’s special qualities are not lost or destroyed.
Both Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council have issued letters to Comer Homes Group setting out a long list of studies and supporting information that we will need to provide (quite rightly,) to demonstrate that the proposed development will not have any adverse impact on any important natural, cultural or landscape assets.
It’s also important to note however that while informal recreation may take place on parts of the site at present, apart from the Den of Leggart, the whole site is currently a working farm, and therefore isn’t technically a public recreational resource, but a managed, agricultural area.
It represents the closest area of unspoilt countryside to Aberdeen city, why build on it?
Further to our response to Greenbelt above, we do appreciate that for many (perhaps most) people, the prospect of change within a familiar landscape can provoke a strong reaction. Change itself in any number of different guises can be unsettling. We understand that, and we won’t be dismissive of anyone who has had such a response to our proposals.
However, we think there are a number of important things to bear in mind when considering what such a change here actually means.
Firstly, while the site is a field, it has probably been subject to human management and manipulation for centuries, and in a technical sense is neither natural nor unspoiled. The 1865 Ordnance Survey map of the site shows the Burn of Leggart to the south of the Den as being channeled into an engineered open culvert, with the fields having been artificially enclosed into their current form.
It is interesting to consider as well that Kincorth which dominates the skyline to the east of the site, was itself open hill and moor until the middle of the 20th Century. It wasn’t until the 1940s and 1950s that Kincorth, designed as a municipal ‘garden estate’ became a feature of the landscape, and not until the 1960’s that streets to the rear of Leggart Terrace appeared. It is important to acknowledge that all houses were new houses once, and most were built on farmland of some description.
The Scottish Planning Policy (2014) recognises that the ‘extension of existing settlements is a sustainable, logical and supported development strategy principle and the means by which the majority of housing land requirements will be met’. This small area of land will allow housing to take place within the City of Aberdeen adjacent to the recently completed housing at Deeside Brae. This is a good example of a recent development that is considered to have assimilated quite agreeably into the landscape over the last decade.
It’s also important to recognise that the site is already dominated in a visual sense by human-action: in the southern part of the site, the suburban form of Kincorth rises up the hill to the east across the dual carriageway; while to the north, the contemporary architecture of the RGU campus is visible from across the site.
Overall, we recognise that change can be difficult to adjust to. However, we do not consider that this particular site contains anything of such a special quality as would warrant preventing change taking place here, as it has done over so much of the south of Aberdeen in past decades and centuries. The difference today is that Comer Homes Group is firmly committed to delivering a really exemplary housing development for the city. Unlike in previous centuries, Aberdeen City Council now has considerable planning powers to make sure that such a commitment is realised. Any planning permission that is granted will make more exacting demands on the quality of the development and on the mitigation of any adverse effects than would have been the case with Kincorth or Leggart Terrace in times gone by.
There is no need for new homes given the current economic situation, as well as other near-by developments such as Chappelton and Blairs not being built.
In addition to responses on other related FAQs above, it is useful to understand that all Local Authorities in Scotland are required to undertake an annual housing land audit in consultation with housebuilders, in order to agree on likely completion and build-out rates for all housing sites within their area. The results of these audits are admittedly only a snapshot in time, yet they do significantly help to inform documents like Local Development Plans and Strategic Development Plans and allow a long term picture of housing need and demand to emerge in each area of the country.
Enlightened self-interest motivates both parties to establish accurate figures, as only this will allow the Council to project Council tax income, school rolls, etc, and the housebuilders need accuracy to justify securing more planning consents when the market demands it. The audit that informs the current Aberdeen Proposed Local Development Plan is from January 2019.
Admittedly it is very difficult to anticipate what impact the current Covid-19 crisis may have on the housing market. However, it would be unreasonable to insist that all activity stops until its impact is better understood. At a recent meeting (26 June 2020) of the Strategic Development Plan Authority (comprising Local elected Members and Officers from Aberdeen City and Shire), one of the Planning Officers acknowledged that the effect of the pandemic on housing will probably remain unclear until the next audit takes place in January 2021.
Nevertheless, the housing demand established through the Strategic Development Plan which in turn is derived from patterns evident in successive housing land audits, determines what the housing supply needs to be on a five-year rolling basis. Therefore the numbers of houses that are allocated from one Local Development Plan to the next, are not arbitrary but are clearly linked to quantifiable demand through completion and sales rates.
It is also very important to remember that with housing, just as with any other product, supply and demand are not in perfect equilibrium. The Scottish Planning Policy notes ‘generous supply’, ‘a range’, and a ‘choice’ in its references to housing. There needs to be some elasticity in the supply of housing as not everyone will want a bungalow and not everyone will want a townhouse. The fact therefore that housing at Chapelton or at Blair’s is not selling, is not itself an indication that all demand has been absorbed.
The planned allocation of new and different types of housing in different parts of the city is an important part of ensuring that Aberdeen is well provided for with a range of residential accommodation. This is important, as such accommodation choice is needed to service a changing local economy, changing household size, and changes in lifestyle choices and the frequency of different life stages local residents may be passing through.
Will the development impact the wildlife in the area?
Comer Homes Group has appointed Dr. William Latimer Ecologist to carry out a full Ecological Impact Assessment of the site. Dr. Latimer will also update an earlier Phase 1 Habitat Survey and will undertake a series of further bat surveys. In addition to providing data on what is there at present, and analysis on what any likely impact might be, he will also liaise with project engineers to provide a Construction and Environmental Management Plan for the development. All of these documents will be completed and submitted to the Council as part of the planning application.
The Council will want to be satisfied that impacts on important local wildlife can either be avoided altogether or that suitable mitigation is agreed so that the effects of any impact will be no worse than would have been the case if no development had taken place.
Will development on this site not have a severe impact on the Bridge of Dee roundabout?
Our Transport engineers Goodsons are looking at the traffic impact of the proposed development as part of the Transport Assessment (TA) that will be submitted with the planning application. A Transport Assessment uses a standard methodology to quantify the impacts of a new development and suggest mitigation for any significant impacts.
In advance of the TA being completed, it is worth noting for the Bridge of Dee that Transport Scotland published a ‘data snapshot’ in February 2020 on the first anniversary of the AWPR being opened. The data was taken on HGV vehicle movements between Stonehaven and Blackdog using the A92 (formerly A90), Anderson Drive and the Parkway between January and June 2019. It sought to compare volumes of traffic generated along this corridor since the new road opened, with traffic along the same route before.
The data shows that depending on the location, HGV traffic along the A92 corridor through Aberdeen has reduced between 49 per cent and 61 per cent when comparing January to June 2019 data with comparable 2014 data. Transport Scotland noted that this reduction is greater than the 20 to 36 per cent reduction originally predicted and suggests that the AWPR/B-T may be more successful than anticipated in attracting HGV traffic from the local road network.
This snapshot illustrates how traffic levels for these types of heavy vehicles have dropped along Stonehaven Road since the new road was opened. Clearly any new development will have a transport impact, but the wider context in this area is that the Bridge of Dee roundabout is quieter than it has been in recent years.
How do you propose to mitigate the traffic problems on Leggart Terrace?
As noted above, the Transport Assessment (TA) that is being prepared at present will help to specify any areas where traffic impacts may be problematic. Importantly it will also be able to quantify the severity of any impact arising directly from this development, and recommend mitigation for any adverse impact. As with any planning application, Aberdeen City Council will ultimately decide if the mitigation approaches as set out in the supporting documents are acceptable.
Are you committed to making Leggart Terrace one way with traffic been redirected on to the A92 with a roundabout constructed?
No we are not. We do not have a definitive access strategy confirmed yet. The community consultation process will be really important in helping us understand what access approach is considered most appropriate, and we will, therefore, try and use this consultation to help inform our final approach to this.