When the large and complex revised application for the development of Taymouth Caste Estate in Kenmore went before the P&K Development Control Committee on 22 June (see Green Light for Taymouth Castle Estate ), members of the community addressed the meeting. Their presentation included the following:

Taymouth Castle and its surroundings are a priceless asset, not only as a unique piece of architectural heritage with an important part in local and national history but with the potential to be the prime tourist attraction in Perthshire. It is therefore important not to rush, but to get it right.

Our group here today represents several local community organisations and individuals with specific skills who consider that this application provides a good opportunity for the estate, but that more work is required before full approval can be given.

There are still 60 considerations to be agreed and a lot of significant unknowns. As the planning applications are so complicated it is not possible to discuss all of these in the time allotted, so we have identified what we consider are key issues

Business Plan Absencealt

Meteor is seeking a major concession from P&KC, an enormous increase in development on the basis that anything else will not be viable. For that argument to be the case they must have viable comparisons - a business plan- that makes their case, and not just a forcast of income as included in the planning documents.

Though such a plan was promised to PK&C it is not evident it has been produced. It would be foolhardy for P&K to grant permission in the absence of proof that Meteor’s new scheme is going to work in the current and future financial climate.

Transparency

It is equally important for P&K to demand transparency on the issue of ownership. There was considerable unhappiness at the way the previous developers handled the scheme leaving local people out of the loop. If the same people are responsible, hidden behind offshore entities, we should be told.

Before granting these concessions P&K should demand assurances that the people developing the site are honest, open and reliable- and have the financial means to complete it. We are concerned that people working for the development are not left without their money as happened in the previous attempt at development.

Operators

Crucial to the viability issue is the question of operators for the scheme. Meteor talks of having two, one for the hotel side and one for the property side. Do they have these in place as the lack of an operator was a major reason for the last project failing. Despite this the hotel is already been advertised on the internet as providing a Butler and Concierge service, and also a helipad.

Community Benefits Absent

This is a huge development, with enormous financial implications if it reaches fruition. Why, then, are there no clear benefits for the local community? There is no guarantee that the use of local labour will continue, the terms of community access to the estate for leisure (including golf ) are still to be agreed.

P&K seems to have missed the opportunity for significant benefits for the community like affordable housing, the improvement of broadband connections vital for local businesses, road improvements and other significant gains characteristic of a development of this size.

There is confusion that the application is looked upon as a holiday development which makes no affordable housing or local schooling contribution, whilst in para 142 of document 4(1)vi it clearly says that the applicant would not be able to get mortgages with a holiday restriction. This is obscured by the title deed and management agreement. Why has P&K not imposed the appropriate levies when these are clearly residential developments?

Call for Deferral

Among the points queried were:

No services are agreed for sewage or water development;

No protection is assured for natural heritage, and tree damage has already occurred;

Protected species (such as mussels) are not mentioned although recognised previously;

Golf course - no plan for approval is offered despite much work already carried out.

In summary there seem to be so many considerations that we wonder where the resources are to come from to agree and monitor the outcomes, and we consider that approval should be deferred until more of these issues are satisfactorily agreed.

Casting Vote

After hearing the case for the developers, the committee was tied on the issue and it was only passed by the casting vote of the Committee Convenor, LibDem Willie Wilson who supported the reports on all three counts without modification.

Thus a Perth city representative decided upon a critical issue concerning Highland Perthshire’s future.

 

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