Planning wars

PLANNING LAW is always a good source of copy and this week has been no exception. One lawyer, Neil Collar, describing another lawyer, Colin Innes, as a legal “attack dog” certainly livened up the planning inquiry into tennis coach Judy Murray’s £37.4m Park of Keir scheme proposed for the outskirts of Dunblane in Perthshire. The revelation that one of the objectors, the enigmatic Arnbathie Developments, is a company with only one director, none other than Ann Gloag, one of the most wealthy people in Scotland, was made for the headline writers: “Judy Murray and Ann Gloag engaged in furious battle”, “It’s Murray v. Gloag”, etc. It is fair to say Innes did not appreciate the canine comparison, calling Collar’s questioning “completely, utterly outrageous and unprofessional”. Arnbathie Developments’ ambitions to build 129 “self-contained and discrete” houses on land nearby, were, according to Stewart MacGarvie, a town planner representing Gloag, nothing to do with her objection: “Our concern is the extent of this development on the green belt”. The inquiry has now ended and a decision is expected in the next few months.

KELPIES is the Scots name given to a shape-shifting water spirit that, according to legend, appears out of pools and lochs, most often in the form of a horse. Another apparition, however, mysteriously appeared beside the two famous Kelpie steel sculptures in Falkirk, described by Andy Scott, the artist who created the much loved work, as “a monstrous carbuncle masquerading as a fast food outlet”. The “Artisan Grill”, a recently arrived German-style fast food cabin, was finally refused retrospective planning permission by Falkirk Council on Monday and will now be removed. “Burger Off”, as the leader in The Times succinctly put it. Scott’s argument that the commercial value of the burger bar should not be allowed to interfere with the aesthetics of his creation is a debate that can be transferred to many developments, not least the proposed “walnut whip” hotel at the edge of the historic New Town in Edinburgh. Or indeed...

TAKE LOCH LOMOND and the Trossachs National Park which are also the centre of debate on the proper balance between business and the environment. Theme park operator Flamingo Leisure is the “preferred” (by Scottish Enterprise, that is) developer for a 49 acre site at Balloch for an “iconic”, “family-orientated” mixed use leisure development, including a “boutique” hotel, “glamping” pods and restaurants. News reports read like a glossary of developer-speak. Flamingo Land CEO Gordon Gibb was quick to reassure everyone that his company’s proposal would be a “different type of venture” from the company’s existing theme park and “zoo” in North Yorkshire. He claims that attractions would be suitable for a beautiful National Park setting, giving as an example unspecified “outdoor adrenaline pursuits”. Not everyone shares Mr Gibb’s enthusiasm for the project. An online petition against the planning proposal has been created and campaigners' question whether the proposal measures up against the sstatutory aims of the National Park: conservation, enjoyment of the special qualities of the locality, “sustainable” use of natural resources, and “sustainable” economic development. The proposal comes after a “Charente” – a community consultation – earlier this year. A planning battle looms.

NEXT WEEK’S Employment Law Conference at the Signet Library might come just in time for footballer and self-styled “borderline kamikaze pilot” Joey Barton. Barton was suspended by his employer, Glasgow Rangers, for three weeks following his alleged verbal assault on manager Mark Warburton and team mates during a de-brief in the wake of defeat by city rivals Celtic. Press comment suggests Barton’s four month career at Rangers may be over and that the enforced cooling off period will be used to negotiate an “amicable” parting of the ways. Employment law specialist Michael Briggs claims that Rangers will have to cut a deal to avoid embarrassing litigation. Barton’s career has been marked by controversy and a number of unsavoury incidents on and off the pitch. Arguably his signing itself was an accident waiting to happen. Some wonder if the new regime at Biro has learned any lessons from the high risk, high spending, tax avoiding era of David Murray when the club signed another serial delinquent, Paul Gascoigne. That strategy ultimately brought about Rangers’ insolvency and liquidation. Still, the latest publicity will do harm to sales of Barton’s autobiography published this week. The title? “No nonsense”. 

THE BBC’s ROLE in Scottish national life is never far from the news just now. With that in mind, the Scottish setting for a four-part murder mystery, “One of Us”, proved particularly problematic. First, as one reviewer noted, it appeared to be set in a part of Scotland “where the accent hadn’t caught on”. Secondly, it featured possibly the world’s most unconvincing farmer (Jon Lynch), a man with no livestock, tractors, machinery or crops. Thirdly, in the course of the murder investigation, whole families were arrested, charged and released without the intervention of a single lawyer – even when they specifically asked for one. The BBC’s own magazine, Radio Times, acknowledged the drama “didn’t work. Or ring true. Or pass the credibility test”. All in all, only those subscribing to the “so-bad-it’s-good” view would regard this crime drama as anything but a waste of quality actors like Juliet Stevenson and Kate Dickie and stunning Highland scenery.

— “Writer”

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