A lifeline for families, but App Says No?

By bellmannews / July 2, 2024

COUNCILLORS have deferred their determination of a planning application for an early learning and childcare facility at Coneyhatch as they want a representative of HSE to provide more information on safety concerns – which were flagged by an app.

At their meeting today the Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee considered an application by Antares Property Development Ltd, who want to provide a facility meeting the complex needs of children from the surrounding area requiring additional support.

The play and learning centre for children aged 2 – 18-years-old would be operated by OaKley ASN – a charity also aiming to provide resources and help for families, training for professionals and support for local schools.

Founder Amanda Greig told the committee: ”This project is not just a building; it will be a lifeline for many families in our community. It is desperately needed in Aberdeenshire and will bring transformative change to the ASN landscape, paving the way to be a flagship centre of excellence for ASN in Scotland.”

Officers recommended the planning application for refusal, citing the lack of connections to the town by footpaths or public transport; safety concerns relating to the junction with the Netherley Road; and HSE’s objection due to a risk to users from the Ineos Forties Pipeline.

But there was no debate about the underpinning requirement for such an amenity, which prompted over 100 representations of support – and which it appears the local authority is unable to provide.

Senior planning officer Gregor Spence said: ”There is significant community feeling this facility is badly needed in the area.”

But he later added: “The HSE objection cannot be mitigated. The site is just not appropriately situated. We want to encourage this kind of development but this is just not the site for it.”

More information about risk needed

Committee chair Cllr Sarah Dickinson said despite the HSE objection, the councillors still had a decision before them and a choice to make – and received clarification from Mr Spence that any decision contrary to the HSE advice would result in Scottish Ministers being notified and the possibility of the Scottish Government calling in the application.

North Kincardine representative, Cllr Catherine Victor asked if there had been any incidents involving the pipeline. Cllr Wendy Agnew recalled a leak at the Cookney/ Netherley junction – in December 2017 Ineos shut down the pipeline system after a hairline crack was discovered in a routine inspection.

But Alisdair Steel, agent for the applicant, said Ineos had been consulted and had no concerns about the integrity of the pipeline, and HSE described the risk as small.

”We consider it very small,” he said. 

He added: ”If you have concerns, all we ask is you refer this application to Scottish ministers.”

Cllr Dawn Black said she understood why the HSE had raised their concerns about the pipeline.

”But I would like that looked into in far more detail than we have here,” she said.

”So I would like this to go to the ministers so they and the HSE can look at this in more detail.”

Ms Black then asked for a break in the meeting so she and the committee could take time to compose the wording of a motion to this effect.

About turn after break

While the councillors were out of the chamber, Mr Steel told The Bellman only a small area of the access track was in the pipeline’s 100m inner risk area. He said the HSE used algorithms – looking at factors such as development type, proximity to pipeline and type of user – to guide their advice. And he felt having vulnerable children noted in the application would have had an impact on the outcome.

Meanwhile, upon their return, it was announced the committee had received advice about their ability to seek further information from the HSE. It was quickly and unanimously agreed they would defer their decision – and would ask the HSE to come to committee to explain their position.

Human face of HSE required

And it appears an app was instrumental in the HSE’s stance.

A spokesman for HSE said: ”This is a case that our Land Use Planning (LUP) Web App has advised upon with some additional advice provided to the local planning authority (LPA).

”HSE’s advice response is not generated using AI. It is obtained by LPA staff entering details of the application into an online system provided by HSE. HSE’s consultation zones held within the on line system are created from a bespoke risk assessment of the major hazard facility, in this case the Ineos Forties pipeline.

”The zones along with the type and location of the development are combined within the system to provide HSE’s advice.”

With the summer recess imminent, it is likely to be September before the planning application comes back to the committee – and the applicant wanting to build ‘a lifeline for many families in our community,’ meets a health and safety professional who can explain why they should not. 

Lynne Bentley - July 5, 2024

Sad this highly needed resource has been deferred. Hoping this is overturned. Families and children are in need.

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