Aberdeen councillors reject special Countesswells planning conditions

countesswells_site_areaCouncillors have decided not to relax planning conditions to try to resolve a dispute that is holding up a major 3,000-home development in Aberdeen.

The £700 million scheme at Countesswells, west of Hazlehead Park, was approved last October but work is being delayed because of a ‘Section 75’ disagreement between the developers.

Stewart Milne Group, Heron Property, IDJ Properties, the Mann family and the owners of Newton Park have been unable to reach a deal on providing the necessary infrastructure, such as roads and schools.

Planning officers had recommended an overarching legal agreement between the three be replaced by individual agreements.

They said the proposal would be lawful but highly unusual.

However deputy leader Marie Boulton said any disagreement between developers was not the council’s problem.

She said if they did not sign the original legal agreement to contribute to schools, healthcare and roads, there would be no development.

The current Section 75 means two primaries and a secondary school must be included in the 15-year project. It was fears that the council could be left to pick up the bill for the schools and other infrastructure if the deal was changed at this stage.

The Evening Times has reported that lead developer Stewart Milne Group, which controls 84 per cent of the land, had asked the council to consider seeking the “individual” Section 75s.

Officers said this more “flexible” approach would allow the project to start and help meet housing targets, but they admitted it would leave the council legally exposed.

Officers said “individual” Section 75s were workable and the other developers would “come on board”. A tweaked recommendation spelled out the need contribute to affordable housing, a Traveller site, core paths, primary and secondary schools, health and the Strategic Transport Fund.

But councillors resisted the change amid warnings it could set a precedent.

A Stewart Milne Group spokesman said: “Countesswells is a strategically significant development for Aberdeen and the wider region and we are pleased the council has reconfirmed its commitment for the delivery of this exciting new community.

“We believe that our proposal would have facilitated an accelerated delivery of this much needed development.

“In conjunction with the development partners, we will continue towards reaching agreement with the council on all aspects required to deliver this new development.

“Our vision is for a vibrant new settlement delivering much need homes, schools, commercial, retail and community facilities, in an outstanding location with easy access to other key employment locations in the city.

“Residents will benefit from a high amenity environment, carefully planned to deliver a complete range of private and affordable homes and an unrivalled quality of life.”

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