Councillors step back from risk of legal action

Moray Council

A move to force a key planning decision to be heard by all members of Moray Council rather than the 13 elected members of the planning committee has been rejected.

Councillors considered a proposal that the decision over the £8.5million western link road in Elgin be heard at full council – a move that was strongly opposed by the chair of the planning committee, Councillor Douglas Ross.

The move by independent councillor John Cowe was rejected by 16 votes to nine following a debate where members were told of possible legal ramifications as well as difficulties in training all 26 councillors in the workings of planning law.

Proposals for the link road have brought about a fierce debate as it includes the compulsory purchase of homes and land standing in the way of the link between the Edgar Road retail park and the A96 Aberdeen to Inverness route.

Prior to the debate Councillor Ross had warned that changing the local authorities own rules for this one proposal could lead to a legal challenge from a member of the public.

Following the vote on Wednesday he said: “I think it would have sent out completely the wrong message – to treat this one controversial application differently.

”Many previous applications, including all the major flood schemes in Moray which cost a combined £180million, were heard by the planning committee.

”f these infrastructure projects did not merit going to the full council then why should a link road be treated any differently?”

Last year Moray Councillors were forced into changing a decision on the closure of libraries in the region after the threat of a legal challenge over their decision became very real.

A spokesman for the Save our Libraries Moray campaign, which was on the brink of making a challenge in the Court of Session, said: “What I find remarkable in this instance is that some councillors appear not to have learned the lessons of the past.

”That nine Moray councillors were once again prepared to take a decision in the face of clear evidence that it could lead to a legal challenge is something I find quite worrying.”

The planning committee had been scheduled to consider the link road planning application on June 17 – that date has been pushed back due to delays in the consultation process caused by ‘technical difficulties’ on the online system.

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