A north-east MSP has lodged a petition with the Scottish Government after it overturned a decision to reject plans for Rubislaw Quarry.
Aberdeen City Council voted down proposals to build more than 200 flats at the site, overlooking the quarry.
Detailed plans also included a residents-only gym, function room, public bistro and a promenade above the quarry, which were a scaled-back version of what was originally hoped to be on the site.
However, the developer Carttera appealed the decision to the Scottish Government, which overturned the decision, stating that it should be granted subject to a few conditions.
Now, MSP Liam Kerr has launched a petition calling on the Scottish Government to “respect the decisions and views of the people of Aberdeen.”
He said that it was wrong to overturn the development, which more than 400 objections were received for.
Following the decision to allow the appeal in November, Liam Kerr wrote to housing minister Kevin Stewart inviting him to engage with how the system of overturning council decisions could be “fixed before the next major snub of this kind in the north-east – with no ministerial get-out”, and asking him to be Aberdeen’s voice as a minister in the Scottish Government.
In a response received by Mr Kerr from Mr Stewart, it said: “I consider it to be very important that I take particular care in cases relating to applications in my own constituency. Upon becoming planning minister I took the view that any ministerial decisions relating to planning proposals in Aberdeen City should be taken by another minister to avoid conflict of interests.
“In terms of the appeal itself, as you know, the appeal at Rubislaw Quarry, like the vast majority of planning appeals handled by DPEA, is delegated to an appointed reporter and therefore Scottish Ministers take no role in its determination. Whilst Ministers can recall appeals for their own determination, the issue of recall is a matter for ministers’ discretion, the power used sparingly and normally only in circumstances where a proposal raises issues of genuine national interest.
“Given the aforementioned, and given this appeal remains live, it simply would not be appropriate for me to make comment on the particular planning merits of the case. What I can say, by way of general background, is that the role of the reporter is that of an impartial decision-maker. In determining an appeal the reporter must, by law, have regard to the development plan framework, and the nature of the proposal as well as legitimate public concern expressed on relevant planning matters”
Scottish Conservative MSP Mr Kerr said: “There is a growing feeling that the north-east councils are being consistently overridden by the Scottish government.
“Some 15 appeals were overturned in Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire in the last year alone.
“I have put it to Kevin Stewart that this is an issue of public interest that should be addressed.
“SNP Ministers have failed to respect community decision-making over a host of developments.
“The Scottish Conservatives would fix the broken planning system that overrides local democracy, giving power back to local government.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Appeals play an important part in the planning system. In this planning appeal, the independent reporter has issued a Notice of Intention stating that he is minded to grant planning permission in this case subject to appropriate legal agreements being reached relating to affordable housing; education; core paths; open space; and healthcare.
“The reporter took full account of all the evidence submitted, including representations from members of the local community. As a final decision has not yet been made on this appeal, it would not be appropriate to comment on the merits of the proposal at this stage.
“As per the Ministerial Code, Planning Minister Kevin Stewart has recused himself from taking part in any planning decisions in Aberdeen. Any ministerial decisions relating to planning proposals in Aberdeen City are taken by another minister to avoid conflict of interest.”
Anyone interested in signing the petition is asked to visit https://www.liamkerr.org.uk/rubislawquarry