Councilors have referred plans to extend a Perthshire caravan site to the Scottish Government.
Perth and Kinross Council’s local review body was minded to grant an appeal to overturn a refusal of the application subject to conditions.
The plans were refused on the basis of an objection from the Scottish Environment and Protection Agency (SEPA) despite Perth and Kinross Council’s flood team supporting the plans.
Comrie Holiday Park’s plans to add an additional 34 static caravan plots on land immediately south of the Station Road site were refused by the planning authority in November 2021. The refusal reason given was the objection raised by SEPA who raised concerns about flood risk.
In the applicant’s appeal – submitted by the law firm Brodies on behalf of Comrie Holiday Park – they said: “The proposed extension is acceptable to the council’s flooding team who have very detailed knowledge of the site from their work on the Flood Protection Scheme.”
They added: “The appeal site has never flooded in the last 40 years.”
There were four objections to the plans citing concerns about being overlooked/loss of privacy, noise, increased traffic, loss of green open space, light pollution and caravans being used as homes not tourist accommodation.
The council’s report of handling stated the application was “acceptable” to its flooding team.
It said most of the application site was within a flood risk area but pointed to PKC’s commitment to install the £28 million Comrie Flood Protection Scheme. Once installed this would lower the flood risk to “medium to low risk”.
PKC’s flooding team determined the area behind the flood scheme would defend “the most frequent flood risk”. It advised the applicant could make flooding mitigation measures to “alleviate the lower probability risk of flooding”. These included: “awareness raising, having a flood action plan, and using raised and anchored caravans.”
However the objection from statutory consulte SEPA said: “Given the location of the proposed development within the undeveloped/sparsely developed functional floodplain we do not consider that it meets the requirements of Scottish planning policy.
“The cornerstone of sustainable flood risk management is the avoidance of flood risk in the first instance. We recommend that alternative locations be considered.”
As councilors on the local review body reviewed the application at a virtual meeting on Wednesday, April 4 Cllr Willie Wilson said they were in a “bit of bind.”
He said: “This is a bit different because the planning officer is really recommending possible conditional approval but is unable to do so because a statutory consulte – SEPA – are quite firm in their view they have an objection.”
Cllr Wilson said it would be easy to criticize SEPA for being “over-zealous” but added: “Given the experience we’ve all had of climate change and flooding in recent months and the last five years it would be deficient of them not to be careful of their comments in this application.”
He cited the flood protection scheme but pointed to mitigation measures submitted by the applicant such as the raising of a platform and the formation of a bund.
Cllr Wilson welcomed the desire to expand tourism and was “minded to approve with some major caveats” – the flood prevention scheme be completed, flooding mitigation measures be implemented by the applicant and to ensure caravans were for tourist not permanent use.
Cllr Ian James agreed with points raised by Cllr Wilson.
Convener Lewis Simpson expressed concern about delays to the Comrie Flood Protection Scheme which “seems to be a long time in the making”.
The convener added: “We can’t just disagree with SEPA. They have very good grounds for their objection but I feel – having read our flooding team’s points – that I would be prepared to allow this.”
The three councilors unanimously agreed they would like to approve the application – subject to conditions – and to pass the application to the Scottish Government for consideration.
As well as the conditions raised by Cllr Wilson, it was agreed to add a condition the units would not be occupied until the flood scheme was implemented.
It will now be for the Scottish Government to determine whether or not to call in the original planning refusal decision.
After the meeting a spokesperson for Comrie Holiday Park told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We are very pleased with this outcome.
“We have been working with Perth and Kinross Council to co-ordinate our proposals with the new flood protection scheme for Comrie for almost 10 years now.
“It’s great that we are now one step closer to coming to a conclusion that will benefit the village and the local community.”