​Dispute over future use of vacant land site

The patch of vacant land on MacLennan Place.The patch of vacant land on MacLennan Place.
The patch of vacant land on MacLennan Place.
The future of an area of open grassland in Stornoway, currently used as an informal play area by local children, is set to be decided by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Planning Applications Board when it meets tomorrow (Tuesday).

​Stornoway Community Council have submitted a planning application to build two polycarbonate tunnels ‘for community food growing’ on part of the area, but that application has been referred to the Board after the Comhairle received more than six representations on the matter.

A report, prepared by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s planning officers for the Board, is recommending to councillors that they grant planning permission, subject to a number of conditions, for the proposal.

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That report states that the application has been the subject of “numerous” community representations, “primarily seeking to resist the proposed development and safeguard the site for play use,” with a number of objectors to the proposal highlighting the area’s long-standing use as an informal football pitch.

The report defines the area as “open ground used informally,” and states that the land is owned by the Hebridean Housing Partnership.

But, the report confirms, the land is not formally designated as ‘Open Space’ in the Outer Hebrides Local Development Plan 2018, and therefore has “no defined use in planning.”

The report adds that as the site “is not one mapped or safeguarded as Open Space in the Development Plan spatial strategy…it is not protected for that use alone.”

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The report states that the Comhairle has to decide planning applications in accordance with the provisions of the Outer Hebrides Local Development Plan 2018 “unless material planning considerations indicate otherwise.”

The report adds that the planning assessment “requires to consider the development which is the subject of the planning application and consider whether the proposal is one that is supported by the Development Plan, or otherwise; and in arriving at a determination of that application, to have regard to all other material planning considerations.”

“It is acknowledged that there are alternative uses of this land that could equally be supported by the Development Plan,” the report adds, “but the role of the planning decision maker is not to arbitrate between community uses; only to determine the planning application before them.”

The application site extends to 600 square metres bounded to the north by vacant land and access and car parking for MacLennan Place, to the west by Westview Terrace and to the east by Kennedy Terrace.

To the south of the site are a number of former weaving sheds now largely used as semi-domestic sheds, the report confirms.