CONTROVERSIAL plans for 12 new homes near Helensburgh should be approved, according to planning officers – despite more than 1,100 objections from members of the public.

But a new report says proposals for a housing development, and associated works, at Portincaple, on the east shore of Loch Long, should be considered at a public hearing before a final decision is reached.

Applicant Pelham Olive’s proposals to build 12 new houses at land east of the lochside will go before Argyll and Bute Council’s planning, protective services and licensing (PPSL) committee at a meeting to be held via video link on Wednesday, August 19.

A report on Mr Olive's application outlines why the council's planning team believes permission should be granted for the development - even though it is regarded, in part, as a departure from the local development plan (LDP).

The report states: “The proposal is considered to be a minor departure from Policy DM1 – Development within the Development Management Zones of the Argyll and Bute Local Development Plan, adopted March 2015.

“This is because it involves a medium scale residential development within a settlement classified as village/minor settlement within the LDP.

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“Within village/minor settlements only small scale development is supported which in terms of dwellings equates to a maximum of five units.

“It is considered that this site is capable of accommodating the scale of development proposed without detriment to the amenity of the surrounding area.

“There would be nothing to prevent the applicant from applying for this proposal in separate planning applications in groups of five houses or less.

“Experience gathered over the term of the existing plan has shown that this has happened in other locations.

“This piecemeal approach to development has the potential to result in poorly co-ordinated schemes with the added disadvantage that the council are not able to take advantage of planning gain for affordable housing.”

The report also says that 1,115 objections have been lodged against the plans – along with two expressions of support.

READ MORE: Portincaple plans' architect slams 'campaign of misinformation' by objectors

The report continues: “This is a standalone planning application which does not form part of a greater proposal or masterplan.

“Any future planning applications submitted in the vicinity would be considered on their merits against the policies of the development plan and other material considerations.

“The main determining issues relating to this application relate to the principle of medium scale development in a minor settlement, the acceptability of the siting and design of the proposed development, access, flooding/drainage and impacts on biodiversity and protected species, trees and the landscape, which is designated as an Area of Panoramic Quality.

“The proposal has been assessed as being a minor but justifiable departure from Policy DM1 due to the scale of development proposed.

“It accords with all other LDP policies and there are no other adverse material considerations which would indicate that planning permission should be refused.”

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On the subject of holding a public hearing, the report states: "Given the level of interest in the application and the nature and number of issues raised, it is considered that there would be merit in holding a pre-determination local hearing to allow members to visit the site, question participants and consider the arguments on both sides in more detail.

"It is the view of officers that this would add value to the decision-making process."

The committee is due to discuss the practicalities of holding public hearings during the Covid-19 pandemic later in the same meeting, though a report on that subject has not yet been published on the council's website.

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