Deliberation over a planning matter at Orkney Islands Council this week turned into a wider debate about how the local authority’s planning process is taking into account a future where electric vehicles are the norm.
The council’s local review committee met on Wednesday.
While reviewing a planning officer’s decision to refuse permission to build a house near Germiston Road in Stenness, in Orkney’s west mainland, Scottish Green councillor Steve Sankey brought up an issue that he said will become tedious as he plans to bring it up at “every single planning application henceforth”.
He said: “I can’t believe we’re still talking about giving planning permission to any building without electric vehicle charging points.
“It just doesn’t make any sense, whether one or two of my esteemed colleagues think so or not. I would have that as a standard condition.”
Cllr Sankey put forward a motion that, if the committee approve planning permission for the house, they attach conditions stating that the infrastructure for an electric vehicle charging point should be added.
This was seconded by the only other Green Party councillor on the council, John Ross Scott.
Orkney council’s pool of elected members are primarily independent, with the Greens being the only other large party represented.
Sankey’s suggested condition wasn’t met so favourably from other corners of the council chamber.
Councillor Duncan Tullock responded: “We’re here to discuss the building of a house and not the buying of a car.”
Echoing this, councillor David Dawson added that the council was effectively tying the house owner to buying a certain make of car.
However, Sankey said: “I might remind members we’re talking about 2030, which is less than a decade away, when electric vehicles will become the norm so we’re talking about future-proofing here.”
He added: “All I’m doing here is making sure Orkney is ahead of the pack, that we’re clean and green here in Orkney.
“All I’m asking for is that the infrastructure is facilitated. I’m not asking for the facilitation of an electric vehicle charging point, I’m asking for future-proofing and flexibility.
“I think that’s entirely reasonable and should be a matter of planning policy. This is a planning issue, it’s not about a car, it’s about individual properties in the countryside having the facilities for the future to go about their daily business.”
While councillor Sankey’s proposal to attach a condition to the planning application lost out in a vote of six to three, there was recognition that issues around green technologies should be factored into planning at the islands council.
Chairman of the committee, Rob Crichton, said: “There’s a very real need to investigate, look at, discuss with officers, and have a seminar on where we are with renewable energy considerations with planning conditions.
“Time is marching on and we’re probably going to be forced into a corner somewhere and we’re better to be ahead of the game if we can. As Orcadians, we like to say we are.”
By local democracy reporter Andrew Stewart