I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our members, old and new who have contributed so much to the Group throughout this very difficult year. It’s always great to hear from you all through Facebook, the Website, Twitter or even by phone (yes people still do that!). The amount of information shared on our facebook page in particular (always accompanied by good humoured banter) and the speed at which everyone responds to questions or requests for help or support, never fails to impress me.
The Team, who give of their time so willingly, deserve an extra pat on the back this year for the extra efforts they have made. The website, twitter and facebook all seem to be kept running effortlessly by Tim Harrison and Aileen and Willie Jackson. There is such a vast amount of information uploaded on a daily basis that it is impossible for this senior citizen to keep up!
Planning and Environmental Appeals Stakeholders’ meetings have been held via Webex this year but at least it has saved on travelling time and expenses for Rachel Connor and Aileen Jackson who attend on behalf of SAS to represent your interests. Everything is taking a little longer than usual due to lockdown and the DPEA moving office but we are hopeful that the Handbook (requested by Rachel to facilitate easy navigation of the appeals process) will be published early in the new year.
We should also have news shortly about Aileen’s suggestions to help those of you living in remote areas with broadband problems and the everyday difficulties you encounter with participation in the planning process. Covid has undoubtedly exacerbated this problem. Members of the Stakeholders’ forum were very impressed by the evidence of internet “black holes” in 21st century Scotland presented by Aileen and she is grateful to those who helped by sending in evidence/stories of their own. She even received support from unexpected quarters! We will hopefully be able to give you more information in the near future.
Due to the difficulties encountered by one of our members who gave evidence at an Inquiry without professional support, Aileen also asked for the services of a “public advocate” to be provided to represent members of the public at Inquiries and help steer them through the process. This is not within the remit of the DPEA but enquiries are being made.
News is also awaited on a previous suggestion put forward by SAS. We asked that Circular 6/1990 be updated to deal with the behaviours of parties at hearings and inquiries. This included not only serious disregard by some parties for complying with procedural dates for submission of documentation but what we saw as personal and vicious attacks on members of the public while under cross examination.
Rachel and Aileen also had a number of trips to the Court of Session in March, just before lockdown, to attend a wind farm Judicial Review which was of interest to them. They have both responded to a number of Consultations and are busy fighting wind farm applications of their own as well as being involved in different legal actions. Rachel also found time to write letters to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State about the CfD scheme and is now preparing to give evidence on Private Water Supplies at an Inquiry in January. I am very much in awe of them both.
I’d also like to thank a number of people who don’t wish to be in the limelight but without whose hard work and dedication, we couldn’t provide information to so many people and those thanks extend to our Experts who give professional advice and guidance on a number of matters and keep us on the straight and narrow
SAS members should be proud of themselves for the amazing amount of individual research they produce and share with us on our facebook page and elsewhere. There is always someone who has the answer to a question or at least an opinion or a wisecrack. It is a delight to know you all, to learn from you all and to help you all achieve a common goal!
My best wishes for a better year ahead. Remember to live, laugh, love, stay safe and keep fighting.