An initial version of the feasibility study was submitted to Aberdeen Council planners in December 2019. The final plan was published on 6th February 2020, went to councillors on 24th February, only 6 days before they were to vote whether to approve the Proposed Local Development Plan. Version 2 acknowledged that the study has been prepared in an “extremely short time frame” and without any environmental assessments or consultation with the local community, but it was also aware that there will be considerable “community resistance”. Given widespread opposition from the people of Torry to the Harbour Expansion 4 years before, which had not been satisfied for some by the mitigation measures in the AHRO 2016, that was not surprising.
The report recommended that the core area of the Zone would include OP 56 (St. Fittick’s Park and the wastewater treatment works (WWTW), because of their close proximity to Aberdeen South Harbour. They were viewed as quicker to develop (despite significant on-ground restrictions regarding the soil contamination and burn), and with less landscape damage and visual impact than alternative adjacent greenspace sites ( such as Balnagask golf course and Greyhope Bay).
St. Fittick’s is the prime site for the core of the ETZ because not only is it right next to the harbour but it is level and can be joined with other sites to give the large area of land required for manufacture and assembly of offshore wind turbines. The neighbouring WWTW is “hugely desirable” because all that’s needed is a “technical relocation” possibly to East Tullos and it would benefit the people of Torry, giving something back to them, because the plant is unpopular and the unappreciated smell would be somewhere else. Doonies Farm (OP 61) would be in the ancillary area, or “cluster”, because it would be the site of a something vaguely described as an “energy hub linked to the material recycling facility in Altens North”.
The feasibility study described this assessment as “robust” but acknowledged it ignores “certain matters” which have not been considered because of shortage of time. These were not identified but under the AHRO, schedule there is legal obligation to protect the East Tullos Burn and its wetlands and a legal agreement between the AHB and ACC previously discussed. If the Park is developed it will be impossible to carry out the legally based mitigation and compensatory measures.
However, the feasibility study was clear that the significant planning policy constraints of St. Fittick’s Park’s greenspace designation, which would be contrary to ETZ uses, can be overcome if “a new policy position is anticipated within this area” i.e., if it is rezoned from greenspace to industrial development Without saying why, even though it notes that “consideration of potential amenity impacts and proximity to residential areas will be a key test”. The similar hurdle to be overcome at Doonies Farm will be dealt with in the same way, with the only critical problem being “the extensive local/community interest in the current use of the site as Doonies Farm". It is clear that the feasibility study expects both tests to be passed as it the option it recommends includes both sites. It has ignored the legal implications of breaching the AHRO and the Section 69 Agreement and ML and the furore in Torry; people there were concerned St. Fittick’s Park would remain as their green space for them to use and enjoy.
This option also includes the Waste Water Treatment Works, although there are two additional problems to be overcome: its removal, at a cost of several million pounds, before any development could be done, and a necessary agreement with Scottish Water as the holder of a long lease on the site. No solutions are suggested.
A version of feasibility study passed to the Local Development Plan team in December 2019 to use to prepare the PLDP. Leaving little time before the 2nd March when it would go before the Council to be voted on. It appears that the team were persuaded by the feasibility studies’ case as St. Fittick’s/WWTW Doonies required by the recommended scenario (number 2) appear in the plan as OP56 and 61 respectively and the current policy B5 was renamed “Energy Transition Zones”.
There will be a presumption for development for the vague range of activities described in the feasibility study, for transport improvements cannot be anywhere else. Albeit with suitable open space and landscape enhancements for the benefit of people and wildlife. Worthy aims which it is difficult to see as being achievable when the scale of development described in the feasibility study is so large.