Council finds way to save hut built for disabled family

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Councillors found a way to approve a recreational hut that was built without permission near Seil’s Bridge over the Atlantic by a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Argyll for his disabled family.

Graham MacQueen’s retrospective planning application drew significant public interest, including 16 objections and 120 expressions of support. At a packed public hearing in Oban’s Corran Halls on April 5, almost all councillors on the Planning, Protective Services and Licensing Committee (PPSL) supported Mr MacQueen’s application, despite the officers’ recommendation it be refused.

But they didn’t know exactly how to approve it and adjourned until their next meeting on April 18 to work out a competent motion.

Graham MacQueen, second right, with his wife Morven and son Mark, centre, celebrate outside a local hearing at Oban’s Corran Halls, which agreed to save a hut he built without permission for his disabled family.
Graham MacQueen, second right, with his wife Morven and son Mark, centre, celebrate outside a local hearing at Oban’s Corran Halls, which agreed to save a hut he built without permission for his disabled family.

In Argyll and Bute Council’s Kilmory Castle chambers, Councillor Rory Colville said the ‘small scale recreational development [acts] as an essential respite opportunity for the applicant who has carer responsibility for several close family members and who seeks to use the development as a respite for himself and as a place of therapy for his family’.

Councillor Colville then summed up their decision, in one epic sentence: ‘While it is acknowledged that the proposed development would introduce an element of alien geometrical built form representing a sporadic development within an area of panoramic landscape quality, which would ordinarily be to the detriment of the existing undeveloped settlement pattern and to the unspoilt, undeveloped and largely natural character of the landscape, it is considered that the impact of the proposed development would, in this specific case, be mitigated by its relatively small scale, by its largely inaccessible location and by an appropriate scheme of landscaping to be secured through the use of planning conditions and to include the removal or reduction in size of several of the existing and unlawful engineering operations.

‘Any adverse landscape impacts of the development would be further outweighed by the unique personal circumstances of the applicant, such that the development would be acceptable.

‘The planning merits of the case are, contrary to the advice of officers, finely balanced such that members may attach a significantly greater weight to the personal circumstances of the applicant and his family members than they might otherwise.’

Mr MacQueen said afterwards: ‘I am overwhelmed by the support of the planning committee and the public, but also my friends and family. The committee has now backed me and I will continue to work for the community.’

He advised people attend to their own business first before volunteering: ‘I would not recommend the retrospective planning route. It has been a dreadful experience for everybody involved.

‘There does not seem to be a great deal of advice for disabled people in the countryside. What I have proved is someone severely disabled like my wife can benefit from somewhere with relatively easy access. Taking someone there in a wheelchair is possible.

‘A great many people will benefit from this decision. It will be my family using the hut primarily but it will also be for others. It will be a great visit for people.’