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Bolder planning legislation needed, insists Scottish planning sector

Words: Roger Milne
Scotland / iStock

Organisations involved in planning across Scotland have echoed the RTPI in urging the administration to be bolder and more ambitious for its planning reforms following publication of the government’s proposed legislation.

Local government minister Kevin Stewart insisted that the Planning (Scotland) Bill would “create a new structure for a more proactive and enabling system with clearer development plans, earlier engagement with communities, streamlined procedures and smarter resourcing”.

The bill builds on recommendations of an independent review carried out by a panel of experts last year.

Stewart added: “Scotland’s economy needs a world-class planning system. Our planning system must take a strong and confident lead in securing the development of great places that will stand the test of time and this bill will encourage more people to play an active role in shaping these.

“In addition to restructuring and simplifying the system to provide greater certainty for investors and communities alike it will reflect the importance of development and infrastructure to achieve our ambitions for housing, schools and regeneration – creating jobs and generating economic growth.

“Performance improvement will be formalised so applicants can rely on receiving a consistent service and local authorities will have greater powers to charge for their services. In short, this bill will reduce bureaucracy so that planners are better equipped to lead high-quality developments that support the economy and enhance our communities.”

The Planner reported earlier this week on the publication of the bill, which contains a range of provisions that aim to strengthen processes, engagement and participation rights across the planning system and in delivery of the planning service.

RTPI Scotland

“The bill, as introduced, has the right direction of travel and will fix some of the issues faced in planning our cities, towns and villages. However, we question if it is bold enough to make the step change required for a world-leading planning system.

“RTPI Scotland believes that there is still an opportunity to do this through ensuring that the bill promotes:

  • A new ambitious approach to engaging communities where discussion and debate takes place at the start of the process and is based on what people want their area to be rather than on what they don’t want;
  • A more coordinated approach to planning, development and infrastructure through making the National Planning Framework more influential, establishing new statutory regional planning partnerships and taking new approaches to funding infrastructure;
  • A planning system that delivers development through capital funding from local authorities and other community planning partners; and
  • A properly resourced and influential planning service that promotes good place-making through establishing a statutory chief planning officer in every local authority.”

Stefano Smith, convenor

Scottish Alliance of People and Places

“We want to see a move to a much more inclusive, holistic and innovative system of planning, where there is systematic and robust engagement with local communities and all stakeholders from the outset and throughout the entire process. This requires a transformational culture change which involves articulating a compelling and positive vision for planning, rather than simply making technical changes.

“We look forward to working the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament over the coming months to present constructive and innovative ideas for how we think this can be achieved through the bill.”

Henry McLeish

Planning Aid for Scotland

“This bill is a real opportunity to bring about a real and meaningful change in the way we engage people in the decisions about their places, and we think the Scottish Government needs to be bolder and more ambitious in its approach. Whilst there is a lot in the bill around engaging communities earlier in the process that we welcome, there needs to be more detail on how this will be achieved and what processes will be in place to ensure that it happens in meaningful way.

“Once we have had the time to fully consider the legislation, we will continue to work with the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament to outline our ideas on how we think this can be achieved through the legislative process, but we do not think the bill goes far enough in its present form. We want to see an ambitious planning system fit for a thriving Scotland.”

Petra Birnbath

RICS Scotland

“RICS, like most of the sector, had hoped for a more innovative and groundbreaking set of provisions that would provide the necessary changes to cement Scotland’s planning system in the ‘world-class’ category.

“There are undoubtedly positive and welcome changes within the bill that can fix some of the more technical barriers, but overall the bill needs to be more ambitious. Only then will it make the required changes that will enable the system to be less reactionary, and create a framework that can maximise output in the form of infrastructure, housing, and place-making.”

Hew Edgar, policy manager

Scottish Property Federation

“The proposals in the bill deserve a cautious welcome from the Scottish real estate sector. Altogether they hold some promising suggestions to move from a regulatory system to a positive and active enabler of good-quality development, with appropriate early engagement and focus on growing the economy to secure new investment and development. If we are to drive local economic growth, jobs and investment we must have strong public leadership and an efficient, aspirational and delivery-focused planning service.

“However, we continue to hold major reservations over the prospect of a Scottish Infrastructure Levy and further discretionary fees when we are yet to see a step change in performance.

“We look forward to seeing these concerns addressed further if the bill is fully to realise its potential to unlock development and deliver the much-needed infrastructure for our growing population and business needs.”

Andrew Sutherland, chairman

Addleshaw Goddard, law firm

“Scotland’s economy needs a flexible, positive and effective planning system, and whilst much work has been undertaken since 2015, we expect that significant questions will be raised during the progress of the bill. Much information is also still required on the specifics of implementation of new legal and policy mechanisms, even if the Bill does go through.

“The challenge of delivering both more, and good-quality housing, and the approach to infrastructure provision is far from resolved – it can’t be left to just the planning system to resolve. Also, if there really is to be a step change from that of a regulator, to a positive and active enabler of good-quality development and a shift from reacting to proactively supporting investment and development proposals, then there needs to be a significant cultural change and the bill alone won’t provide that.

“Local planning authorities need to be adequately resourced in both financial and human terms, and, having graduated with a planning degree, it stems from the grassroots up, starting with Scottish universities creating courses that attract students to continued and adequate professional development and support for the planning profession, to ring-fencing planning application fees for the planning department.”

Sarah Baillie, partner

Read more:

Scottish Planning Bill published

New analysis: RTPI Scotland on the planning review

Strategic development plans should be replaced, Scottish planning review finds

Scottish Government to reform planning following review

RTPI Scotland: Clearer national roadmap for development needed 

Stewart launches fresh consultation on Scottish planning reforms

RTPI Scotland: Ministers need to consider issues beyond planning system 

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