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Scottish Government consultation on aligning community and spatial planning launched

Words: Laura Edgar
Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Government has published a consultation into the country’s planning system, which includes proposals to align community and spatial planning, and better coordinate infrastructure planning locally and nationally. 

Places, people and planning: A consultation on the future of the Scottish planning system lays out four key areas of change:

  • Making plans for the future
  • People make the system work
  • Building more homes and delivering infrastructure
  • Stronger leadership and smarter resourcing

The proposals build on recommendations published in an independent review of the planning system in Scotland last year.

The review suggested that a National Planning Framework should replace strategic development plans.

Following the review, the Scottish Government identified 10 immediate actions, with housing and planning minister Kevin Stewart stating that the planning system would be reformed to deliver more homes and speed up the planning process.

Places, people and planning states that Scotland’s economy needs a planning system that is "open for business, innovative and internationally respected" while the people living there need one that helps to improve their lives.

Key changes laid out in Places, people and planning include:

  Aligning community planning and spatial planning: To do this, the Scottish Government suggests introducing a requirement for development plans to take account of wider community planning.

  • Improving national spatial planning and policy: Develop the NPF so it better reflects regional priorities. National planning policies can be used to make local development planning simple and more consistent.

  • Stronger local development plans: The plan period should be extended to 10 years and supplementary guidance should be removed to make plans more accessible.

  • Keeping decisions local – rights of appeal: The Scottish Government believes more review decisions should be made by local authorities rather than centrally.

  • Embedding an infrastructure first approach: There is a need for better coordination of infrastructure planning at a national and regional level. This will require a stronger commitment to delivering development from all infrastructure providers.

  • Releasing more ‘development ready’ land: Plans should take a more strategic and flexible approach to identifying land for housing. Consents could be put in place for zoned housing land through greater use of simplified planning zones.

  • Making better use of resources – efficient decision making: The Scottish Government proposes removing the need for planning consent from a wider range of developments.

Stewart said planning affects everyone’s lives and Scotland needs a “strong and efficient system”.

“I believe these proposals will mean we are better placed to make high quality development happen sooner and in the right places.

“I firmly believe that Scotland's planners can lead the delivery of great places, empower communities and provide a stable environment for investment through the uncertain times we live in.”

Stefano Smith, RTPI Scotland Convenor, said the announcement of the consultation recognises the “huge potential of good planning to help Scotland face the daunting challenges of today, such as the housing crisis and climate change”.

“It echoes many of the game-changing ideas that RTPI Scotland has been championing.”

Smith said RTPI Scotland agrees that “careful exploration of zoning for high quality and sustainable housing development” could free up resources. This, he said, would give planners more time to invest in delivering the high quality sustainable places the country needs.

“The ambitions outlined will not be realised without making sure that planning expertise is at the decision-making table at all levels of government,” Smith said.

"We would like the reforms to take a step further to guarantee a more corporate approach to planning, so that place is always taken into account, from conversations about education and inequality to health and the environment.”

The consulation, which runs until 4 April 2017, can be found here.

Image credit | Shuttershock