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Mixed messages from SNH satisfaction survey

Words: Roger Milne
Castle Stalker

Planners and developers are generally satisfied with the way Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) discharges its planning role. But individuals and community groups are less complimentary about SNH’s performance, as a survey commissioned by the wildlife adviser highlights.

The survey reveals that views about advice given by SNH are broadly positive. But the responses indicate that there is room for improvement, particularly in respect of consistency.

The usefulness of the organisation in relation to strategic environmental assessments (SEAs) remains at a high level, particularly among planning authority respondents.

On the downside for the SNH is the finding that individuals (and to an extent community groups) perceive a conflict between the role of SNH in looking after the natural environment and government requirements for economic development, and especially renewable energy policy.

“SNH continues to be perceived as prioritising economic development over the natural environment, particularly in the case of wind farm development,” says the survey.

Another key conclusion is that SNH’s collaborative approach with stakeholders and other agencies is welcome.

The survey also stresses that SNH’s engagement is making a difference to people, nature and landscapes, particularly when its advice comes early in the planning process.

Ian Ross, SNH chairman, said: “The planning system provides a key tool for SNH to make a positive contribution to sustainable economic growth. The studies show we have played a significant role in helping to deliver good-quality development in the right place.”