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Scottish Government to reform planning following review

Words: Laura Edgar

Housing and planning minister Kevin Stewart has announced that the Scottish Government will reform planning to deliver more homes and speed up the planning process.

The government is aiming to consult on a white paper in autumn/winter 2016, which it says would enable a Planning Bill to be brought forward in 2017.

RTPI Scotland has welcomed the announcement.

The government has identified 10 immediate actions following the review of the planning system, which recommended that a National Planning Framework should replace strategic development plans. These include:

  • Extending permitted development rights to more types of development. This could mean removing “uncontroversial minor developments from the system”.

  • Strengthening skills and capacity, and consulting on enhanced fees to ensure that planning authorities are better resourced to deliver more homes.

  • Improving planning performance, ensuring that users of the system receive a better service.

The government said it would work with local authorities, developers and community groups to develop more detailed proposals for reform, and would consult on this later in the year.

The programme of work aims to deliver more community engagement to ensure that more people can get actively involved in shaping the areas in which they live.

Stewart said: “It is clear from the recommendations of the independent panel, and the feedback from local authorities, developers and communities, that our planning system can do more for Scotland.

“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.”

Welcoming the “positive” report, Stewart said he was impressed that public and private interests in planning are willing to work together and with government to make changes happen.

“We will now develop proposals for further reform of the planning system over the coming months and will bring forward consultation proposals by the end of the year. The review’s proposed outcomes – including strong and flexible development plans, more high-quality homes and collaboration rather than conflict – are all aims we share.”

In the government’s response to the review of the planning system, it says it expects the scope of the white paper to seek views on a number of proposals, including a reconfigured system of development plans and an approach to infrastructure delivery that recognises the development planning process.

Pam Ewen, immediate past convenor of RTPI Scotland, said the institute is encourage to see its objectives “strongly reflected” in the minister’s aspirations for a reformed planning system.

“The Scottish Government clearly shares our ambition for a pro-active and delivery-focused planning system, which results in the high-quality homes and infrastructure that Scotland needs.

“It is very positive that the minister emphasises the role of collaboration in achieving this. This means collaboration not just between those currently involved in planning, but extending across ministerial portfolios. To achieve its potential, it is essential that spatial planning is a priority corporate function of government at all scales, and working across portfolios will help to achieve this.”

Whether the white paper sets out game changes as envisaged, Ewen said, remains to be seen. She said the infrastructure challenge in Scotland is an area that requires fundamental review.

“We will not see the new homes that we need built unless we prioritise the infrastructure that is essential to support them. An approach to infrastructure delivery is expected to be included within the white paper.”

Therefore, Ewen continued, the RTPI Scotland “looks forward to working with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders to establish how we will deliver the planning system and the infrastructure that a modern Scotland demands”.

RTPI Scotland’s full response can be found on the RTPI website.

The Review Of Planning: Scottish Government Response can be found here (pdf).

Read Scottish Planning Review – What do you think? can be found here.

Image credit | iStock