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Sturgeon confirms planning bill in Scottish Government plans

Words: Laura Edgar
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon / Scottish Government

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has launched her Programme for Government for 2017/2018, which confirms that planning, climate change and Crown Estate bills will be introduced.

Outlining the priorities for the coming year, Sturgeon said there are “considerable challenges” to be faced, but in each of them is an opportunity that needs to be seized.

She confirmed that a new planning bill will be introduced, “to support the efficient delivery of the development our communities need, including vital infrastructure”.

The Programme for Government document states that the bill will provide a “simpler, more effective system of development plans, to set a clear view of how areas will develop in future”. The procedure for preparing plans will be improved, it continues, and communities will have better opportunities to influence the future of their areas.

According to a section on reform of the planning system, the Scottish Government’s proposals for the bill include:

  • A new approach to Simplified Planning Zones;
  • Modernising Compulsory Purchase Orders;
  • Building on its eDevelopment services with a digital taskforce;
  • Reviewing the National Planning Framework, strengthening its alignment with wider strategies and programmes;
  • Using new powers to restrict the number of betting shops and payday lenders on high streets; and
  • Working with local authorities to support people to live an active lifestyle.

Craig McLaren, director of RTPI Scotland, told The Planner: “We are pleased that the Programme for Government confirms the planning bill as part of 2017/18 legislative programme. We look forward to continuing to work with Scottish Government on this. The programme also includes bills on climate change, the Crown Estate, transport, and warm homes. It will be good to see the details of each bill and how they will complement one another. Planning could have important role in all.

“It is good to see the Programme for Government proposes to double active travel investment to £80 million in 2018-19 and that it is planned to establish a new Active Nation Commissioner. We are also pleased to see proposed action on air quality, including the establishment of Low Emission Zones in four of Scotland's biggest cities between 2018 and 2020.”

Sturgeon said the Scottish Government will progress towards its target of 50,000 affordable homes by the end of this Parliament, with £590 million available to increase the supply of affordable homes. In this financial year, £135 million is available for the Help to Buy scheme and other equity schemes.

The programme aims to improve the quality of housing and seeks to empower farmers and crofters to use their land for new sustainable developments, including housing.

“As part of this, we will examine how, across the rural economy, we can use the planning and consents systems to fast-track sustainable developments – including housing – in order to generate new rural economic activity,” it states.

The Scottish Government also wants to increase rural housing stock and plans to consult on permitting the conversion of existing farm buildings to form new homes.

On homelessness, Sturgeon said rough sleeping must be eradicated and plans to establish a new £10 million a year Ending Homelessness Together Fund.

She also stated that she wants to introduce a Scottish National Investment Bank to support economic growth.

Other bills announced include:

Climate change, set to be published in early 2018:

  • The Scottish Government aims to phase out new petrol and diesel cars and vans in Scotland by 2032, which is eight years before the target set by the UK Government, said Sturgeon.
  • Electric charging infrastructure to be expanded between now and 2022.
  • Creation of Scotland’s first electric highway on the A9, which would feature charging points.
  • Publication of a final energy strategy by the end of 2017.

Crown Estate

  • Sturgeon said this bill “will establish a framework for the management of assets and ensure that local communities benefit from the devolution of these powers”.


  • The Programme for Government outlines proposals for the bill to contain provisions for smart ticketing on public transport.
  • Provide local transport authorities with a viable and flexible set of options to influence the provision of bus services.

Warm homes:

  • Will set a statutory fuel poverty target and help to ensure that support is given to those who are most in need of help to heat their homes.
  • Confirm the introduction of new energy efficiency standards for the private rented sector to ensure that tenants are able to enjoy warm homes that are affordable to heat.

The Programme for Government can be found on the Scottish Government website.

Image credit | Scottish Government