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RTPI: Five things we learned from the Scottish Government response to the independent planning review

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The new planning minister, Kevin Stewart, recently published his response to the independent review of the Scottish planning system. Craig McLaren, director of RTPI Scotland, looks at what it tells the industry

Craig McLarenFirstly, we now have a road map towards a new Scottish planning system. It is welcome that the minister has responded to the independent panel's report quickly and that he engaged with key organisations in advance of this, including RTPI Scotland. Helpfully, the response sets out a way forward with a white paper to be published by autumn/winter and that this will lead to a Planning Bill in 2017.

Secondly, we have an outline of the scope of the white paper. It is suggested that will look at development plans, housing delivery, infrastructure, development management processes, performance improvement and resources, community engagement and the use of IT.

Thirdly, the planning minister has committed to some immediate actions including publishing advice, providing financial support and supporting skills development on housing delivery and infrastructure. Additionally, immediate actions will explore new ways of resourcing the planning service and improving performance (including a commitment not to implement the penalty clause); and taking forward work on simplified planning zones, extending permitted development rights, minimum requirements for validation and on the potential for shared services. He has also ruled out the introduction of third party rights of appeal.

Fourthly, we know that there is to be a lot of thinking to be done in a fairly short period of time. It is proposed to set up working groups on each of the themes used by the independent panel - development plans, housing, infrastructure, community engagement, leadership and resources.

An IT task force is to be established; there are to be discussions on options for re-purposed strategic development plan authorities; work is to be undertaken on a skills development and a graduate internship programme; a working group is to be appointed to look at barriers to involvement in planning; and a programme of research is to be put in place.

Although this all needs to be handled carefully to ensure there isn't an overload of work, it provides the opportunity to discuss important recommendations raised by the review. For example, RTPI Scotland wants to explore how to create a better link between community planning and spatial planning. We want to examine possible formats and processes for development plans and relationships with the National Planning Framework and Scottish Planning Policy. We want to look at how we can build on the strengths of planning at the strategic level through stronger alignment at the city region scale across transport, infrastructure, community planning, shared service delivery as well as land use planning. We would also like to take forward discussion on developing an “infrastructure first” approach advocated by the review panel.

And this points to a fifth learning point. As we take discussion forward, there is a need to engage with people and organisations outside of the planning sector. Many of the key challenges are about how planning relates with other functions or with other initiatives. This is essential if planning is to be seen as a corporate function.

Read more:

News Analysis: Scottish planning system needs simplifying

Strategic development plans should be replaced, Scottish planning review finds

News analysis: Scottish planning review – What do you think?

Scottish Government to reform planning following review

Image credit | Shuttershock


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