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Scotland’s new Planning Act: We need to collaborate

Scottish Parliament

The debate about planning reform in Scotland has raised awareness of what planning can deliver, says David Leslie. In order to do so, everyone with stake in the planning process must come together to make best use of new legislation

Reform of the planning system is a continuous journey. Heads of Planning Scotland (HOPS) is clear about where that journey should take us and who should be travelling with us. We need a planning system that adds value to the development of our communities, engages people in forward planning and delivers its services in an efficient manner.

So reform is as much about collaboration and behavioural change as it is about legislation. The Scottish Government cannot deliver reform alone and HOPS will continue to assist.

Local planning authorities need to work with their communities to apply the new and amended provisions in the newly passed Planning (Scotland) Act to ensure that they address local priorities. Stakeholders from all parts of the system need to understand their roles in bringing about change, to consider different ways of working and to commit the necessary resources.

In passing a planning bill, the Scottish Parliament has taken us to the next milestone on the journey of reform. HOPS is now focusing on the implementation of new legislation. We enjoy a close working relationship with Scottish Government colleagues, which provides a good opportunity for collaborative working.

"The debate about reform of the Scottish planning system has raised awareness of what planning can deliver"

As the service managers of Scotland’s local, national park and strategic development planning authorities, HOPS members are sharing their operational experience. Our recent annual conference explored the theme of collaboration. and the importance of trust between stakeholders, of shared understanding of issues and of a willingness to listen.

We want to achieve streamlining and to recognise the limited resources within which planners operate. This is important when the Scottish Government starts to prepare regulations, circulars and advice to implement the reforms. Where new legislative provisions are discretionary, planning authorities must decide whether such activities will be a beneficial use of local resources.

Where they are mandatory, we need to find ways to minimise costs by reviewing our processes rather than adding tasks.

As planning service managers, we must collaborate with other services within our councils to find solutions that fit our different service structures and work with community and industry representative bodies.

The debate about reform of the Scottish planning system has raised awareness of what planning can deliver. In some areas these expectations have not been met by the new legislation. Stakeholders in the system need to collaborate to find ways to make the best use of the new legislation to deliver quality outcomes in placemaking.

David Leslie MRTPI is chief planning officer at the City of Edinburgh Council and chair of Heads of Planning Scotland

Photo | iStock


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