I recently spoke in the debate in the Scottish Parliament following the launch of the Scottish Government’s consultation on the future of the Scottish planning system.
I have been supportive of the fact that planning reform is long overdue and it will be important to try to consult as widely as possible if we are serious about engaging communities in the planning system across Scotland.
There are issues that need to be addressed in the planning system, and I would encourage anyone with interest to get involved in the consultation. More work needs to be done to address the balance between developers and communities. Many communities and people who have experienced the planning process do not feel that there is equality between the two groups at this stage.
We must also recognise that cuts to local government budgets have had an impact on the pressures faced by planning services. The Royal Town Planning Institute Scotland has said: “Between 2010 and 2015, around 20% of posts were lost from planning departments in Scotland”. This means that there are fewer planners and less experience to deal with applications.
Before this debate in Parliament; I wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities regarding the planning review and raised my concern that the equal right of appeal was being discounted before the community engagement process on the proposals was to take place. In that letter, I highlighted the point that few people would disagree with the Government’s intention of strengthening the planning system to ensure that it better serves communities throughout Scotland. I also highlighted community planning to her and the need to engage communities in the planning process for new development at the outset and to give communities a far great say in the need for infrastructure and services to support housing development growth.
Can it be right that those who propose development have the right of appeal against a decision but those who are opposed do not and if this cannot be justified why is there any right of appeal at all? This is one of the many big questions that must be answered in this process and is why it is important that local people and community groups get involved.
I hope as the debate moves on we can begin to address some of these issues, and hopefully transform the planning system so that it delivers more for communities whilst meeting the housing growth needs of our country.
The consultation is running until the 4th of April 2017.
You can access the Consultation documents online at: https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/planning-architecture/a-consultation-on-the-future-of-planning/
Here you will be able to find an overview of the process, a copy of the Government paper and access to submit your views to the consultation. If you are unable to submit a response online, or would prefer to submit a response in writing the consultation paper also explains how to do this.
You can also find briefings on this consultation from Planning Democracy, the John Muir Trust, the Royal Town Planning Institute on their web sites.