Scottish Government announces planning reform

Image: Pressmaster/
Image: Pressmaster/

The Scottish Government will reform the planning sector to help deliver more homes and speed up the planning process, housing and planning minister Kevin Stewart recently announced.

The announcement comes after an independent review into the Scottish planning system that focused on six key themes – development planning; housing delivery; planning for infrastructure; development management; leadership; resourcing and skills and community engagement.

The Scottish Government has identified ten immediate actions to be taken, including extending permitted development rights, where planning permission is not needed, to more types of development; strengthening skills and capacity; improving planning performance; introducing pilot simplified planning zones for housing and identifying how digital transformation of the planning service can be furthered.

The Government will work with local authorities, developers and community groups in developing more detailed reform proposals, which will be fully consulted on later in the year. A new Planning Bill will be presented to the Scottish Parliament in 2017.

Mr Stewart said, “Planning affects everyone’s lives, from ensuring that we have enough of the right types of homes in the right locations, to driving forward regeneration and supporting business development which provides jobs.

“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.

He added, “I welcome the positive report produced by the panel and am impressed that public and private interests in planning are willing to work together and with government to make changes happen. We must now work together to ensure our planning system is best placed to support economic growth and housebuilding, whilst protecting and enhancing the quality of life of all our communities.

“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.”

Industrial body Homes for Scotland (HFS) also welcomed the announcement of planning reform, praising the Scottish Government’s “commitment to strengthening and simplifying the planning system to achieve positive outcomes for Scotland”.

Tammy Adams, head of planning at HFS, said, “Having been encouraged by the ambitious nature of the 48 recommendations previously made by the independent panel appointed to undertake the ‘root and branch’ review, we are pleased to see the Scottish Government maintaining the momentum of this work, both in pace and tone.

“The programme that has now been outlined provides an excellent opportunity for HFS and other key stakeholders to work collaboratively with the Scottish Government to ensure this next set of planning reforms achieves real results. For us, the over-arching priority is clearly on ensuring we can fully meet the need and demand for new homes of all tenures across Scotland. That requires a planning system, which prioritises and enables the delivery of significantly more homes on the ground, not just on paper. The ‘immediate actions’ could provide a good start on that, if we get the details right.”

She added, “Looking ahead to the consultation on the White Paper later this year, we are particularly keen to see what detail will be added to the proposal for a new approach to planning for and delivering infrastructure, and the welcome but undefined hook for “new tools to assist housing delivery”. We would particularly welcome early discussions on these very important topics.

“This review provides a genuine opportunity to create a planning system, and more importantly a working culture, that delivers enough new homes for our growing population. We remain committed to playing a full and constructive part in that, and in supporting the Scottish Government across the full range of emerging work streams.”