Project Scotland

Consultation starts over planning reforms

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THE Scottish Government has set out 20 proposals for “revamping” the nation’s planning system.

The proposals form a consultation ahead of a planning bill to be brought forward later this year and build on recommendations of an independent review carried out by a panel of experts last year.

Key changes include zoning more land for housing, promoting self-build and removing the need to apply for planning permission for more types of development. The consultation is seeking views on new rights for communities to produce their own plans for their local area.

Planning Minister Kevin Stewart  said, “Planning affects everyone’s lives, from making sure we have the right types of homes to driving forward regeneration.

“We need a strong and efficient system to support these aims and for long-term economic growth. I believe these proposals will mean we are better placed to make high quality development happen sooner and in the right places.

“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. I would encourage everyone with an interest in planning – developers and businesses, professionals and local authorities, communities and members of the public – to tell us what they think of our proposals for change.”

The proposals were welcomed by Scotland’s housebuilders. Nicola Barclay, chief executive of trade body Homes for Scotland commented, “We agree with the Minister for Local Government & Housing that planning should be inspiring, influential and focused on outcomes.

“Reinforcing the need for such a new perspective are recent performance figures showing planning decision times for major housing applications slowing further to 48.5 weeks, more than three times the statutory period.

“Scotland needs significantly more homes for its growing population but builders are finding it harder than ever to make a start on new sites and get houses out of the ground.

“We are therefore pleased to see some of the recommendations we put forward during the course of the independent review, such as the introduction of clear national and regional aspirations for housing delivery and ‘embedding an infrastructure first approach’, incorporated into today’s consultation.

“But more detail is needed on how other proposals, such as ‘giving people an opportunity to plan their own place’, would work in practice so we will be listening closely to the views of our members as we review the consultation document in depth and develop our submission.

“Ensuring we have the homes we need to deliver Scotland’s future economic success and social well-being must be the golden thread running through this transformation.”

Alastair Wood, Savills head of planning in Scotland, welcomed the consultation paper but said the planning system needs to remain “nimble” in order to deliver sustainable development and meet ambitious housing targets. He said, “The working group has produced thorough and far-reaching proposals. However, extending the period of adoption for local development plans from five to ten years may prove to be overly restrictive. Some degree of flexibility must be retained within the planning system to ensure it is nimble enough to adapt to changes in the economic and political context.

“Further, today’s proposals could see appeals on major allocated sites determined by a local review body, without developers being able to appeal to Scottish Ministers. For such significant developments it remains essential that the right of appeal to an independent body is retained.

Finally, there is the potential for a planning levy to provide new infrastructure to support development. The experience of trying to apply such a levy south of the border shows how difficult this is in practice and there are certainly lessons to be learned.”

The consultation, “Places, people and planning” runs until Tuesday 4 April, and can be accessed at https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/planning-architecture/a-consultation-on-the-future-of-planning 

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