SPF chairman urges Scottish Parliament to fix “unworkable” Planning Bill

Miller Mathieson

THE chairman of the Scottish Property Federation (SPF) is calling on the Scottish Parliament to “fix” its Planning Bill, which the organisation described as now “an unworkable tangle”.

Miller Mathieson will use the SPF annual conference to say that the bill, which is currently going through parliament, is now “unrecognisable” from its original purpose of creating a more efficient and effective planning system. He is urging all political parties to work with industry to get the bill back on track.

The SPF said a number of amendments means the bill is no longer fit for purpose, with 66 “additional and uncosted burdens” set to be imposed on already stretched planning departments.

Mr Mathieson said, “The good news is that confidence in Scotland as a destination for investment remains high and the real estate sector continues to offer the potential to drive economic success. But we should be under no illusion that there are critical factors that could undermine that position. In the last few years we have seen a decline in the number of major planning applications and while securing finance is tough, we need development for growth.

“Our planning system is broken and is in severe danger of being made worse. The proposed Planning Bill has been hugely changed at Holyrood and while it started out with good intentions it has lost its way. The latest assessment is that the bill adds a further 91 additional burdens (66 on local authorities and 25 on the Scottish Government). The resourcing is already at breaking point and this cannot make it better. Let’s step back from the brink and in the words of Henry Ford ‘Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently’.”

The SPF conference, being held at the EICC, includes a panel debate on driving economic growth through Scotland’s urban centres with key figures from Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and East Ayrshire local authorities, as well as major fund, development and higher education investors.

Speaking ahead of the discussion, Mr Mathieson added, “If we are to make our towns and cities better places to live, work and play then we need to have a more effective delivery mechanism for all forms of infrastructure.  This clearly covers transport but can be extended to cover technology.  I look across the proposed projects from the various city deals and I like what I see with data innovation, transport and housing at the heart of many plans, but we need delivery quickly and to a greater scale.

“With Brexit imminent there is expected to be a marked decline on immigration. We therefore need to work harder than ever to retain our best talent in this country and while we have a good retention rate on our students, we need it to be even better.  If we succeed, then we need accommodation that is in the right place and offers the right tenure.  We are lucky enough to see a significant increase in the build-to-rent sector in Glasgow and growth in other cities, but we do need an increase in momentum for the sector in Scotland and especially in our capital city.”