RTPI Scotland backs move to appoint chief planning officers

THE Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Scotland has welcomed a number of agreements reached during the final Holyrood debate on the new Planning (Scotland) Bill.

Included is a provision for the introduction of statutory chief planning officers, and retention of statutory strategic planning with the introduction of Regional Spatial Strategies (RSSs).

RTPI Scotland convenor Julia Frost said, “We are especially delighted to see the bill include provisions to make sure that there is a chief planning officer in every local authority. This shows Scotland leading the way in ensuring that decisions on development, communities and policy will be made in the long term public interest.

“Many details remain to be thrashed out in taking forward secondary legislation and regulations and RTPI Scotland will work closely with Scottish Government and stakeholders to ensure we produce an effective planning system that can help Scotland unlock sustainable development for the next ten years.”

RTPI Scotland there are still concerns that ‘many additional duties’ have been placed on Scottish Government and local authority planning departments, which the organisation said are ‘still uncosted and unfunded’.

The Scottish Property Federation (SPF) announced that it also welcomes the outcome of the revised planning bill.  SPF chairman Miller Mathieson said, “Ever since the independent planning review in 2015, we have called for these reforms to achieve a streamlined and delivery-focused planning system. We are pleased that the bill has been strengthened over the course of its passage through parliament and that unworkable amendments introduced at Stage 2 were, in the end, either improved or removed from the bill.

“We agree it is important that community views are incorporated into plan-making at the earliest stage and that effective and robust community engagement is undertaken at the outset of a development proposal. It will also be important to ensure that any further increases in planning fees go hand in hand with tangible improvements in planning services. After considerable cross-party efforts to improve the bill, we are optimistic that it can now support much needed development in Scotland, which will be a catalyst for jobs, investment and creating places for people to live, work and enjoy.” 

The Scottish Government described the bill as a ‘radical shake-up’ of planning laws, claiming that communities will have more say in shaping the future development of their areas.

People will now be able to prepare local place plans, including over issues such as housing, open space and community facilities as well as business and employment opportunities.

Local Authorities will be legally required to take local place plans into account when preparing their development plans.

The National Planning Framework, Scotland’s long-term plan for future development, will now be required to be approved by Parliament.

Other changes include new powers for local authorities to introduce control areas where planning permission will always be required if owners want to change the use of their property to short-term lets.

Planning Minister Kevin Stewart said, “Scotland’s varied places – our cities, towns, villages, countryside, coast and islands – are an integral part of our national and local identity. This bill is a radical new way forward for planning in Scotland. It’s a vision that empowers communities to have a positive say in shaping their future.

“There is now more scope for local planning to influence regional and national plans, and we expect to see more collaboration where people and local authorities across Scotland work closely together for all our benefit. The quality of the places where we live, work and play can have a lasting impact on health, wellbeing and prosperity – that’s why planning, and this bill, are so important.”