Former RTPI chief demands freeze on big Scottish out-of-town retail

The Scottish government's town centre review should recommend a moratorium on large out-of-town retail developments, according to a former RTPI president.

Kevin Murray, now chair of place-making group the Academy of Urbanism and director of consultancy Kevin Murray Associates, was speaking at the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Scotland annual conference in Aberdeen yesterday.

The Scottish government announced a review looking at how to protect town centres in September this year.

Taking about the dangers that out-of-town retail developments pose to town centres, Murray said: "If the town centres review that’s ongoing doesn't place a moratorium on large out-of-town retail, it will have failed Scotland and its communities."

Another speaker at the conference, Keith Winter, head of enterprise, planning and protective services at Fife Council and a member of the government's advisory board for the third National Planning Framework (NPF3), the country's nationwide spatial plan, said the Scottish government needs to provide more direction with its renewable energy policy.

Fife Council called for a moratorium on the processing of new wind farm planning applications in June this year because it had a large number to process, which it said was costly and time-consuming.

However, the request was refused by Scottish planning minister Derek Mackay.

According to Winter, the council received 399 wind turbine applications in 2011, up from 173 in 2010.

He said there should be more of a joined-up approach and a stronger commitment to energy policy in NPF3.

Winter said Scotland's 34 individual planning authorities found it difficult to deal with the issue of approving large numbers of onshore wind turbine applications.

He said: "There are major issues here. I think there's something there for the Scottish government, if it wants energy of a different mix, it has got to come out and make statements. And NPF3 needs to go further than NPF2."

He added: "We don't have a joined-up business plan on energy policy. The NPF3 has to address it more.

"What the Scottish government should do is be more directional. It requires strength of leadership."

Meanwhile, Colin Haylock, president of the RTPI, praised the Scottish government's approach to spatial planning in NPF2.

He said: "You've no idea how lucky you are. The English government is simply not interested in spatial planning at a national level."

Later at the conference, Mackay defended the Scottish government's wind farms policy and criticised English ministers' attacks on the planning system.

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