Cameron's attack on planners 'unprofessional', says Scottish minister

Scotland's planning minister has described Prime Minister David Cameron's attacks on planners as 'unprofessional'.

Derek Mackay, who is leading wholesale reform of Scotland's planning system for the Scottish National Party administration, was speaking at the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Scotland annual conference in Aberdeen yesterday afternoon.

In England, planning reforms have been accompanied by Prime Minister David Cameron vowing to fight the planning system’s "stifling bureaucracy", to "get the planners off our backs" and describing them as "enemies of enterprise".

Talking about his approach to carrying out planning reforms, Mackay said: "In terms of English planning reform, I am indeed Scotland’s answer to [communities secretary] Eric Pickles, but I take a slightly different approach.

"I think when you are delivering planning reforms, statements like 'let’s get planners off people's backs' - that's unprofessional.

"We as politicians set policies which professionals then apply and we are beholden to those professionals. That was my sense around taking a moderate approach to planning reform."

The Scottish National Party (SNP) reforms include a review of Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) and an update to the country-wide spatial plan, the National Planning Framework (NPF).

Mackay is also trying to speed up and improve Scotland’s planning system, including a proposal to link an increase in application fees to better performances by authorities.

In his speech, Mackay said that the consultation documents for SPP and the third NPF would be published in March next year, with SPP completed by the end of next year and NPF3 by mid-2014.

Mackay also said Scotland’s planners will play "a central role" in realizing the opportunities offered by a low carbon economy, the theme of yesterday’s conference.

At the conference, Mackay also defended the Scottish government's wind farms policy, while former RTPI president Kevin Murray called for a moratorium on out-of-town retail developments.

john.geoghegan@haymarket.com


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