Bodies call for clarity over proposed Scottish planning changes

Key planning and housebuilding bodies have urged the Scottish government to provide more clarity on how its package of proposed planning reforms is intended to operate.

Scottish government: consultation on proposed planning changes closed last week
Scottish government: consultation on proposed planning changes closed last week

A consultation on a position statement, which sets out the changes the Scottish government is considering taking forward from its Places, People and Planning document, closed at the end of last week.

The position statement revealed that Scottish ministers intend to push ahead with plans to axe Scotland’s system of city-regional plan-making, despite consultation respondents’ concerns that the move "would amount to centralisation" and could lead to a "potential loss of expertise in strategic planning".

It also revealed that other changes would not be brought forward.

The Places, People and Planning document had proposed that ministers, rather than reporters, should make decisions more often. The document had also proposed to introduce a fee, both for appeals to ministers and for a review of a planning decision by the planning authority.

But the position statement, published in June, said that neither change would be taken forward.

Responding to the position statement, representative body Homes for Scotland (HFS) said that the document offers a "distinct overall lack of detail". Its response said: "A great deal of further detail is required before the package of legislative and non-legislative reforms can be effectively scrutinised."

HFS chief executive Nicola Barclay said: "Given the crucial role the planning system plays in Scotland’s social wellbeing and economic success, the position statement offers a distinct overall lack of detail, particularly in relation to the process for the new Local Development Plan gatecheck and the introduction of an infrastructure levy to address what is becoming the most significant challenge to housing delivery."

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) also said that more clarity is required. RTPI Scotland Convenor Stefano Smith said: "We … need more clarity on some of the changes the government envisage, including how to support communities to develop their own plans, how we will plan at a regional level, and how we are going to fund much needed new infrastructure."

In its response, the RTPI said that a "robust system" is required to replace Scotland’s system of city-regional strategic development plans (SDPs).

"If SDPs are to be removed, a robust system needs to replace them. The details of this system, and resources needed to make it operational, should be made clear as soon as possible, to offer certainty particularly for the strategic planning sector," the response said. "A sound strategic planning system is essential to support the infrastructure provision needed to support Scotland’s growth."

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