Scottish planning bill will fail to improve housing and infrastructure delivery, says development professionals' survey

More than eight in ten planning and development professionals believe Scotland's new planning bill will fail to provide a system capable of improving housing and infrastructure delivery, according to a new survey.

Scottish Parliament. Pic: Sheep purple, Flickr
Scottish Parliament. Pic: Sheep purple, Flickr

The Scottish Parliament’s local government and communities committee will today start considering amendments to the Planning (Scotland) Bill, ahead of a debate on its progress in the main chamber.

However, a survey commissioned by planning consultancy Barton Willmore reveals dissatisfaction with the direction of the proposed legislation.

More than 92 per cent of respondents said the bill would not result in an adequate "root and branch" review of the current planning system.

Some 85 per cent said it would not "improve delivery of housing and infrastructure", while a further 90 per cent claimed it would not provide the property and development industry in Scotland with a "strong and high performing planning system". 

Meanwhile, 82 per cent said new "local place plans" – mirroring England’s neighbourhood plans – would make the system more complex, with 87 per cent adding that this would also become a resource burden for local authorities.

More than two-thirds of those surveyed thought that the introduction of third party rights of appeal would hinder delivery, with the same number believing it would lead to a more complex planning system.

More than 100 senior planning, architecture and property industry professionals from both the private and public sectors completed the survey, Barton Willmore said.

Stephen Tucker, a partner in charge of Barton Willmore’s Scottish operations, said: "What is overwhelmingly clear from our analysis of survey responses is that the Scottish Government is failing in following through with its original aims for the bill – especially in the key areas of improving housing delivery and the introduction of an ‘infrastructure first’ approach. 

"And with a further raft of amendments from MSPs expected this week, we can anticipate a further watering-down of the planning rationale that should be driving the bill."

He said that the proposed introduction of local place plans would lead to "a disproportionate increase in the role of community engagement".

Meanwhile, he claimed that improving the delivery of development, stimulating economic growth and simplification of the system are "clearly falling further down the priority list for politicians".

"Time and again, our survey responders used the phrase ‘missed opportunity’ in relation to the bill," Tucker said, "which is exactly what it is fast becoming".

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Planning Bill is one element of a range of proposals designed to improve Scotland’s Planning system so it works for all interests. 

"The bill is now subject to consideration by the Scottish Parliament who will consider a range of amendments as part of the bill’s progress to becoming law."

More details on the survey can be found here.

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