Scottish Planning Bill amendment introduces statutory chief planner role

Members of the Scottish Parliament have amended the Planning (Scotland) Bill to include a statutory requirement for local authorities to appoint a chief planning officer.

The Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Pic: Tom Parnell, Flickr
The Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Pic: Tom Parnell, Flickr

The amendment was agreed earlier this week during a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee, which has now completed its line-by-line scrutiny of the bill.

The amendment defines the role of a chief planning officer as being to advise their authority about the carrying out of their legal functions and duties relating to development.

In appointing a chief planning officer, councils would be required to ensure the candidate has appropriate qualifications and experience and "have regard to any guidance on the matter issued by the Scottish ministers".

The move was welcomed by the Royal Town Planning Institute, which has been campaigning for chief planners to be represented at the highest level of councils across the UK.

RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills, said: "I am delighted to see that the Scottish Parliament has recognised the value of good planning by introducing statutory chief planning officers.

"This means that Scotland is leading the way in putting planners front and centre to help deliver sustainable development, inclusive growth and social justice.

"This can only benefit communities across the country so I hope that other administrations across the UK follow this example."

The RTPI said it would continue to work with the Scottish Government to help shape regulations which will provide detail on the proposal.

Earlier this week, the committee rejected a move to include a third party right of appeal in the bill, a decision branded "disappointing" by Clare Symonds of campaign group Planning Democracy.

In September, a survey of planning and development professionals found that many expressed concerns about the third party right of appeal proposal, with more than eight in ten of those surveyed believing that the bill would fail to improve housing and infrastructure delivery.

The bill will now go to "stage three" of the Parliamentary process, where the amended bill will be considered by all MSPs.

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