Scottish leaders count cost of planning system

The planning system costs the Scottish economy £600 million a year, business leaders complain in a report published last week.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Scotland labels the planning system north of the border as "not fit for purpose" and says that it obstructs many of the Scottish Executive's priorities. The report adds that the system is "slow and cumbersome, hindered by out-of-date development plans, uncertain processes and an often legalistic approach".

Jack Perry, chairman of the CBI Scotland planning working group that drew up the report, said: "The desire to factor every conceivable issue into planning decisions often leads to paralysis, which frustrates the achievement of agreed priorities."

The Scottish Executive itself is a victim of delay, the report claims. Infrastructure programmes such as railway lines, airport links and station upgrades are hindered by planning hold-ups, it argues.

The report recommends that planning departments should be given a statutory duty to update development plans once every five years. External consultants should be sent into authorities where timescales on plans are not being adhered to and each plan should "state explicitly how it will promote economic growth", it adds.

Friends of the Earth Scotland chief executive Duncan McLaren slammed the report. "The business lobby seems to believe that everything it wants is what Scotland should want," he said. "It needs to grow up and realise that Scotland wants inclusive communities, a clean environment, and its businesses to be ethical and sustainable as well as profitable."

Graham U'ren, director of the RTPI in Scotland, commented: "The system is designed to secure sustainable development and to balance economic growth with environmental and social objectives. Exactly what the cost to the economy means remains an open question."

Planning for Growth: The Business Agenda for Planning Reform can be viewed via

- See Editorial, page 11.

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