Consultation launched by Scottish Government on reform proposals

The Scottish Government has issued two consultations focusing on draft proposals for developments and planning enforcement regulations that need full engagement from the profession, says Veronica Burbridge.

We are facing an unprecedented deluge of draft legislative proposals relating to the operation of the planning system by the Scottish Government. The Scottish Planning Act 2006 provided the statutory basis for planning in the nation, but much was left to secondary legislation.

During the bill stages in the Scottish parliament there was a common cry that the devil was in the detail. This led to a great deal of speculation about how the principles of greater efficiency and inclusiveness might be achieved in practice.

A programme of forthcoming consultations by the Scottish Government on its website indicates a full winter of work ahead. The results of the planning directorate's efforts over the spring and summer are now emerging and the first pair of consultations on the details of planning reform were published at the end of last month.

The first consultation deals with draft regulations on development planning, to which the public has until 20 February to respond. The consultation introduces the process of preparing both strategic and local development plans to complement the provisions of the act.

The matters include strategic and local development plans, notification and publication procedures for plans, grounds for departing from recommendations of an examination report, action programmes, supplementary guidance and bodies to be specified as key agencies.

The consultation includes three sets of draft statutory instruments. These are divided according to whether the proposals will be dealt with by affirmative or negative procedures in the Scottish parliament. The matters to be approved through affirmative procedures are the contents of strategic development plans and the grounds for declining to make modifications recommended in a report on a local development plan examination. In such cases, it is likely that the lead parliamentary committee will call for evidence and the minister concerned will attend a committee meeting on the motion.

The Scottish parliament's rule 10.6 allows a debate on the motion lasting not more than 90 minutes and a 40-day period for committees to consider affirmative instruments. Any MSP can lodge amendments to the minister's motion, but instruments can only be approved or rejected in their entirety. On the few occasions during the first two sessions of parliament when an instrument did not secure approval from the committee, the government withdrew it and a revised one was brought forward for consideration.

The other matters in the consultation will be dealt with in parliament by negative procedure. The consultation includes a draft order concerning transitional arrangements for development plans in preparation when the provisions are commenced. Scottish statutory instruments come into force on the date specified in the instrument unless they are annulled by parliament. In practice, motions to annul are unusual. But all negative instruments appear on the agenda of the lead committee, which may take evidence on them depending on the subject matter.

The second consultation focuses on planning enforcement regulations and also runs until 20 February. It seeks views on proposed regulations for the level of penalty on a fixed penalty notice, the information to be submitted in a notice of initiation of development and activities that may not be prohibited by a temporary stop notice.

Both consultations clearly recognise that the challenge is to strike a balance between ensuring that plans are produced quickly and are up to date, while allowing for early and effective engagement to take place with those involved in the delivery of the proposals.

We must ensure that we have the resources in place to support front-line practitioners in implementation. These consultations are pivotal to the future success of the planning system in Scotland and require the full engagement of all members of the profession.

- Veronica Burbridge is national director of RTPI Scotland. Three joint chapter events to debate the proposals will be held, in Aberdeen on 29 November, Stirling on 4 December and in Glasgow on 6 December. Details are available from grampian.scotland@rtpi.org.uk, central.scotland@rtpi.org.uk and west.scotland@rtpi.org.uk.


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