Scotland politics

'Fundamental rethink' of Scottish planning system urged

Construction workers Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The review panel said their changes could "enable sustainable development"

An independent review has urged a "fundamental rethink" of the planning system in Scotland.

The review panel set out 48 recommendations which it said would strengthen the planning system to "enable sustainable development".

Its report said planners and councils in particular need to be "bolder" in tackling future challenges.

Planning Minister Kevin Stewart said the review would inform a "new, focused and revitalised planning system".

The panel, set up in September 2015 to conduct a "game changing" review, included Crawford Beveridge, chairman of the Scottish government's council of economic advisors, John Hamilton, a former chairman of the Scottish Property Federation, and Petra Biberbach, chief executive of Planning Aid for Scotland.

The report said a "fundamental rethink of the system as a whole is needed to ensure the planning system is much better equipped to deal with future challenges and opportunities".

The panel also noted a need for a "culture change" to move planning away from "micro-management of the built environment" to "focus instead on delivering great places now, and for future generations".


By Douglas Fraser, BBC Scotland's business and economy editor

Image copyright Thinkstock

How much do you know or care about your local planning office?

Yet the influence of the planners can be seen all around us. They get to say where housing goes and what it looks like, what is zoned for commercial development, and where advertisers can put their billboards.

Obviously, but importantly, they also say where you can't put these things.

Read more from Douglas

The report calls for strong and flexible local development plans, which should be updated regularly with a "20-year vision", and an enhanced national planning framework.

Recommendations also focus on delivering more, better housing, and improving infrastructure - local authorities generally were criticised as "appearing to lack the confidence to invest in infrastructure".

The group recommend setting up a national infrastructure agency, with statutory powers, and asking the government to examine options for a national or regional infrastructure levy to raise funds.

And it said the Scottish government should "lead by example" in public service reform, and increase planning fees on major applications "substantially".

'Revitalised system'

While panel members made a number of recommendations to open up the planning process, they said they were "not persuaded" over third-party rights of appeal, which would give additional groups the ability to appeal against planning decisions. They said this would "add time, complexity and conflict to the process".

However, they did back making it obligatory to consult community councils and young people on development plans and setting up a working group to break down barriers to greater involvement in planning.

Mr Stewart said the government was "committed to ensuring we have a planning system that works for everyone".

He said: "This independent report will help form the basis to kick-start a new, focussed and revitalised planning system. We will consider its recommendations in further detail and will respond in due course.

"I'd like to thank the panel for their work in this review and publication, and the efforts made to ensure everyone who has an interest in planning could contribute their ideas."

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