Planning in the balance?

Gavin Mowat ,
5 Apr 2019

We’ve all had a couple of weeks to consider the impact of the Planning (Scotland) Bill’s Revised Financial Memorandum which the Scottish Government published ahead of Stage 3. It was very much an anticipated part of the process, but it has become something of a bombshell as it revealed costs for planning authorities have the potential to increase by up to £75m and cost to businesses more than £400m.

The publication follows a recent briefing by RTPI which noted that the Bill at Stage 2 places “91 new duties and responsibilities on planners without resources required to undertake them”.  From the Planning Minister Kevin Stewart to Scottish Property Federation Chairman Miller Mathieson and even the Heads of Planning, there is a growing clamour of calls to rethink, delay and rescue Scotland’s beleaguered planning bill.

We want an efficient and enabling planning system that allows for appropriate development in the countryside. In our view, the Bill as it currently stands can not deliver this. It adds process without value, and SLE members fear that development in the countryside will be sluggish and more convoluted to deliver as a result. This is the last thing that rural communities on the cusp of Brexit need.

Nothing in the amendments about including the provision of toilet facilities in certain large developments or culturally significant zones will enable planning authorities to better deliver for rural Scotland. Although we have identified these two amendments, they are merely indicative of a substantial proportion of the 230 amendments that were passed at Stage 2. 

SLE wants to see many of the new amendments stripped back to reveal a Bill that delivers on delivery. There are duties which can be realised outwith the Planning Bill (for example, in building control) and others that are already carried out by planning authorities; we should begin by removing these. 

We want to see a Bill that enhances community engagement at the beginning of the process, promotes joined-up thinking at local and strategic level, and ultimately removes unnecessary barriers to delivering appropriate development in rural Scotland.

Whilst the Planning Bill hangs in the balance, it is our hope that, as the Planning Minister puts it, MSPs can work together constructively to rescue this Bill so that it can be returned to Parliament in a shape that allows SLE and other stakeholders to support it. Collaboration will be key if we are to see a Planning Bill that is fit for purpose. SLE remains committed to working with others to achieve this.