PAS

Conversation not confrontation needed in Scottish Planning Bill

RTPI Scotland has joined forces with a number of high profile organisations in a letter sent to the Scottish Government and MSPs arguing for a change of direction in the Scottish Planning Bill.

In an edited letter published in The Herald on June 29, the signatories called for the new legislation to move away from a system that entrenches confrontation to one that fosters positive conversation between all with a stake in an area.

The full text of the letter and the list of signatories are below:

RTPI joint letter

Dear Sir/Madam

We are organisations who have an important role to play in the planning system.  We see the planning bill as an opportunity to put communities at the heart of planning through ensuring that they are engaged early and meaningfully.  Our vision is for a system that is inclusive, respected, ambitious, holistic, and that works in the long term public interest.  We want to empower communities so that they are able to influence how their place changes over time with a planning system that fosters participation, collaboration and co-production from the very beginning.

We believe that the planning bill provides us with the opportunity to do this. Introducing well-resourced Local Place Plans, prepared by communities, can foster a transparent dialogue about planning at the very local level.  The bill can usher in new ways of involving young people and ensure communities are at the heart of creating development plans. This will help us to move away from the current situation where the main motivation for people to engage with the planning system is to say what they don’t want, to a positive conversation between all with a stake in an area.

Introducing a third party or ‘equal’ right of appeal will not these support these ambitions. We believe:

  • It will lead to more local decisions being made by government at a time when we want to give communities more say over where the places where they live.
  • It will open the door for competing commercial interests to frustrate development and potentially to pit one part of a community against another.
  • It will clog up the planning system at a time when planning departments are under severe resourcing pressures.
  • It will undermine democratically elected planning authorities’ responsibility to ensure planning decisions are taken locally in the public interest.
  • It will weaken constructive early engagement.
  • It will further widen inequality in our communities by disproportionally favouring those with the capacity, time and resources to pursue an appeal.
  • It could mean that seldom-heard voices in the planning system may be further marginalised.

We are also firmly of the view that ‘equalising’ appeal rights by removing or reducing the current applicant right of appeal would be a mistake.

Enhancing public trust in planning must be a top priority and should be done through a positive and proactive approach to supporting communities to engage with the planning system. Not with a new right of appeal that only entrenches confrontation.

Yours faithfully

  • Fraser Carlin, convenor, Royal Town Planning Institute Scotland
  • Iain McDiarmid, chair, Heads of Planning Scotland
  • Tammy Swift-Adams, director of planning, Homes for Scotland
  • Stewart Henderson, president, Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland
  • Gail Hunter, regional director – Scotland, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
  • Graham Boyack, director, Scottish Mediation
  • David Melhuish, director, Scottish Property Federation
  • Phil Prentice, chief officer, Scotland’s Towns Partnership
  • Petra Biberbach, chief executive, PAS

Planning Bill published by Scottish Government

planning stockA Bill for an Act of the Scottish Parliament to make provision about how land is developed and used has been introduced by cabinet secretary for communities, social security and equalities, Angela Constance MSP.

The eagerly awaited Planning (Scotland) Bill follows a wide-ranging consultation earlier this year on proposals which aimed to transform the planning system and builds on recommendations of an independent review carried out by a panel of experts last year.

Ministers have insisted the Bill will “improve the system of development planning, give people a greater say in the future of their places and support delivery of planned development”.

Provisions within the Bill include Simplified Planning Zones and proposals to develop an Infrastructure Levy to help support the development of infrastructure to unlock land for development. It also includes a new right for residents to produce their own development plans.

The Bill will strengthen the status of the National Planning Framework, bringing Scottish planning policy within the statutory development plan. It will also remove the requirement to produce strategic development plans and changes the process of producing a local development plan so there is “greater emphasis” on delivering developments.

It will give planning authorities more powers to take enforcement action against unauthorised development. It will also require planning authority staff to undertake training.

An infrastructure levy will be introduced in the bill that will be payable to local authorities and linked to development. This can be used to help pay for infrastructure projects that could incentivise new development.

The Bill’s aims include:

  • Focusing planning, and planners, on delivering the development that communities need “rather than focus on continuous writing of plans that lack a clear route to delivery”
  • Empowering people and communities to get more involved and to have a “real influence” over future development
  • Strengthening the strategic role of planning in co-ordinating and supporting the delivery of infrastructure needed to support development, including “much-needed” housing
  • Reducing complexity, while “improving accountability and trust” in planning processes and decision-making.

In a ministerial statement to the Scottish Parliament yesterday, local government minister Kevin Stewart described how the Bill will create a new structure for a more proactive and enabling system with clearer development plans, earlier engagement with communities, streamlined procedures and smarter resourcing.

Mr Stewart said: “Scotland’s economy needs a world-class planning system. Our planning system must take a strong and confident lead in securing the development of great places that will stand the test of time and this Bill will encourage more people to play an active role in shaping these.

“In addition to restructuring and simplifying the system to provide greater certainty for investors and communities alike it will reflect the importance of development and infrastructure to achieve our ambitions for housing, schools and regeneration – creating jobs and generating economic growth.

“Performance improvement will be formalised so applicants can rely on receiving a consistent service and local authorities will have greater powers to charge for their services. In short, this Bill will reduce bureaucracy so that planners are better equipped to lead high-quality developments that support the economy and enhance our communities.”

Responses

Scottish Alliance for People and Places

Rt Hon. Henry McLeish

Rt Hon. Henry McLeish

The Scottish Alliance for People and Places welcomed progress in the Bill and commended the minister’s approach to engagement, but has said the Bill could be more ambitious if it is to achieve the type of transformational culture change that the Scottish Government and the wider sector wants to see.

The Alliance is a collection of organisations working across the place-making and planning sector. Unique in Scotland, the group formed in recognition of the opportunity to build a more inclusive, respected, efficient and ambitious system of planning that puts people at the heart of their places.

The Alliance’s goal is to ensure forthcoming changes to the planning system in Scotland meet the ambitions of communities, the built environment profession and the Scottish economy by working with government, parliament and local communities to articulate a compelling argument for change and develop constructive ideas for how to realise that change.

Speaking following the publication of the Bill, chair of the Scottish Alliance of People and Places, and former First Minister of Scotland, Henry McLeish, said: “We welcome the progress that has been made in the publication of the Planning (Scotland) Bill, and we recognise the significant consultation process that has been undertaken to get us to this point. ​Furthermore, the serious and detailed engagement of the Minister is an exemplar of good governance and we welcome it wholly.

“However, it is our view that there space to build on the Bill’s ambition and this is will be important if we are to achieve our collective goal of a transformational culture change in the planning system.

“In some communities in Scotland, planning is viewed as an imposition – something done to us by big developers in partnership with local government. It’s about our neighbour’s extension. It’s about stopping the development we don’t like, rather than working together to plan the positive developments we want to see – local parks, schools, hospitals, and, crucially, housing. In many other communities, especially in deprived areas, some people may not even know the planning system exists, let alone how to get involved.”

​“We want to see a move to a much more inclusive, holistic and innovative system of planning, where there is systematic and robust engagement with local communities and all stakeholders from the outset and throughout the entire process. This requires a transformational culture change which involves articulating a compelling and positive vision for planning, rather than simply making technical changes.

​“We look forward to working the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament over the coming months to present constructive and innovative ideas for how we think this can be achieved through the Bill.”

Stefano Smith

Stefano Smith

RTPI Scotland

The professional body for town planners has called for a bold approach when considering the new planning bill for Scotland.

Stefano Smith, convenor of Royal Town Planning Institute Scotland (RTPI Scotland), said: “We said at the outset of the planning review that it was a fantastic opportunity to realise the potential of the planning system and to highlight the important role planning had in creating the types of places we want across Scotland.  Any new planning act must aim to fulfil those initial aspirations of a planning system that delivers infrastructure to enable development and achieve sustainable economic growth.

“The Bill, as introduced, has the right direction of travel and will fix some of the issues faced in planning our cities, towns and villages. However, we question if it is bold enough to make the step change required for a world leading planning system.”

RTPI Scotland believes that there is still an opportunity to do this through ensuring the bill promotes:

  • a new ambitious approach to engaging communities where discussion and debate takes place at the start of the process and is based on what people want their area to be rather than on what they don’t want
  • a more coordinated approach to planning, development and infrastructure through making the National Planning Framework more influential, establishing new statutory Regional Planning Partnerships and taking new approaches to funding infrastructure
  • a planning system that delivers development through capital funding from local authorities and other community planning partners
  • a properly resourced and influential planning service that promotes good place making through establishing a statutory Chief Planning Officer in every local authority
Petra Biberbach

Petra Biberbach

Planning Aid for Scotland

PAS has called on the Scottish Government to be bolder and more ambitious in its Planning Bill in order to realise a more positive, collaborative planning system which carries the trust of local communities and empowers them to actively engage in the decisions about their local places.

PAS is Scotland’s leading place and built environment charity. Its work includes everything from a free planning advice and mentoring service, to tailored training and public engagement events catering for members of the public, planning professionals, local authorities, public bodies, elected members, community groups, young people, volunteers, and for those simply interested in how planning is shaping their environment.

PAS chief executive, Petra Biberbach, sat on the Independent Panel which was set up in September 2015 by Scottish Ministers to review the planning system. The Panel reported its findings in 2016.

Ms Biberbach said: “PAS wants to see a planning system that is much more positive and inclusive. This involves working with local communities, planners and other stakeholders at the very beginning of the planning process in order to encourage a more collaborative approach based on meaningful dialogue and trust.

“This Bill is a real opportunity to bring about a real and meaningful change in the way we engage people in the decisions about their places, and we think the Scottish Government needs to be bolder and more ambitious in its approach. Whilst there is a lot in the Bill around engaging communities earlier in the process that we welcome, there needs to be more detail on how this will achieved and what processes will be in place to ensure that it happens in meaningful way.

“Once we have had the time to fully consider the legislation, we will continue to work with the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament to outline our ideas on how we think this can be achieved through the legislative process, but we do not think the Bill goes far enough in its present form. We want to see an ambitious planning system fit for a thriving Scotland.”

Hew Edgar

Hew Edgar

RICS Scotland

Hew Edgar, RICS Scotland policy manager, said the Planning Bill “needs to be more ambitious”.

He said: “While the Scottish Government’s approach should be applauded, via the establishment an independent Review of planning and sector-wide engagement, this process has lasted for more than two years. As such, RICS, like most of the sector, had hoped for a more innovative and ground-breaking set of provisions that would provide the necessary changes to cement Scotland’s planning system in the ‘world class’ category.

“There are undoubtedly positive and welcome changes within the Bill that can fix some of the more technical barriers; but overall the Bill needs to be more ambitious. Only then will it make the required changes that will enable the system to be less reactionary, and create a framework that can maximise output in the form of infrastructure, housing, and place-making.

“RICS is a member of the Scottish Alliance for People and Places, and will work the Alliance, Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament to explore constructive ideas that make the whole-sale changes that are required.”

Scottish Property Federation

Andrew Sutherland

Andrew Sutherland

Andrew Sutherland, chairman of the Scottish Property Federation and Joint MD of Miller Developments, said: “The proposals in the Bill deserve a cautious welcome from the Scottish real estate sector. Altogether they hold some promising suggestions to move from a regulatory system to a positive and active enabler of good quality development, with appropriate early engagement and focus on growing the economy to secure new investment and development.  If we are to drive local economic growth, jobs and investment we must have strong public leadership and an efficient, aspirational and delivery-focused planning service.

“However, we continue to hold major reservations over the prospect of a Scottish Infrastructure Levy and further discretionary fees when we are yet to see a step change in performance.

“We look forward to seeing these concerns addressed further if the Bill is fully to realise its potential to unlock development and deliver the much-needed infrastructure for our growing population and business needs.”

Addleshaw Goddard

Sarah Baillie

Sarah Baillie

Sarah Baillie, planning partner at international law firm, Addleshaw Goddard, said: “We are pleased to see the continued commitment to improving the planning system and the introduction of Planning Bill into the Scottish Parliament today. Scotland’s economy needs a flexible, positive and effective planning system, and whilst much work has been undertaken since 2015, we expect that significant questions will be raised during the progress of the Bill. Much information is also still required on the specifics of implementation of new legal and policy mechanisms, even if the Bill does go through.

“The challenge of delivering both more, and good quality housing, and the approach to infrastructure provision is far from resolved – it can’t be left to just the planning system to resolve. Also, if there really is to be a step change from that of a regulator, to a positive and active enabler of good quality development and a shift from reacting to proactively supporting investment and development proposals, then there needs to be a significant cultural change and the Bill alone won’t provide that.

“Local planning authorities need to be adequately resourced in both financial and human terms, and, having graduated with a planning degree, it stems from the grassroots up starting with Scottish universities creating courses that attracts students to continued and adequate professional development and support for the planning profession, to ring-fencing planning application fees for the planning department.

“A Bill committee will now be formed to take evidence and make recommendations and this will provide a real opportunity to participate in the Bill’s legislative scrutiny. We would actively encourage the property industry, planners and other key stakeholders to fully engage, share their innovative ideas, views and opinions with any calls for evidence by the Scottish Parliament.”

Henry McLeish heads new campaign to help influence new Planning Bill

Scottish Alliance for People and PlacesAn alliance of ten organisations from the planning and placemaking sector in Scotland has launched a new campaign to help influence new planning guidelines ahead of the upcoming Planning Bill.

The Scottish Alliance for People and Places, which includes RTPI Scotland and RICS Scotland, has come together to help deliver a “more inclusive, collaborative and innovative” planning system when the Bill is introduced to Holyrood later this year.

It will promote the need for a planning system that “inspires and empowers civic participation, recognises the positive force that quality economic development can play in creating a more equal society, and is built on fostering strong relationships through consensus and collaboration”. It aims to put forward a compelling argument for change and develop constructive ideas for how to realise that change by influencing MSPs, Minister and officials.

The Alliance is chaired by former First Minister and town planner Rt Hon Henry McLeish. Its members are:

  • PAS (Planning Aid for Scotland)
  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Scotland
  • Paths for All
  • COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities)
  • Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
  • Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce
  • Royal Town Planning Institute Scotland
  • Scotland’s Towns Partnership
  • Scottish Mediation Network
  • Institution of Civil Engineers Scotland

Speaking at the launch of the Alliance, RTPI Scotland director, Craig McLaren, said: “The planning bill is an opportunity to create a planning system that allows everyone to help shape the places they live in. RTPI Scotland looks forward to working with partners in the Alliance to help make this a reality.”

Former First Minister Henry McLeish added: “We want to work with the Scottish Government and Parliament to present an ambitious vision for a refreshed and revitalised planning system in Scotland that plans and delivers the quality economic and social development our country needs, but through collaboration and dialogue.

“Over the coming months, we will harness the experience and expertise of our members to offer constructive policy solutions that we believe can make this type transformational cultural change a reality.”

Sector welcomes Scottish planning report

David Melhuish

David Melhuish

The Scottish Property Federation (SPF) has welcomed the latest planning report as a major turning point for local authority planning services around the country.

The industry body believes Places, people and planning: a consultation on the future of planning in Scotland, published yesterday by Kevin Stewart MSP, minister for local government and housing, will provide a strong basis for improving Scotland’s planning system.

The consultation paper sets out twenty proposals for change, aiming to strengthen the planning system while supporting sustainable economic growth throughout the country.

SPF director David Melhuish believes the report is a step in the right direction for planning services.

He said: “The launch of the consultation is a welcome step in the direction of giving our planning service a platform for improvement. The property industry is increasingly reliant on global capital and if we are to drive local economic growth, jobs and investment we must have strong public leadership and an efficient and aspirational planning service.

“The recent set of quarterly statistics published by the Scottish Government demonstrated a notable trend of reducing numbers of major planning determinations that continue to take longer to achieve. We need the planning system to show strong leadership, support appropriate development and welcome new investment in our built environment.

“The property industry has already said it would be prepared to pay higher fees for a better service. We would like to see a greater understanding by the public sector however, of the upfront costs the private sector already pays towards delivering the planning service and the risk involved.

“We agree with the independent review that the service is currently too bogged down in process and procedure and welcome and support a more aspirational and visionary future role for the planning service.

“The development industry fully supports the aspirations expressed in the consultation paper on co-ordination of investment programmes and working with existing agencies and is keenly interested in seeing therecommendations of the Independent Panel of the need for an Infrastructure Agency and an Infrastructure Fund taken forward. This should offer the opportunity of greatly improved infrastructure delivery that will unlock development while at the same time retaining the viability of development projects.

“Infrastructure delivery is a key challenge under the current system and it will be a test of success for the proposals in the consultation paper.”

Alastair Wood

Alastair Wood

Alastair Wood, Savills head of planning in Scotland welcomed the white paper, but said the Scottish planning system needs to remain nimble in order to deliver sustainable development and meet ambitious housing targets.

He said: “The working group has produced thorough and far-reaching proposals. However, extending the period of adoption for local development plans from five to ten years may prove to be overly restrictive. Some degree of flexibility must be retained within the planning system to ensure it is nimble enough to adapt to changes in the economic and political context.

“Further, the proposals could see appeals on major allocated sites determined by a local review body, without developers being able to appeal to Scottish Ministers. For such significant developments it remains essential that the right of appeal to an independent body is retained.

“Finally, there is the potential for a planning levy to provide new infrastructure to support development. The experience of trying to apply such a levy south of the border shows how difficult this is in practice and there are certainly lessons to be learned.”

The Royal Town Planning Institute Scotland (RTPI Scotland) said it was delighted that Kevin Stewart has published a vision for the future of planning that places people and communities at the heart of a positive and proactive system.

Stefano Smith

Stefano Smith

Stefano Smith, RTPI Scotland convenor, said: “This announcement recognises the huge potential of good planning to help Scotland face the daunting challenges of today, such as the housing crisis and climate change. It echoes many of the game-changing ideas that RTPI Scotland has been championing.

“RTPI Scotland agrees that removing the need to obtain permission for certain types of small development, and careful exploration of zoning for high quality and sustainable housing development could free up resources. This would give planners more time to invest in delivering the high quality sustainable places that Scotland needs.

“The ambitions outlined will not be realised without making sure that planning expertise is at the decision-making table at all levels of government. We would like the reforms to take a step further to guarantee a more corporate approach to planning, so that place is always taken into account, from conversations about education and inequality to health and the environment.”

Industry body Homes for Scotland said delivery of new homes must be the “golden thread” running through transformation of planning system.

Nicola Barclay

Nicola Barclay

Chief executive Nicola Barclay said: “We agree with the minister for local government & housing that planning should be inspiring, influential and focused on outcomes.

“Reinforcing the need for such a new perspective are recent performance figures showing planning decision times for major housing applications slowing further to 48.5 weeks, more than three times the statutory period.

“Scotland needs significantly more homes for its growing population but builders are finding it harder than ever to make a start on new sites and get houses out of the ground.

“We are therefore pleased to see some of the recommendations we put forward during the course of the independent review, such as the introduction of clear national and regional aspirations for housing delivery and ‘embedding an infrastructure first approach’, incorporated into today’s consultation.

“But more detail is needed on how other proposals, such as ‘giving people an opportunity to plan their own place’, would work in practice so we will be listening closely to the views of our members as we review the consultation document in depth and develop our submission.

“Ensuring we have the homes we need to deliver Scotland’s future economic success and social well-being must be the golden thread running through this transformation.”

Scottish planning body PAS said it supports the consultation’s aims to get more people involved in planning.

Petra Biberbach

Petra Biberbach

Petra Biberbach, PAS chief executive, said: “This is a great opportunity for people and communities across Scotland to actively shape and inform the future Planning Bill that will follow on from this consultation. We welcome the focus on getting more people involved in the planning system and in shaping their places and communities.

“This consultation and subsequent Planning Bill have the potential to unlock many opportunities for communities across Scotland, through getting people more involved in planning, through some of the proposed changes to the system, but importantly through linking directly with community planning, the Community Empowerment Act and Land Reform Act to help achieve the aims of the planning system, supporting community ownership and community-led ‘local place plans’.”

Colin Hamilton and Isobell Reid, Associates at Gillespie Macandrew said: “This consultation should be welcomed by all involved in the planning system as a sign that the Scottish Government remains committed to moving forward with reform with a collaborative approach. Everyone agrees Scotland’s planning system is ripe for reform but equally there are many different and sometimes competing interests which need to be balanced and harnessed.

“Scotland needs to increase housebuilding rapidly if it is to address its shortage of homes. Many of the proposals will be welcomed by housebuilders, including the recognition that allocated sites within a local development plan should bring certainty to developments.   However there are a number of difficulties recognised in the consultation which would need to be resolved if this aspiration is to be met.

“Of course, the planning system has to balance this need for certainty with ensuring communities feel listened to.

“This balance is not easy to achieve, which is why we will work with industry partners to identify how obstacles can be overcome as Gillespie Macandrew crafts our response. However it is certainly good to see that the Scottish Government is listening to stakeholders before embarking on reforms.”

The consultation runs until Tuesday 4 April and can be accessed here.

Independent planning review panel revealed

(from left) Crawford Beveridge, Petra Biberbach and John Hamilton

(from left) Crawford Beveridge, Petra Biberbach and John Hamilton

The members of an independent panel set up to carry out a “game-changing review” of Scotland’s planning system have been announced by social justice secretary Alex Neil.

The three person panel, chaired by Crawford Beveridge, will be tasked with bringing together ideas to achieve a quicker, more accessible and efficient planning process.

Mr Beveridge will work together with Petra Biberbach of Planning Aid Scotland (PAS) and John Hamilton of the Scottish Property Federation.

Bringing a good range of experience to the review, the panel members will consider six key issues:

  • Development planning;
  • Housing delivery;
  • Planning for infrastructure;
  • Further improvements to development management;
  • Leadership, resourcing and skills; and
  • Community engagement.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon promised a “root and branch review of the planning system” with a particular emphasis on building more homes in her government’s legislative programme for the last year of Parliament.

Mr Neil said the independent panel will be able to provide an objective and strategic perspective to the review.

He added: “There has already been significant planning performance improvement as a result of previous modernisation, but I believe that more can be done by all stakeholders so planning plays a more positive and effective role in creating high quality places for current and future generations, while respecting local democracy.

“As set out in the Programme for Government, published earlier this month, this review will look at wide-ranging issues affecting the planning system, including how planning is resourced and how we can streamline and improve our system in Scotland. It will aim to increase delivery of high quality housing developments, by delivering a quicker, more accessible and efficient process, and it will reinforce our commitment to a fair and open planning system that works for everyone, especially local communities.

“There will be opportunities for all stakeholders to play a positive role in the process to ensure their views are heard and taken into account and I encourage everyone to get involved in this review.

“The panel’s findings will drive our continuing work to ensure planning does all it can to support sustainable economic growth across the country.”

Following the independent review, which is due to report in Spring 2016, Scottish Ministers will look to work closely with COSLA, Heads of Planning Scotland and all those with an interest in the planning system, to take forward a reform programme that will be informed by the findings of the review.

Cllr Stephen Hagan, COSLA spokesperson for planning, said: “Last month I had a lively and highly constructive debate on planning modernisation with council leaders. The issues covered included the need to strengthen local democracy through the planning system, the need to integrate and not centralise the local planning process and the cost of resourcing the planning system locally.

“Leaders agreed there is a lot that needs to change in policy, practice and perception terms with planning locally. We all have a part to play in delivering positive change for our local communities.

“COSLA therefore welcome the proposal by the cabinet secretary for a further consultation on the modernisation of planning legislation and regulation by an independent panel and will play a full and constructive part in the review.”

Director of planning at industry body Homes for Scotland, Nicola Barclay, said: “This ‘root and branch’ review of the planning system is very welcome news and much needed if we are to build the homes Scotland needs.

“Whilst the planning system has undergone significant change in recent years and there is much to commend the plan-led process, the time is right to carry out this review given the chronic undersupply of housing in Scotland.  With 40 per cent fewer homes built last year than in 2007, we need an efficient and responsive system to support Scotland’s social wellbeing and economic growth.

“We therefore look forward to engaging in discussions with a solutions-based focus.”

RICS Scotland director, Sarah Speirs, added: “RICS in Scotland welcomes the planning review, particularly the wide coverage of the key areas being considered. Each area has its own set of challenges and we welcome the independence from Government that the panel should appreciate and take full advantage of.

“Being independent, the panel is well placed to make non-political recommendations to fix the planning system that has led to a chronic shortage of housing and deficient infrastructure in Scotland for a number of years. RICS has long called for a planning system that encourages leadership and delivery.

“Being an apolitical professional body that represents property professionals across all aspects of the built environment, RICS will make a significant contribution to all key areas outlined in the review panel’s remit.”

Green light for PAS plan to attract more residents to Rum

Rum Bunkhouse with Hallival.The Highland Council has approved an innovative Community Land Use Plan designed to reverse population decline on the Isle of Rum and attract new investment to the village of Kinloch.

Commissioned by The Isle of Rum Community Trust (IRCT), the plan has been produced by PAS following a significant amount of intense community engagement with the residents of the island and other key stakeholders such as Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), whilst working in partnership with Highland Council.

The plan will give the Community Trust and current and future residents of the island a lot more certainly in terms of where much-needed new housing can be located and will help meet the Trust’s aim of growing the population of the island (currently around 30 people) to a more sustainable level. The plan also looked at other possible changes on the island including improving the village centre of Kinloch and creating a better tourist experience.

Consideration has also been given to the fact that any development on Rum must be balanced with the need to protect its unique natural and built heritage which includes the A-Listed Kinloch Castle and a high number of natural heritage designations.

Nic Goddard, a director of the Isle of Rum Community Trust, said: “This plan will help pave the way to attracting new people and businesses to invest in Rum. We need to grow the population or our village and diversify the island’s economy and this plan will help bring us closer to making that happen. We would like to thank our principal funder, Awards for All Scotland, and also to Highland Council, for their ground-breaking support in allowing this plan to take place.

“And to our contractor, PAS who together with their associates and volunteers undertook a fun and engaging process working with the community and Highland Council to deliver a very user-friendly result.”

Tim Stott, Highland Council principal planner, said: “The Highland Council has supported the aims of this engagement based project and believes that this kind of community-led plan could be a model for other communities in its area.”

MSPs pass Community Empowerment Bill

Marco Biagi

Marco Biagi

The Scottish Parliament has approved a bill giving communities the right to buy land or buildings in their area.

Passed by MSPs yesterday, the Community Empowerment Bill will give communities more rights to take over land in both urban and rural areas – this could include transforming waste ground into community gardens or bringing empty shops back into use.

The law will also mean local authorities and public bodies will have a statutory duty to weigh up the benefits of transferring their land and buildings to communities. Instead of waiting to be offered a building, service or piece of land groups can put forward their case for why a community centre would be better run by the community itself.

The legislation will provide stronger protection for allotments and encourage councils to create new allotments in response to demand.

It will give community groups the opportunity to be involved in discussions on service with health boards, police or local authorities at the earliest stage while ministers will also have powers to involve people and communities in funding decisions, like participatory budgeting.

Speaking after the vote to approve the bill, local government minister Marco Biagi said: “This bill is a momentous step in our drive to decentralise decisions and give people a stronger voice in their communities.

“By giving people more powers to take over land, buildings and services, communities that may have been excluded in the past, can identify the best ways to improve their area and take forward regeneration on their own terms.

“It will now be easier for buildings and land in both urban and rural areas that may have been underused to be transformed into community gardens and facilities.

“Communities now have a framework to take action in areas that are important to them, they will be able to improve services like education or childcare.

“I look forward to hearing ideas from communities across Scotland on how they will use this bill to achieve plans they have to help the areas in which they live. When people have greater control of their own future, they are more engaged and are able to tackle barriers to making their communities wealthier and fairer.”

Welcoming the new bill, Planning Aid for Scotland (PAS) said it will have a “very significant” impact on local communities.

Petra Biberbach, chief executive of PAS, said: “Recently we have seen an unprecedented level of national interest and engagement in how much say people have on where they live and how it evolves. This legislation will empower communities further and put them right at the heart of the discussion. As an organisation whose overarching aim is to help build active citizenship and give people the opportunity to create the places they want, this is a very important step in that journey.

“Scotland will now be able to lead the way in shaping its communities and delivering the best possible places for future generations.”

Call for ‘cynical’ Carbuncle Awards to be scrapped

Neil Baxter

Neil Baxter

The Carbuncle Awards are “cynical, crass, commercial, stupid, unhelpful, petty nonsense that should be ignored by everyone”, according to a prominent architectural figure in Scotland.

Neil Baxter, the chief executive of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, has led calls to scrap the annual awards, which celebrate the most dismal town or city in the country.

Among those nominated for the Plook on the Plinth award for worst town, which is part of the wider Carbuncle awards, are Aberdeen, Cumbernauld, Greenock, Kirkintilloch, Leven, Lochgelly and the village of Maddiston near Falkirk.

The awards, which began in 2001, are handed out by architecture and design magazine Urban Realm, which describes Aberdeen on its website as “where architecture goes to die”. The current holder of the award is New Cumnock in Ayrshire.

Baxter told The Scotsman: “I don’t think there is any justification for effectively defaming places on the mistakes of a bygone era, which has resulted in a poor-quality built environment.

“We should all be working positively to create an improved built environment, and you don’t achieve that by damning communities and thereby damning the people who live there. It’s not appropriate and it should be just laughed off by anyone of intelligence.

“The organisers of the award are not proposing to do anything positive, they only slam people.

“It’s gone on for years, because it’s been dragged on for years. Urban Realm obviously sees this as a splendid opportunity every year to damn somewhere new, and that’s just crass, it’s not productive.”

Petra Biberbach, chief executive of PAS (formerly known as Planning Aid for Scotland), joined calls for the awards to be scrapped.

She said: “The Carbuncle Awards seem to celebrate failure, but failure in some people’s eyes may not be how those who live in these communities perceive their place and circumstances.

“These awards don’t take into account that places are often built against a particular historical backdrop – for example, new towns to beat urban slums. We have to recognise that many places in Scotland have tried to alleviate social and health problems and continue to do so.

“If, after 14 years of handing out the awards, they are still able to find buildings and places to nominate, then it clearly isn’t having any positive effect in the communities it claims to be speaking out on behalf of.

“The award is handed out without any regard for the consequence or impact it has on the community. It is time that we celebrate what is good and fair rather than champion this certain elitism to say what is right. It is time these awards were brought to an end.

“Cumbernauld, for example, was given this award before, yet has a wonderful community spirit. People who live and work there rightly felt aggrieved.

“A place is more than the sum of bad planning decisions, architectural merits or bricks and mortar – a place is always about people, their sense of belonging and identity.”