RTPI Scotland

Building industry and planners set to give Planning Bill evidence

Holyrood’s local government and communities committee will continue to examine the Planning (Scotland) Bill tomorrow as it hears evidence from organisations from the country’s builders and planners.

Tammy Swift-Adams, director of planning, Homes for Scotland, Jenny Hogan, deputy chief executive, Scottish Renewables, Gordon Nelson, director, Federation of Master Builders Scotland, Sarah Boyack, head of public affairs, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and Jonathan Fair, regional managing director – Scotland, McCarthy and Stone will all give evidence to the committee as the proposed Bill is put to the test.

MSPs will then hear from Kate Houghton, policy and practice officer, RTPI Scotland, Malcolm Fraser, consultant architect, Professor Cliff Hague, emeritus professor of planning and spatial development, Heriot-Watt University and Stuart Tait, manager, and Dorothy McDonald, assistant manager, Clydeplan.

Local government and communities committee convener, Bob Doris MSP, said: “The entire purpose of these proposed changes is to strengthen the planning system and boost its contribution to inclusive growth, housing and infrastructure in Scotland.

“The Bill also aims to empower people to have their say on their places more than ever before, so that communities can influence development plans in their local areas.

“Our Committee now wants to find out whether the Bill will deliver an improved planning system and if so, should any improvements and changes be made to the Bill so that Scotland can develop a world-class approach to planning its cities, towns and rural areas in the future.”

A link to the papers is available here and you can watch the sessions online tomorrow via www.scottishparliament.tv.

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.”


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.”

Planners call for meaningful reform of Scottish planning system

Stefano Smith

Stefano Smith

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Scotland has urged the Scottish Government to look beyond “merely procedural” change to the planning system, and to provide more detail on how proposals are to be taken forward.

The professional body for town planners was responding to the Scottish Government’s Places, People and Planning Position Statement, part of the ongoing review of the planning system which will lead to a Planning Bill towards the end of the year.

RTPI Scotland convenor Stefano Smith, said: “Overall the proposed reforms have the potential to make a positive impact on the operation of the planning system, but we are concerned that alone they are not enough to have a game changing impact.  Without a wider scope that also takes into account the context within which the planning system operates – in particular access to and control over land, resources, and corporate priorities – there is a risk that the review will not result in the delivery of the sustainable development that Scotland needs.

“We also need more clarity on some of the changes the Government envisage, including how to support communities to develop their own plans, how we will plan at a regional level, and how we are going to fund much needed new infrastructure.

“The review is a great opportunity to ensure that we have a planning system that creates great places – supporting economic growth, protecting our environment, and helping people to improve their quality of life. To do this it needs to be able to work with communities, public agencies, developers and investors to agree a vision for an area that is sustainable, viable and deliverable. RTPI Scotland will be pleased to continue to work with Scottish Government to take this forward.”

In January 2017, the Scottish Government published a consultation on twenty proposals for change in Places, People and Planning. At the end of June 2017, a position statement and accompanying Strategic Environmental Assessment Report was published for consultation.

No decisions has been made on the content of a future Planning Bill at this stage and the Government said further views will be taken into account as it moves towards finalising the proposals for change.

RTPI Scotland to take forward planning ‘gamechangers’

Stefano Smith

Stefano Smith

RTPI Scotland is taking forward five gamechanging ideas for the Scottish planning system in new papers published today.

Each focussing on a specific proposal outlined in the Institute’s formal response to the Government’s consultation paper on the future of the planning system, these papers will be sent to relevant Ministers, the highest level in Government and other stakeholders, and used as a springboard for in-depth discussion on how changes can be implemented in a pragmatic way.

Stefano Smith, convenor of RTPI Scotland, said: “As Scottish Government prepares to commence drafting the Bill that could implement far-reaching changes to the planning system, it is vital that we maximise the opportunity for our ideas to shape its contents. We welcome the open approach of the Scottish Government to the review of planning so far, and we hope that they will be receptive to our ideas, furthering the productive and positive relationship that the Institute enjoys with Holyrood.”

The three papers published today focus on the need for a statutory Chief Planning Officer in local authorities, how to make an “infrastructure first” approach a reality in an era of serious resource constraint, and how we could make local place plans work, respectively.

On the role of a statutory Chief Planning Officer in every local authority, RTPI Scotland believes that the Chief Planning Officer would make sure planning is integrated early on in decisions on investment and policy aimed at driving economic growth and tackling environmental and social challenges. The planning reform is a golden opportunity to adopt a more holistic, corporate approach to planning; we can improve places for people by making sure that planners are involved in conversations from the outset.

Mr Smith said: “A Chief Planning Officer with the right powers will be able to anticipate and then help deliver the buildings and infrastructure needed to support the ambitions of their colleagues in other departments such as education and economic development, and crucially, from among the wider community.

“There is a precedent for this kind of role, such as Chief Social Workers and Chief Education Officers, to make sure that strategic decisions are collaborative. This would not have to mean new appointments and extra resource pressure to councils.”

On making an infrastructure first approach a reality the Institute has proposals for a national mechanism, with statutory powers and duties, with responsibility for leading infrastructure planning in Scotlandand maintaining a rolling audit of infrastructure pressures and opportunities. An infrastructure fund and levy would then help deliver on the priorities identified through the auditing process.

On making local place plans work RTPI Scotland supports a community right to plan. The paper outlines two scenarios in which the RTPI believes local place plans could help communities to tackle socio-economic inequalities and the challenges that can arise from new major developments. Strong ties to Community Planning will be essential to make this a success.

Two further papers on Local Development Plans and housing will be published in the coming weeks.

Planners call for clearer national roadmap for development in Scotland

Stefano Smith

Stefano Smith

The Scottish Government needs to establish national development priorities across the country and map them out clearly in a new National Development Plan (NDP), according to the Royal Town Planning Institute Scotland (RTPI Scotland).

In its response to the Scottish Government consultation paper on the future of the Scottish planning system, the organisation said Scotland needs more specific plans to drive the country forwards and achieve its economic and social targets.

Stefano Smith, convenor of RTPI Scotland, said: “We are living in uncertain times. Given this we need a plan that gives certainty and confidence to communities, developers and investors. Our proposals for a new National Development Plan can do this by being clear on what the national priorities for development are, where they are to be constructed and how they will be funded. Providing a proactive, route-map of Scotland’s future development will be beneficial to everyone who wants to make Scotland a successful and sustainable country.

“Such a plan also helps to better connect the Government’s various strategies and funds – such as those on economic growth, infrastructure, housing, transport, climate change, social justice and energy – and achieve better integration across policy areas.”

A new NDP will set out where new developments, such as housing, should be located, how these will be funded, and what infrastructure and facilities such as schools, public transport, roads and health centres are required.

This new plan would be a single statutory document that brings together and replace two existing documents – the National Planning Framework and Scottish Planning Policy. The plan would need to be agreed by the Scottish Parliament so as to ensure an open public debate on how to plan for the country’s future, the Institute says.

The NDP is one of a number of game-changers RTPI Scotland has proposed. Others include appointing a statutory Chief Planning Officer in each local authority; ensuring full cost recovery for planning applications and ringfencing fees to support their assessment; and exploring how best to provide a community right to plan. RTPI Scotland’s full response to the consultation is here.

‘Planning could play key role in tackling climate change’, RTPI Scotland tells parliamentary committee

Craig McLaren

Craig McLaren

A parliamentary committee reviewing the draft Climate Change Plan has heard that planning could be central to delivering the Scottish climate change strategy.

Given evidence to the committee, Craig McLaren, RTPI Scotland director, welcomed the climate change plan but expressed disappointment that it didn’t contain more about the role of the planning system.

He said: “Planners and planning have environmental sustainability and climate change at their heart…they have the tools to do it.”

McLaren went on to describe some of the existing mechanisms in the system that currently protect the environment such as local development plans protecting green space.

In his wide ranging evidence, he said:

  • The planning system already has processes for community engagement and planners have been engaging with communities for a long time. The use of charrettes has been a useful way of bringing together communities and local government, developers, investors, utilities, government agencies to agree things at the start – a fruitful way of delivering a better place for people.
  • RTPI Scotland supports the Scottish Government’s changes to decision making which is ‘pushing it down’ to the local and community level.
  • There needs to be a stronger link between spatial and community planning. RTPI Scotland’s concern is that they are working in separate parallel streams.
  • RTPI Scotland is talking to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and local authorities on how to deliver training to new councillors after May local government elections. The training will cover the opportunities and potential of the planning system for delivery.
  • The RTPI, as a professional body, accredit planning schools and is making sure climate change is something future planners have to learn about during their degrees.
  • Keeping up to date with climate change is a lifelong learning issue. RTPI Scotland is working with the improvement service and the Scottish Government to review the skills needed across local government, including climate change.

He said the current planning review was an opportunity to improve how the system could help deliver, including on climate change. He went on to caution, that the planning system needed to be adequately resourced highlighting that only 0.6% of council funding goes directly to planning services.

The Local Government and Communities Committee is reviewing the Scottish Government’s draft Climate Change Plan.

McLaren appeared alongside other witnesses Chris Wood-Gee from Dumfries and Galloway Council and Dr Philip Revell from Climate Futures.

The committee is due to report in early March.

Blog: The Parliamentary debate on planning – a constructive discussion

Craig McLaren

Craig McLaren

Craig McLaren, director of RTPI Scotland, outlines his take on the planning debate in Parliament yesterday. 

There was a debate in the Scottish Parliament yesterday to discuss the Scottish Government’s consultation on the future of the planning system Places, People and Planning. RTPI Scotland had prepared a briefing and circulated it to all MSPs in advance and this referred to our recent policy paper Repositioning Planning: Building a Successful and Sustainable Scotland, which set out key game-changers to support a new planning system.

The Official Report detailing the discussion has been published but here are some of the key things I took from the debate.

It was heartening to see a fuller Chamber than previous planning debates in Holyrood, and the tone was generally positive and constructive. All contributors appeared to recognise the importance of a good planning system and that there was potential to make it even more of a useful mechanism to support economic growth, sustainable development and the quality of life in communities. The need for stronger leadership in planning was mentioned and the value of planning and planners was often cited.  There was call from many MSPs for the consultation to be widely promoted to encourage responses from across the country and from the many and varied people and organisations who are affected by planning.

A number of key issues were threaded through the debate. Community participation in planning processes featured highly with many MSPs recognising that this was something that was improving, but that we still need more work in this area. Frontloading engagement was generally seen as ‘a good thing’ but there were concerns about how this would work in practice. Examples of limited or no community engagement were highlighted that had resulted in some communities feeling that decisions or changes in direction took place without their knowledge. There was substantial support for local place plans to be developed by communities to become me part of the local development plan, though questions were asked about how community groups could be resourced to do this. The theme throughout from across the floor of the chamber was to make sure that planning was undertaken with people rather than to them.

This also led to discussion about introducing third party rights of appeal. A number of MSPs seemed attracted to this and more were keen to explore the advantages and disadvantages in more detail.  Others – including Planning Minister Kevin Stewart – didn’t see the value and were concerned that it would lead to a centralisation of decision-making. There was also discussion about having no appeals whatsoever in the planning process.

There was also general agreement about the need to better link community planning and spatial planning as this could help to better join up how a place developed physically with the services that were provided for that area. As part of this there was discussion on the need to ensure that the right levels of infrastructure were provided when approving planning applications. A number of MSPs spoke about the need to ensure that house builders to make sure that provision was made for schools, doctor surgeries, health facilities and hospitals.

The need to resource the planning service has also highlighted by a number of MSPs and RTPI Scotland research was quoted outlining that between 2010 and 2015, around 20% of posts were lost from planning departments in Scotland; that on average only 0.63% of local authority budgets were used directly for planning functions; and that currently 63% of the costs of processing a planning application are recovered by the fee charged.

There were mixed views on the proposal for a 10 year development plan, with the positives being seen as a long term strategy providing certainty for communities, developers and investors. There were concerns however about how flexible they can be and how they could respond to change. It was also pointed out that if they were to provide a long term vision it was imperative that communities and others were fully engaged in the developing the plan.

It was also interesting to hear MSPs call for planners to make better use of technology in terms of visualisation of proposals and to use planning to facilitate broadband and other new technologies across the country.

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.

Blog: My planning manifesto for 2017

Stefano Smith

Stefano Smith

RTPI Scotland convenor Stefano Smith sets out his plans for 2017

In response to the RTPI Scotland director Craig McLaren’s look back at the important things that have happened in Scottish planning in 2016, and my thoughts as to what may be a pivotal year in planning in Scotland this year, I have framed my manifesto for 2017 accordingly. My theme is to promote planners as ‘visionaries’, ‘facilitators’ and ‘enablers’ in creating great places and sustainable communities.


I will highlight the important role that planners have as visionaries that ensure we have a positive and proactive ‘routemap’ and process that allow us to work with others to create great places for people across Scotland.

Key to taking this forward is building upon RTPI Scotland’s work on Repositioning Planning and feeding in to the consultation to be published by Scottish Government.


I will promote continued inter-professional working and collaboration in Scotland with other built environment organisations including, for example, Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland (CIH), Institute of Civil Engineers Scotland (ICE), Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Scotland (RICS), Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation Scotland (CIHT).  We have already done much work on this, but it will become even more important as we move towards a new planning system.

RTPI manifesto 2017Enablers

I will work to put planners at the forefront of promoting approaches to infrastructure delivery through the planning system in Scotland. This will involve delivering infrastructure through policy, individual projects, funding mechanisms and managing risk.


Key to achieving this will be engaging with RTPI Scotland members and key stakeholders.  Given this, I have set myself some targets for the year:

  1. To increase @ConvenorRTPIS twitter followers from approximately 840 to 1000.
  2. To attend an event in each of the seven RTPI Scotland Chapters (including joint events) in Central Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway, East of Scotland, South East Scotland, Grampian, Highlands and Islands & West of Scotland.
  3. To visit each of the four accredited planning schools in Scotland (Heriot Watt University, University of Dundee, University of Glasgow & University of Strathclyde).

I will be using the hashtag #weneedaplan throughout the year so please feel free to use this when tweeting. You can contact me on @ConvenorRTPIS or scotland@rtpi.org.uk.