Scottish Government opens consultation on planning system modernisation
The Scottish Government has set out 20 proposals for revamping the system, which will support economic growth, delivery of houses and increase community involvement in planning decisions. They form a consultation which will pave the way for a planning bill to be brought forward this year.
The proposals build on recommendations of an independent review carried out by a panel of experts last year. Key changes include zoning more land for housing, promoting self-build and removing the need to apply for planning permission for more types of development. The consultation also seeks views on new rights for communities to produce their own plans for their local area.
Planning minister Kevin Stewart visited the Pennywell development in Edinburgh, where he launched the consultation. The project will deliver 719 new energy efficient homes for the area with 356 properties for affordable rent and 363 for private sale, and has been a catalyst for wider regeneration through providing infrastructure improvements, local investment, local jobs, training opportunities and community engagement.
He said: “Planning affects everyone’s lives, from making sure we have the right types of homes to driving forward regeneration.
“We need a strong and efficient system to support these aims and for long-term economic growth. I believe these proposals will mean we are better placed to make high quality development happen sooner and in the right places.
“I firmly believe that Scotland’s planners can lead the delivery of great places, empower communities and provide a stable environment for investment through the uncertain times we live in. I would encourage everyone with an interest in planning – developers and businesses, professionals and local authorities, communities and members of the public – to tell us what they think of our proposals for change.”
The Scottish Property Federation (SPF) described the government’s proposals to increase fees and resources significantly for major planning applications in Scotland as a major turning point for local authority planning services around the country.
Welcoming the news that the new fees are to remain competitive with like for like charges south of the border, the SPF said it would have liked to have seen greater certainty that additional resources released by the planning fees would be used for the purposes of improving the planning service in each local authority.
Paul Curran, chairman of the SPF, said: “It is important that we maintain our competiveness. To grow the economy, we must kick-start more development across the commercial and residential sectors.
“These significantly increased planning fees must lead to a significant improvement in the speed and manner that major applications are dealt with. The additional resources must be utilised to provide appropriate resources to deliver these critical improvements in the planning service.”
He added: “Modern major development is a very complex business involving a plethora of regulatory requirements, complicated finance and risk. Currently the development markets in Scotland are seeing low levels of activity across the country as a whole although there are some hot-spots such as Edinburgh’s St Andrew’s Square.”
The consultation, “Places, people and planning” runs until Tuesday 4 April, and can be accessed here.
The Scottish Government’s 20 proposals for revamping the planning system
- Aligning community planning and spatial planning. This can be achieved by introducing a requirement for development plans to take account of wider community planning and can be supported through future guidance.
- Regional partnership working. We believe that strategic development plans should be removed from the system so that strategic planners can support more proactive regional partnership working.
- Improving national spatial planning and policy. The National Planning Framework (NPF) can be developed further to better reflect regional priorities. In addition, national planning policies can be used to make local development planning simpler and more consistent.
- Stronger local development plans. We believe the plan period should be extended to 10 years, and that ‘main issues reports’ and supplementary guidance should be removed to make plans more accessible for people. A new ‘gatecheck’ would help to improve plan examinations by dealing with significant issues at an earlier stage.
- Making plans that deliver. We can strengthen the commitment that comes from allocating development land in the plan, and improve the use of delivery programmes to help ensure that planned development happens on the ground.
- Giving people an opportunity to plan their own place. Communities should be given a new right to come together and prepare local place plans. We believe these plans should form part of the statutory local development plan.
- Getting more people involved in planning. A wider range of people should be encouraged and inspired to get involved in planning. In particular, we would like to introduce measures that enable children and young people to have a stronger voice in decisions about the future of their places.
- Improving public trust. Pre-application consultation can be improved, and there should be greater community involvement where proposals are not supported in the development plan. We also propose to discourage repeat applications and improving planning enforcement.
- Keeping decisions local – rights of appeal. We believe that more review decisions should be made by local authorities rather than centrally. We also want to ensure that the system is sufficiently flexible to reflect the distinctive challenges and opportunities in different parts of Scotland.
- Being clear about how much housing land is required. Planning should take a more strategic view of the land required for housing development. Clearer national and regional aspirations for new homes are proposed to support this.
- Closing the gap between planning consent and delivery of homes. We want planning authorities to take more steps to actively help deliver development. Land reform could help to achieve this.
- Releasing more ‘development ready’ land. Plans should take a more strategic and flexible approach to identifying land for housing. Consents could be put in place for zoned housing land through greater use of Simplified Planning Zones.
- Embedding an infrastructure first approach. There is a need for better co-ordination of infrastructure planning at a national and regional level. This will require a stronger commitment to delivering development from all infrastructure providers.
- A more transparent approach to funding infrastructure. We believe that introducing powers for a new local levy to raise additional finance for infrastructure would be fairer and more effective. Improvements can also be made to Section 75 obligations.
- Innovative infrastructure planning. Infrastructure planning needs to look ahead so that it can deliver low carbon solutions, new digital technologies and the facilities that communities need.
- Developing skills to deliver outcomes. We will work with the profession to improve and broaden skills.
- Investing in a better service. There is a need to increase planning fees to ensure the planning service is better resourced.
- A new approach to improving performance. We will continue work to strengthen the way in which performance is monitored, reported and improved.
- Making better use of resources – efficient decision making. We will remove the need for planning consent from a wider range of developments. Targeted changes to development management will help to ensure decisions are made more quickly and more transparently.
- Innovation, designing for the future and the digital transformation of the planning service. There are many opportunities to make planning work better through the use of information technology. The planning service should continue to pioneer the digital transformation of public services.