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.”

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