‘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.

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