Sector welcomes government ambition for ‘stronger, simpler planning system’

Pam Ewen
Pam Ewen

RTPI Scotland and the Scottish Property Federation have welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement that it will seek to simplify and strengthen the planning system with a White Paper later this year and a Planning Bill in 2017.

Scottish Ministers yesterday published their response to the report of the independent planning review panel led by Crawford Beveridge, Petra Biberbach, and former Scottish Property Federation chair, John Hamilton.

Building on the work of the panel, the Scottish Government said it has identified 10 immediate actions including:

  • Extending permitted development rights – where planning permission is not needed - to more types of development. This could mean removing uncontroversial minor developments from the system, as well as using permitted development to encourage developments which support low carbon living and digital infrastructure.
  • Strengthening skills and capacity, and consulting on enhanced fees to ensure planning authorities are better resourced to deliver more homes.
  • Improving planning performance, ensuring users of the system receive a better service.

  • Introducing pilot simplified planning zones for housing, so that planning permission is granted for housing up front, allowing developments to progress more quickly and flexibly.
  • Identifying how digital transformation of the planning service can be taken to another level, using tools including the web and 3D visualisations to make information about how our places will evolve over time much easier to access and understand.
  • Pam Ewen, immediate past convenor at RTPI Scotland, said: “We are pleased to see the Scottish Government building on the momentum of the independent planning review. It is especially encouraging to see our objectives, highlighted in our evidence to the review, strongly reflected in the Minister’s aspirations for a reformed planning system.

    “The Scottish Government clearly shares our ambition for a pro-active and delivery focused planning system, which results in the high quality homes and infrastructure that Scotland needs.

    “It is very positive that the Minister emphasises the role of collaboration in achieving this. This means collaboration not just between those currently involved in planning, but extending across Ministerial portfolios. To achieve its potential, it is essential that spatial planning is a priority corporate function of Government at all scales, and working across portfolios will help to achieve this.

    “Collaboration will lead to a greater understanding of the potential of planning, while realising this potential means resourcing planning properly. We therefore welcome the Scottish Government’s intention to consult on enhanced planning fees, and to work with Planning Authorities and the RTPI on maximising skills and resources.

    “This is an opportunity to maximise the efficiency of our planning system and for our profession to help shape that change. Many of the immediate actions within the report are focused on simplifying the planning system, addressing skills, resources and fees and the intention not to introduce extended rights of appeal.

    “Whether the White Paper will set out game changers as initially envisaged remains to be seen. The infrastructure challenge facing the country in particular is an area which requires fundamental review. We will not see the new homes that we need built unless we prioritise the infrastructure that is essential to support them. An approach to infrastructure delivery is expected to be included within the White Paper. The RTPI Scotland therefore looks forward to working with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders to establish how we will deliver the planning system and the infrastructure that a modern Scotland demands.”

    The Scottish Property Federation, which contributed evidence to the planning review, also welcomed the Scottish Government’s response.

    Mandy Catterall, government relations manager at the Scottish Property Federation, added: “The recommendations in the report offer a strong focus on a planning service that delivers positive outcomes for communities, public leadership and securing investment. We look forward to engaging collaboratively with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders on the proposed work programmes and the development of more detailed proposals for the recommendations contained in the review.

    “Our sector is a key catalyst for jobs, investment and creating places for people to live, work and play and we need to work together if we are to sustain the economy and investment in Scotland. The priority in Scotland must remain on growing the economy and securing investment to deliver the infrastructure our businesses and communities need. We must act swiftly to get the message around that Scotland is open for business.”

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