81 May 2004 Reform of the Planning System
Scottish Executive's coalition agreement 'Partnership for a Better Scotland
' includes a number of commitments to reform the planning system. Planning delays
have also been criticised by developers and on the reverse side of the coin by
objectors who feel the system is not responsive to local concerns. In response
the Executive has published two consultation papers on development plans and third
party appeals. A Planning Bill is also likely later in this parliamentary session.
represents local authority planning staff. Other members have a direct interest
in the system such as infrastructure providers in the water and energy service
groups as well as a wider citizenship interest in promoting economic development
and protecting the environment. This briefing outlines the current consultations
and seeks views from members on the issues raised.
This consultation seeks views on the preparation of local
development plans (LDPs) across Scotland and the detailed arrangements for strategic
planning in the four main city regions.
Specifically, it seeks views on:
- Managing the plan process
- Consultation and engagement
of the plans
- Ensuring effective delivery
- Local development plans
and city region plans
The full consultation can be accessed on the
Scottish Executive website at:
paper argues there is a need to reform because development plans are often out
of date. Of 131 local plans 70% were adopted more than five years ago and 20%
are more than 15 years old. There appear to be a number of reasons for the delay
in completing plans, not least the many objections from developers promoting their
particular schemes. Local authorities are also moving towards single area plans
that are likely to halve the number of development plans.
There are also
increasing pressures on planning departments due to a 20% increase in the number
of planning applications. Staffing numbers have remained largely unchanged for
a decade and many departments are reporting staffing shortages. Despite this 83%
of applications are decided within a period of three months against a target of
85%. The reasons for delay are not always within the control of planning departments.
Poor applications, the need to reconcile differing community views and the increasing
complexity of planning are important factors.
Planners come under equal
pressure from developers who complain about a negative anti-development culture
and objectors seeking to block development 'in their backyard'. As always public
servants are caught in the middle!
Rights of Appeal in Planning
consultation seeks views on whether new rights of appeal should be created for
third parties. At present only applicants can appeal. And if so, how they might
operate in practice.
In particular, it seeks views on:
for widening rights of appeal, extending rights to third parties, the role of
Scottish ministers and the impact on the workload of planning authorities. The
full consultation can be accessed on the Scottish Executive website at:
addition to this consultation, Sandra White MSP has a private members bill on
the same issue. Other parliamentary activity includes motions from Donald Gorrie
MSP on vetting developers and providing a right of appeal for local authorities
against a Reporter's decision.
The supporters of third party appeals argue
that the current system is unbalanced in favour of developers allowing no recourse
for communities campaigning against unjust planning decisions. The focus of the
planning system is the relationship between local authorities and developers rather
than community groups and individuals. They point to the experience of Ireland
where only 2.6% of applications have been appealed, many only seeking a design
Those against third party appeals argue that it would add further
delays to the planning system, blocking essential economic development. The objectors
would in the main be the NIMBY groups, unrepresentative of their local communities.
It would also be undemocratic because councillors make these decisions as the
elected representatives of the community. It would significantly add to the costs
of development and place a further administrative burden on planning departments.
these two positions are polarised others argue for a middle way that includes
limited rights of appeal linked with other reforms to the system.
Branches should promote discussion of these issues and take
the opportunity to identify other concerns particularly from members closely involved
in the current system.
- What are the real problems facing members
in planning departments? Are they properly resourced, is the structure right,
are sufficient staff being attracted into the profession?
- What changes
to the development plans are necessary both to speed up the process and produce
- How can the consultation process be improved and what
is needed to deliver the plans?
- Can the application process be reformed
to create space for third party appeals or is the idea wrong in principle?
to Dave Watson at the P&I Team in UNISON House firstname.lastname@example.org
The government in England rejected third party appeals
but the House of Commons library produced a helpful summary of the arguments http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/rp2002/rp02-038.pdf
of the Earth http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/
for the case in favour of third party appeals.
The Royal Town Planning
are broadly against third party appeals.