White Paper Briefing
In P&I Briefing 81
we outlined the Scottish Executive's consultation proposals for
planning reform and the subsequent UNISON Scotland submission.
The Executive have considered the responses to that consultation
and published a White Paper. This will be followed by legislation.
This briefing sets out the main proposals in the White Paper and
UNISON Scotland's initial response.
Local government officers in particular note
the staffing implications. Expect more reorganisation - the reforms
are more radical than they may at first appear.
The White Paper sets out the Executive's plans for
Scotland's planning system. It recognises the central role of
planning in the delivery of a sustainable pattern of economic
growth, whilst protecting our most important natural assets. This
is addressed in a new hierarchy of development plans. It also
claims to respond to the need for improved opportunities for meaningful
public involvement in the planning system, highlighted by the
demands for third party right of appeal.
Hierarchy for Planning
It is argued that the current system is poorly focussed
and the system needs a hierarchy of plans to deal with different
types of development in different ways.
Under the new structure, proposed developments will
be processed and scrutinised depending upon whether they raise
issues of national, major, local or minor importance.
National Developments - those developments
that are considered to be of national, strategic importance will
be proposed and debated in the context of the next National Planning
Framework. Some are set out in existing national plans and might
include substantial water treatment or waste management installations
and strategically important transport links and facilities. The
need for these developments will be decided at a national level,
by Scottish Ministers and with the full involvement of Parliament.
Major Developments - large-scale
developments which are not national in importance, but are significant
in scale such as a shopping centre or large-scale housing development.
Planning authorities and developers will be able to put a processing
agreement in place, setting out timetables for processing the
application, and application fees will be increased. The existing
arrangements for appeals will apply, subject to the changes proposed
Local Developments - will, as now,
be a matter for Scotland's planning authorities. These include
smaller housing developments, commercial enterprises and some
householder developments. Councillors will continue to decide
upon controversial applications or those with a significant impact
on the area, with a right of appeal to the Scottish Ministers.
All other local applications will be determined by officers but
with a right of appeal, not to the Scottish Ministers as at present,
but to a local review body comprised of locally elected members.
Minor Developments - particularly
small-scale changes to single houses. The aim is to extend the
categories or number of developments that do not require planning
Plans will be simpler documents that take a long-term
view, identify sufficient land to meet the key needs of economic
growth and housing development and protect important natural and
built heritage resources. They will be the core documents against
which planning applications will be measured for determination.
a statutory requirement to update development
plans every five years;
a single tier of local development plans everywhere
apart from the four largest city regions; and
one proposed plan, replacing the present system
of different drafts.
Efficiency measures including:
encourage greater use of e-planning;
improving the way in which planning agreements
introducing standard planning application
reducing the time limit for appeals from six
months to three months.
The Executive has rejected the introduction of a
third party right of appeal and instead introduce a range of measures
to make the planning system more inclusive. They
new statutory requirements for pre-application
new procedures to ensure wide public participation
in the formulation of development plans, including notification
of key proposals to neighbours;
requiring more frequent use of hearings, allowing
local people to present their views on planning applications
before they are determined;
new procedures to assess whether local people
have been engaged effectively in the development plan process,
procedures to subject applications that do
not accord with the development plan to enhanced levels of
a new requirement for planning authorities
to give reasons for their decisions.
introducing early determination of appeals
that are not well founded.
limiting the right to introduce new evidence
to support the appeal.
Consequences for Planning Authorities
These changes will have significant consequences
for members in planning authorities. The White Paper assumes a
number of efficiency savings that will release resources for the
additional costs. There is a vague commitment to discuss the financial
impacts of the new system with local authorities.
There is a section in the White Paper on 'supporting'
planning authorities that includes a review of performance targets
and the audit programme. £2.25m has been allocated in the Planning
Development Budget to address skill gaps and training needs. A
common e-planning system is being prepared using the Efficient
UNISON Scotland Reaction
There is much in the White Paper that will be welcomed
by UNISON members. The recognition of the central role
of planning and the move to increase meaningful public involvement
without Third Party appeals. A key concern will be how far the
new structure undermines local democracy with further centralisation.
Is the agenda being driven by the demands of big business at the
expense of local accountability.
However, our main concern is that neighbour notification,
more hearings, pre-application consultation and broader public
involvement all have significant resource requirements on already
stretched planning departments. Given that local government has
not benefited from significant increases in government funding,
additional resources need to be made available. Without them the
White Paper cannot be implemented.
Action for Branches
The White Paper can be viewed at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2005/06/27113519/35231
and UNISON's submission to the consultation and initial reaction
at the UNISON Scotland website www.unison-scotland.org.uk.
Branches should consult members, particularly those
working in planning functions on the implications of the White
Paper. Comments should be forwarded to Dave Watson firstname.lastname@example.org
by 12 September 2005.
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