Planning Democracy is urging the Scottish Government to consider fundamental reforms as part of its wide-ranging ‘Review of the Scottish Planning System’. Deadlines for submissions to the review closed on 1st December. As a charity set up to tackle systemic unfairness in Scottish planning we have set out a series of progressive proposals designed to redress the democratic deficit in planning processes.
We are concerned that the Planning Review may just streamline an already unbalanced system in favour of developers. Planning Democracy contends that measures are now urgently needed to ensure communities can shape developments in their local area and protect places from short-term, non-strategic and often low-quality development.
As part of our detailed response to the recently-appointed review panel, we at Planning Democracy make a number of recommendations, including:
- Stronger enforcement of planning decisions: to improve public confidence in the planning system.
- Introduce an Equal Right of Appeal – currently only developers have a right to appeal a planning decision. Planning Democracy contends the time is now right for Scotland to have an equal right of appeal for communities to rebalance the planning system.
- Improve public access to planning data, for example by creating an ‘opt-in register’ for pre-application consultations, making documents transparently available to all parties during the planning process, and videoing planning committee meetings
- Tackle ‘siege development’ by discouraging repeat applications that are designed to circumvent decisions previously taken by planning authorities
- Reinvigorate local democracy by securing better involvement of community councils in the planning process, eg via ‘Neighbourhood’ or ‘Community’ Plans
Clare Symonds, chair of Planning Democracy said: “The long-term societal benefits of high quality development are all-too-often an afterthought in the short-termist pursuit of economic growth. This review must not deliver a developer’s charter. The housing industry is profiting from unsustainable increases in land values, often at the expense of build and design quality and the wider health of communities. We have some constructive suggestions about how to change this and if they are taken on board we are confident communities across Scotland can reconnect with a fairer planning system.”
In October 2015, the Scottish Government announced a Review of the Scottish Planning System, open to ‘gamechanging views and ideas’ and sought responses by 1st December. A panel is expected to report in Spring 2016.
Planning Democracy has been invited to participate in a roundtable discussion on the Planning Review in February 2016. We will do our best to speak up on behalf of the many communities who we connect with as part of our research and campaigning. We also think it is vital that as many voices from across Scotland are given a chance to be heard directly during this process.
For an extended blog on some of our ideas for improving the planning system, please see: 12 ways the Government could fix planning in Scotland