New Planning Consultation Launched in Scotland

Proposals are designed to speed up the Scottish planning system but experts are divided on the potential benefits

This week (10 January 2017) the Scottish Government published a consultation on its proposals which are designed to reform the Scottish planning system and “support economic growth, delivery of houses and increase community involvement in planning decisions”.

The 20 proposals are a result of recommendations published last year in an independent review which suggested that a National Planning Framework should replace development plans. The new consultation focuses on four key areas:

  • Making plans for the future
  • People make the system work
  • Building more homes and delivering infrastructure
  • Stronger leadership and smarter resourcing

If successful, the new changes will include promoting self-builds, removing the need for planning permission for certain developments, and zoning more land for housing. The consultation is also seeking views on how best to allow communities to produce plans for their area. The Scottish Government believes this will put people at the heart of housing.

The Scottish Government’s Planning Minister, Kevin Stewart, said:

We need a strong and efficient system to support these aims and for long-term economic growth. I believe these proposals will mean we are better placed to make high quality development happen sooner and in the right places

The initial response to the proposals has been positive, with the Royal Town Planning Institute Scotland Convenor, Stefano Smith, agreeing that the proposals to remove the need to apply for planning permission for certain small developments, and exploring the issue of zoning, could help free up resources and give planners more time to develop high quality developments.

However, there have been some questions over the direction of travel with the proposals. Gary McGovern, a partner at Pinsent Masons’ planning department, raised concerns that any positives achieved by the proposals would be offset by the new and more complicated processes, meaning that Scotland might end up with a different system that is not necessarily an improvement on its predecessor.

Striking the right balance between cutting red-tape to facilitate economic growth and the delivery of new housing, and ensuring that local community stakeholders have a say in what new development takes place in their areas is a challenge across the UK.  It remains to be seen whether the new proposals put out to consultation by the Scottish government will provide a much-needed solution, or simply exacerbate an ongoing problem.

The consultation closes on the 4th of April 2017, with a planning bill expected to be tabled in Holyrood later this year.


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