Labour regrets decision
Building groups relief over third party planning verdict
Building trade bodies have welcomed a Scottish government committee’s decision to resist calls for a third party right of appeal on planning verdicts.
However, Labour MSPs and a campaign group accused SNP members of the parliament’s Local Government & Communities Committee of ignoring communities in favour of big developers.
Industry groups said the decision would help speed up planning decisions and that the planning bill would enable developers and communities to work together.
The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Scotland’s convenor Fraser Carlin said: “The Planning Bill is a great opportunity to put communities at the heart of deciding how places will change. We believe the way to do this is through supporting people to engage early and meaningfully in plans and decision making.
“The proposals considered by the committee would have entrenched confrontation when we need collaboration between everyone with an interest in our built and natural environment. They would have Ied to more local decisions being made by central government at a time when we want to give communities more say over the places where they live.
“And they would have allowed competing commercial interests to frustrate development and potentially pit one part of a community against another.”
“The proposals would also have put immense strain on planning departments who are already under severe resourcing pressures.
“When the Bill moves to Stage 3, we want to see further amendments to make sure that the tools and resources are in place to support proactive and positive public involvement in planning.”
Industry body Homes for Scotland (HFS) warned that despite the committee’s decision “uncertainty” remains over what will happen at the next stage of the bill.
Tammy Swift-Adams, HFS director of planning said, “Scotland’s planning and development communities have been on tenterhooks, waiting to see whether populism or pragmatism would win out in the debate on planning appeal rights.
“Whilst the amendments which concerned us most have been voted down for now, uncertainty remains as to what will happen at Stage 3 when the Bill is debated by the full parliament. Much work remains to be done as the Bill’s progress continues.
“Homes for Scotland will continue to work with MSPs and other stakeholders to help shape a planning system that delivers what the country needs, including what the review set out to facilitate: significantly more homes.
“Politicians of all parties have agreed this is a top priority. Changing appeal rights would have the opposite effect, cutting off a small but vital source of housing supply.
“Substantial evidence has already been submitted on why this is the case and why it would not only exacerbate the housing crisis but also damage the Scottish economy and risk jobs.
“Fairness in planning doesn’t hinge on who has access to appeal rights, but on what the planning system succeeds in delivering. It is clear, however, that more constructive and trust-building ways of positively engaging people in planning must be found.”
Scottish Labour regretted the committee’s decision and accused it of backing big developers over local communities.
Scottish Labour amendments to the Planning Bill would have provided a new community right of appeal along with restrictions on developer appeals. Scottish Labour argues this would improve public confidence in the planning system and address concerns that ‘lip service’ is paid to communities.
Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon said: “It’s deeply unfair that communities have zero rights to challenge planning decisions about the future of their areas, yet developers have a direct line to the Scottish Government, as I’ve seen with the Whitehill incinerator in my own area.
“Scottish Labour wants to level the playing field and our plan would have given communities more rights, in line with the government’s own community empowerment agenda, so it is deeply disappointing that the SNP has voted down measures to make the planning system fairer.
“SNP Ministers have failed to read the public mood on planning, but Scottish Labour has been listening and we will continue to work with communities across the country to bring back these proposals at the next stage of the Bill to ensure that we have a planning system which works in the interests of the many and not the few.
Clare Symonds, founder and chair of Planning Democracy, added:“Clearly we are deeply disappointed that the amendments calling for equal rights of appeal put forward by Scottish Labour and the Green Party haven’t been supported.
“It is a sad day for democracy, not to mention the many communities all over Scotland who been campaigning for so long to bring about a fairer planning system. As it stands there is little for communities to celebrate in this bill.
“We hope that as it progresses to the final stages of the legislative process, politicians will show more support for Equal Rights of Appeal and help deliver a more progressive and inclusive planning system than is currently proposed.”