Planning (Scotland) Bill Stage 1 Report

A summary of the Local Government & Communities Committee recommendations in relation to the BEFS written and oral evidence.

BEFS welcomes the report from the Local Government & Communities Committee and below looks at the recommendations in relation to BEFS written and oral evidence.

Planning Purpose: The Committee recommends a purpose for planning be included in the Bill to “reflect the ambition to create high quality places, to protect and enhance the environment, to meet human rights to housing, health and livelihoods, to create economic prosperity and to meet Scotland’s climate change goals and international obligations.” BEFS strongly supports such a definition having recommended alignment with UN Sustainable Development Goals.

National Planning Framework/Scottish Planning Policy: It supports the merging of NPF and SPP but wishes SPP to be made explicit in the Bill. It recommends Parliamentary approval be required for the NPF and any amendments. The committee does not support the withdrawal of statutory regional planning “unless a more robust mechanism is provided to that currently proposed in the Bill.” BEFS submission stated for the need for regional planning to have a statutory basis or local authority funds would easily be diverted.

Supplementary Guidance: It seeks further clarification from the Scottish Government on how matters which were previously the subject to statutory supplementary guidance should now be articulated and given sufficient weight to ensure development is in accordance with an authority’s plan. BEFS Members had strong concern on the loss of supplementary guidance.

Local Place Plans: The Committee is concerned that Local Place Plans will privilege already empowered communities resulting in widened inequality and is unconvinced that enough resource is available to support their creation – “as things stand the proposals for LPPs run the risk of being disregarded or ineffective.”

Appeals: It does not think the Bill addresses the imbalance in between applicants and communities within the planning system and while not wholly recommending equal rights of appeal does seem to be suggesting a higher threshold is introduced for applicant appeals. The committee “urge the Scottish Government to look at these issues before Stage 2” – BEFS flagged the need for robust research on this topic early on the review of the planning system.

Simplified Development Zones: It recommends that Simplified Development Zones are part of the NPF and LDP and should only be proposed by planning authorities and Scottish Government with full public consultation. They acknowledge the Minister’s commitment to amend the Bill at Stage 2 to identify the types of land that may not be included in an SDZ scheme – BEFS has a preference for designated areas (eg conservation areas) to be excluded.

Infrastructure Levy/Land Value Capture: The Committee notes the ongoing research on infrastructure levy and land value capture and seeks timetables and clarification on details to be laid before Parliament. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore Land Value Capture options at BEFS forthcoming event on Thursday 31st May 2018.

Enforcement: While welcoming increased fines in relation to enforcement the committee asks that Scottish Government ensure planning authorities are properly resourced to take action – planning departments being properly resourced is an issue for many proposals within the Planning Bill.

Training: It does not support mandatory training for Councillors on planning committees but recommends that training should be available as CPD and include: community engagement, equalities and human rights duties; challenges in urban and rural settings, environmental and sustainability duties – arguably “environmental” includes the historic environment but it would be good to see that referenced. Alternatively, it recommends that all decision- takers in planning should be subject to the same training requirements – potentially applying to all Councillors and Scottish Ministers.