Locals should have more of a say in planning

Friday May 18th 2018

Miller Homes Lady Victoria Grange site

A Holyrood Committee wants communities to have a stronger voice in planning what their neighbourhoods look like.

The Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee sets out recommendations to strengthen the Planning (Scotland) Bill in a report, while recognising that it has the potential to improve the planning process overall.

The Bill aims to streamline the system of development planning, support delivery of planned developments and includes a new right for communities to produce their own plans for their local areas called Local Place Plans.

Locally in Midlothian there is a large and growing interest in what is happening in the Planning system and the Midlothian Community Councils recently held a planning Seminar on 5th May that was attended by over 40 people, despite it being held on a Bank Holiday weekend and only giving 10 days notice.

Bill Kerr-Smith, Chair of Eskbank and Newbattle Community Council, said

“The message that communities deserve an Equal Right of Appeal is gaining acceptance amongst all parties in Holyrood, except the SNP, who still think that early engagement is the solution to our present planning blight. This has been tried for decades and if it was going to work it would have shown results by now.”

The key committee recommendations say:

– We call for the Bill to include a purpose for planning to provide greater certainty to communities and developers, and encourage more meaningful engagement on planning applications, Local Place Plans and Local Development Plans.

– While we welcome that planning authorities must “take account of” Local Place Plans, we are concerned that, without further support, disadvantaged communities will be considerably less likely to take advantage of Local Place Plans due to a lack of capacity, time and resources. This will widen inequality.

– We are concerned that the Bill proposals don’t go far enough to address planning frustrations felt by many communities. We believe that in a plan-led system, appeals should only be allowed in certain circumstances and we urge the Scottish Government to look at these issues.

– We recognise music venues make an important contribution to Scotland and it is unreasonable for those moving into a new development to complain about pre-existing noise levels. We recommend that Agent of Change – a principle that puts the onus on developers to mitigate pre-existing noise impacts – should be included within the Bill.

Local Government and Communities Committee Convener, Bob Doris MSP, said:

“Planning impacts every aspect of our lives. It decides where our homes are built, where our children go to school and how we use our outdoor spaces.

“Over the past few months, we have taken evidence on Scotland’s new approach to planning and while we consider this Bill has the potential to improve our lives, we have also outlined a number of ways it can be strengthened.

“A clear theme running through our report is the importance of empowering communities to have a meaningful say on the kind of place they want to live in. Communities being able to help shape their area by working with planning authorities early on makes for better places.

“It remains the case that more disadvantaged communities could lose out on shaping their local areas because of a lack of money, time and capacity, which we think may widen inequality. That’s why we’ve called for communities to be supported so that planning works for everyone.”

Commenting on the Agent of Change principle, Convener Bob Doris MSP said:

“We all have fond memories of visiting local music venues and hearing emerging new talents. Music venues are an incredibly valuable part of many communities and make an important contribution to the cultural life and economy of Scotland.

“We think it is unreasonable for those moving into a new development to be able to complain about pre-existing noise levels, which can result in music venues closing their doors because it’s too costly to mitigate that noise. That’s why we want to see the Agent of Change principle included within the Planning Bill.”

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