‘Ambitious’ programme of planning reform welcomed by builders

Tammy Adams
Tammy Adams

Industry body Homes for Scotland (HFS) has welcomed the Scottish Government’s response to the report of the independent planning review panel, praising its commitment to strengthening and simplifying the planning system to achieve positive outcomes for Scotland, including the delivery of more homes.

The response sets out ten ‘immediate actions’ which will be taken forward as a priority, as well as a programme of longer-term collaborative work to define the scope of wider reform.

A White Paper will be published for consultation in Autumn / Winter 2016, enabling a Planning Bill to be brought forward in 2017.

Head of planning, Tammy Adams, said: “Having been encouraged by the ambitious nature of the 48 recommendations previously made by the independent panel appointed to undertake the ‘root and branch’ review, we are pleased to see the Scottish Government maintaining the momentum of this work, both in pace and tone.

“The programme that has now been outlined provides an excellent opportunity for HFS and other key stakeholders to work collaboratively with the Scottish Government to ensure this next set of planning reforms achieves real results. For us, the over-arching priority is clearly on ensuring we can fully meet the need and demand for new homes of all tenures across Scotland. That requires a planning system which prioritises and enables the delivery of significantly more homes on the ground, not just on paper. The ‘immediate actions’ could provide a good start on that, if we get the details right.

“Looking ahead to the consultation on the White Paper later this year, we are particularly keen to see what detail will be added to the proposal for a new approach to planning for and delivering infrastructure, and the welcome but undefined hook for ‘new tools to assist housing delivery’. We would particularly welcome early discussions on these very important topics.

“This review provides a genuine opportunity to create a planning system, and more importantly a working culture, that delivers enough new homes for our growing population. We remain committed to playing a full and constructive part in that, and in supporting the Scottish Government across the full range of emerging work streams.”

RTPI Scotland and the Scottish Property Federation have also welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement which follows a report of the independent planning review panel led by Crawford Beveridge, Petra Biberbach, and former Scottish Property Federation chair, John Hamilton.

Pam Ewen, immediate past convenor at RTPI Scotland, said: “We are pleased to see the Scottish Government building on the momentum of the independent planning review. It is especially encouraging to see our objectives, highlighted in our evidence to the review, strongly reflected in the Minister’s aspirations for a reformed planning system.

“The Scottish Government clearly shares our ambition for a pro-active and delivery focused planning system, which results in the high quality homes and infrastructure that Scotland needs.

“It is very positive that the Minister emphasises the role of collaboration in achieving this. This means collaboration not just between those currently involved in planning, but extending across Ministerial portfolios. To achieve its potential, it is essential that spatial planning is a priority corporate function of Government at all scales, and working across portfolios will help to achieve this.

“Collaboration will lead to a greater understanding of the potential of planning, while realising this potential means resourcing planning properly. We therefore welcome the Scottish Government’s intention to consult on enhanced planning fees, and to work with Planning Authorities and the RTPI on maximising skills and resources.

“This is an opportunity to maximise the efficiency of our planning system and for our profession to help shape that change. Many of the immediate actions within the report are focused on simplifying the planning system, addressing skills, resources and fees and the intention not to introduce extended rights of appeal.

“Whether the White Paper will set out game changers as initially envisaged remains to be seen. The infrastructure challenge facing the country in particular is an area which requires fundamental review. We will not see the new homes that we need built unless we prioritise the infrastructure that is essential to support them. An approach to infrastructure delivery is expected to be included within the White Paper. The RTPI Scotland therefore looks forward to working with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders to establish how we will deliver the planning system and the infrastructure that a modern Scotland demands.”

The Scottish Property Federation, which contributed evidence to the planning review, also welcomed the Scottish Government’s response.

Mandy Catterall, government relations manager at the Scottish Property Federation, added: “The recommendations in the report offer a strong focus on a planning service that delivers positive outcomes for communities, public leadership and securing investment. We look forward to engaging collaboratively with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders on the proposed work programmes and the development of more detailed proposals for the recommendations contained in the review.

“Our sector is a key catalyst for jobs, investment and creating places for people to live, work and play and we need to work together if we are to sustain the economy and investment in Scotland. The priority in Scotland must remain on growing the economy and securing investment to deliver the infrastructure our businesses and communities need. We must act swiftly to get the message around that Scotland is open for business.”

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