Government accused of overturning too many local planning decisions

Graham Simpson
Graham Simpson

Scottish Government officials have been accused of meddling in local democracy after new figures revealed they overrule councils on planning appeals as often as they side with them.

Statistics have shown that 209 planning appeals from developers were allowed by central decision makers between January and November 2016, compared with 209 which were dismissed.

The research by the Scottish Conservatives shows that, in the same period in 2015, there were 214 appeals dismissed by the Scottish Government, with just 169 allowed.

The applications range from significant windfarm projects to individual building applications.

Scottish Conservative local government spokesman, Graham Simpson, said that despite SNP assurances that it believes in more devolution for councils, the statistics show the party is becoming ever more likely to make decisions in Edinburgh.

He said: “It’s right that there is an appeals route for planning decisions, and of course there will be occasions where applications have to be looked at again.

“But these figures show SNP ministers have become control freaks, and care little about local democracy.

“The message here to developers is don’t worry if your planning application is unpopular locally and rejected by the council, because you have a Scottish Government in Edinburgh just as likely to vote the other way.

“The SNP never stops talking about more powers, but it seems to want to take them from both directions.

“If anything, local authorities should be given more control, not have ministers breathing down their neck on any planning application which goes to appeal.”

The Scottish Government dismissed the criticism, saying that in most cases decisions were made by independent reporters.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “These figures are entirely erroneous.

“The right to appeal to Scottish ministers against certain decisions made by planning authorities is contained in legislation.

“Independent reporters decide the vast majority of these appeals and are required, as is the case for all planning applications and appeals, to make the decision in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.”

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