Rural Scotland ‘needs more focus’ within planning review

Katy Dickson
Katy Dickson

The independent review of the Scottish Planning System missed an opportunity to address important planning issues within the rural sector, according to Scottish Land & Estates and rural property specialist Savills.

Published last month, the review focused on six key themes - development planning; housing delivery; planning for infrastructure; development management; leadership, resourcing and skills; and community engagement, providing Scottish ministers with 48 recommendations.

While welcoming the majority of the review, the organisations bemoaned its lack of focus on specifically rural issues.

Katy Dickson, policy officer at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Scottish Land & Estates support the review group’s advice to refine the plan-led approach, with a greater focus on delivery through increased efficiency and collaboration. The highlighted need for innovative housing delivery is particularly welcome. We are concerned that the report does not address the particular planning issues found in rural areas but we look forward to working with Scottish Government to ensure these are addressed in any planning reform which comes from this report.”

Debbie Mackay, rural planning director at Savills, added: “The word ‘rural’ secures only two minor mentions in the whole report. In a country where around 90 per cent of the land mass is undeveloped, and which has some of the most remote and inaccessible communities in the whole of Europe, the vitality of rural areas must become a much greater priority for the Scottish Government. We still have an urban-centric planning style being inappropriately applied in many rural areas across Scotland. These proposed reforms do little to tackle the inequalities this approach creates.

“However on a more positive note, there is a strong sense of the need for action and significant change and the Panel seems to have grasped this. The cross references with the land reform agenda represents a welcome rebalancing following an over-focus within the debate on land ownership as the sole issue affecting delivery of housing development.

“The strong emphasis on the delivery of affordable housing is welcome, as is the encouragement of alternative models such as self-build. Planning alone won’t make this happen. The Government must encourage lending institutions to step up to the mark and produce funding arrangements which suit this less mainstream approach to housing.

“The delivery of infrastructure is a further clear and positive focus of these reforms.”

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