Scottish Labour set to vote against Planning Bill

Scottish Labour has said that it will vote against the Planning (Scotland) Bill at its final stage today, warning that it has become “a missed opportunity to deliver transformative change”.

Scottish Labour set to vote against Planning Bill

The party has been pushing for amendments that it said would rebalance power in the planning system, and give communities a right of appeal with developers to level the playing field and make the system fairer. 

But it warned that the SNP and Scottish Conservatives are preparing to block a community right of appeal and remove key changes made by MSPs at Stage 2. 

 Scottish Labour had pushed for amendments to:

  • Give communities a right of appeal on proposed developments
  • Secure more protections for live music venues 
  • Require the Scottish Government to legislate for land value capture and allow for more public sector led development
  • Put public health at the heart of the planning system

Scottish Labour has accused SNP and Tory MSPs of “siding with big developers” and said it will be unable to support the legislation in its current form.

Communities spokesperson Alex Rowley said: “As it stands, the Planning Bill has become an SNP-Tory stitch up which fails to deliver transformative change for our communities.

“The SNP has teamed up with the Tories to push through their timid approach to planning reform. 

“It’s a shameful missed opportunity. SNP Ministers have failed to read the public mood on planning, and have chosen to side with big developers over ordinary communities.

“Regretfully, without the changes required to ensure the Bill delivers a planning system which works in the interests of the many, Scottish Labour will vote against the Planning Bill at Stage 3.”

Clare Symonds of Planning Democracy added: “We are deeply disappointed by this Bill, which has been a huge missed opportunity to transform the way we do planning. Scotland needs to take a different approach to development to tackle key issues such as the climate emergency. However this Bill reinforces a business as usual approach that continues to exclude communities and won’t transform development in the ways that we urgently need to.

“The planning review acknowledged that the planning system has not yet been effective at engaging communities let alone empowering them. There were strong words from politicians at stage 2 demanding that ‘real people’ should be put at the heart of the planning system. Yet Local Place Plans and mediation have been put forward as alternatives to a right of appeal.

“They are the latest sweetener for communities to coat the bitter pill that is a planning bill that has nothing to offer in terms of citizen empowerment. In a system that affords communities no rights and no status they will do nothing to empower communities, indeed they stand to create yet further public mistrust and disillusionment in a system that strongly favours the development industry.”

However Scottish Conservatives MSP Graham Simpson has successfully lodged an amendment to the Bill which he said would ensure more community engagement within the planning process.

The amendment to introduce mediation aims to ensure that developers and members of the public could discuss and listen to any concerns surrounding new developments.

Mr Simpson said “I was keen to find a solution to the vexed question of people feeling cut out of the planning system.

“We have a system where applicants of larger developments hold meaningless, poorly advertised and poorly attending so-called community meetings ahead of putting in applications. I thought, there must be a better way – something that’s part of the process and not a fight at the very end of it.

“I want to see changes that put people – real people, not stakeholders, not the vested interests – but real people at the heart of the planning system. I believe that mediation – and we have to work out the details of that through consultation – will achieve just that.

“Planning is controversial. You are never going to get rid of all disagreement. But we can have a better system. One where everyone is involved in shaping communities to everyone’s benefit. I believe this is part of that solution.”

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