People Make The System Work
6. Giving people an opportunity to plan their own place.
We agree with the independent panel that a new right should be introduced for communities to plan their own place, and that those plans have the potential to form part of the statutory development plan. Proposals for the form this might take were set out in the consultation paper.
- There is strong support for this proposal, particularly from communities and the civic sector.
- There are also concerns about added time and complexity, the potential to reinforce rather than resolve conflict, and resource requirements. Many have called for additional resources, support and training.
- Many believe that the local development plan should set the framework for local place plans.
- There is agreement that community councils could play a role in co-ordinating local engagement, whilst recognising that their capacity and representative-ness is currently variable and that other bodies have a valuable role to play.
- There are also concerns that a higher level of involvement in local place plans could undermine our broader emphasis on stronger, upfront engagement in local development plans.
We remain committed to this proposal as an essential part of re-imagining the role of communities within the system. We agree that there is a need to ensure that local place plans are used to promote appropriate development rather than as a vehicle to prevent it. We also agree that the relationship with the wider development plan is crucial.
We are currently looking at how local place plans could best be designed to address concerns and achieve wider buy-in from all interests in planning. The following key issues will be addressed:
- We expect the Planning Bill to include proposals for local place plans that are consistent with the local development plan.
- We are minded to leave processes and procedures for their preparation as flexible as possible so that communities themselves can define the best way of doing this for their area.
- We will set out how local place plans should be incorporated into the local development plan through an update that still allows for wider public consultation and independent scrutiny.
- We also expect that future guidance, learning and practice will need to be clear that a right to plan brings with it responsibilities, including to deliver on agreed needs and essential infrastructure.
We recognise the widespread support for community councils being involved in preparation of the development plan scheme and are therefore minded to take this forward. We would want to ensure, however, that wider organisations, such as community development trusts, also have an important and positive role in helping to deliver change. Recognising the importance of stronger links with community planning, we will also look at the role of locality plans as part of this.
As well as legislative change, local place plans in particular will require guidance and support for effective implementation. As a starting point, this year's programme of design-led engagement ('charrettes') will explore the challenges and opportunities arising from local place plans in more detail.
7. Getting more people involved in planning.
We recognise that a wider range of people should get involved in planning and have suggested that in particular, the involvement of children and young people could be supported by future change. We recently published research on the barriers to engagement in planning, helping to deepen our understanding of the issues at play. In addition, a survey of children and young people, conducted by YoungScot, has shown a significant amount of existing engagement, upon which further proposals can be built.
- Many respondents welcome our proposals but are seeking further detail on what needs to be done to broaden engagement.
- Views on this vary between sectors, with strong support from community respondents, alongside concern from the development sector and some planning authorities about the value, time implications and resources required to achieve fuller engagement.
We intend to bring forward targeted changes to the existing requirements for engagement to ensure that children and young people are specifically encouraged to get more involved in planning. We are also considering how we can take forward the recommendations arising from the research, including steps needed to achieve a real shift away from consultation towards more meaningful community empowerment within the planning system.
Development plan schemes, and in particular participation statements, could play an important role in this and we will therefore look to strengthen the provisions for them in the legislation. We will also continue to explore the scope for community empowerment and capacity building which extends beyond the planning system.
8. Improving public trust.
We suggested a number of changes to improve trust in planning, including amended requirements for pre-application consultation ( PAC) for major and national developments; such as a requirement to provide feedback to communities following engagement, and asking whether there ought to be a time limit for submission of applications. We suggested removing the opportunity for applicants to submit a revised or repeat application at no cost if an application is refused, withdrawn or if an appeal is dismissed, and measures to strengthen enforcement. The need for training in community engagement, involving not only planning authorities but also the development sector was highlighted. As noted above, we also believe that development plan schemes could be used to secure stronger and more locally tailored approaches to engagement.
- There is strong support for these proposals from civil society respondents.
- Some feel that it is important that further requirements do not create greater conflict and uncertainty or slow down the system, arguing that current arrangements are sufficient.
- There are suggestions from across sectors that more could be done to clarify requirements and promote good practice in pre-application consultation.
- Views vary on the role of repeat applications, with developers expressing concern about loss of flexibility and increased costs, whilst communities continue to report that this can be a source of frustration and mistrust.
- Whilst there is a great deal of support for stronger enforcement, those who disagree argue that existing powers are under used, and that statutory change is not necessary.
We currently expect to progress these changes as proposed, given the role they could play in building trust in the planning system. We consider that most of these proposals can be taken forward through secondary legislation, although some changes may be needed in the Bill to ensure that Ministers' powers are sufficiently flexible.
9. Keeping decisions local - rights of appeal.
We suggested looking at the way that reviews and appeals are handled in the planning system, with the objective of keeping more decisions local.
- Views on these proposals are mixed and there appear to be significant concerns with some of the potential changes.
- Assigning further decisions directly to Ministers, rather than Reporters has limited support for different reasons, including potential for delays.
- There is strong consensus that the training of local elected members should be made mandatory.
- Concerns about the way in which local review bodies operate appear to be influencing the level of support for more local decisions.
- Views on charging fees for appeals are mixed with support from communities and planning authorities, but significant concerns from businesses and the development sector.
At this stage, we believe there is scope for some change, for example by looking at how minor developments such as advertisement consents are handled through to appeal. Opportunities for other types of consents to be reviewed locally may be more limited. We believe that more can be done through consistency in local schemes of delegation in order to encourage greater consistency as well as subsidiarity of decision making. Clear guidance and sharing of good practice could help to support this. There would also be merit in reviewing the effectiveness of local review bodies to explore lessons learned, share issues and solutions, and identify scope for future improvement. In the meantime no further legislative change is proposed. We do not intend to pursue the proposal for Ministers to take decisions more frequently, rather than Reporters. At this stage we do not propose to introduce fees for lodging either reviews or appeals.
We are exploring the scope for mandatory training for elected members who are serving on a planning committee or Local Review Body, potentially supported with testing. We have already offered financial support to planning authorities who are taking forward training following the May 2017 local elections.
Some respondents are disappointed that we are not considering introducing equal or third party rights of appeal. Others strongly support our position on this. Our view remains unchanged - we are convinced that stronger early engagement through the extensive measures set out above would be much more constructive. We will build on the existing strong provisions to involve people early in the planning process rather than at the end, and ensure that our system works for all, including those who want to invest in the quality of our places and our economy.
We have noted the positive comments received from authorities with islands on the proposals for greater subsidiarity to ensure planning better reflects their unique circumstances. We will continue to work with local authorities across Scotland to ensure local distinctiveness guides the level of flexibility required in the system. We will also continue to explore the role that a well-functioning planning system can play in contributing to the development of economic activity in rural Scotland and we will island proof the Planning Bill.
Email: Chris Sinclair, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House