Trust calls for greater recognition of environment in planning system

Response to public consultation highlights need for equal rights of appeal

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In its response to the public consultation, closing 4 April 2017, on the future of the Scottish Planning System, the John Muir Trust has expressed its concern that the proposed package of reforms by the Scottish Government could lead to greater centralisation and further weight the system towards developers at the expense of communities (of both place and interest).

 The Trust has called for a greater recognition of the importance of protecting the natural environment when planning applications are considered.

As things stand, developers have the automatic right to appeal a decision by a planning authority, while no such mechanism is available to those objecting to a development. 

As a result, those objecting to a development – whether an open-cast mine, a wind farm, or a major housebuilding programme ­– have no redress against a planning decision other than to take legal action, which is prohibitively expensive for most groups. In contrast developers have an automatic right to appeal if their application is rejected.

Helen McDade Head of Policy for the John Muir Trust said: “Although the overall package of reforms includes proposals of merit, we have expressed concern on several key points.

“While we welcome the ambition to have local place plans and early community engagement with applications, we believe that some form of Equal Rights of Appeal is essential to redress what is a serious imbalance in the planning system in favour of developers.

“There can be no environmental or social justice until communities and environmental charities have the same rights as developers.”

“We are also disappointed that there is virtually no mention in the consultation paper on the need to consider the wider environment.

“The Trust would like to see Environmental Impact Assessments still paid for by the developer, but commissioned by the local authority, or by an appropriate public body such as Scottish Natural Heritage where for example there may be a significant impact on the natural environment.”

Read the Trust response here