Campaigners call for better equality in planning

Over 80 groups write to Scottish Government Minister calling for amendments to the Planning Bill to give communities a greater say

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Read an open letter to Kevin Stewart, Minister for Local Government & Housing, co-ordinated by campaigning organisation Planning Democracy and signed by 87 organisations, community councils and groups, including the John Muir Trust. The letter calls for better equality in planning. The letter was published in The Herald on 27 May.

Kevin Stewart
Minister for Local Government & Housing
Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

27 May 2018

Dear Minister

Delivering a fairer planning system for Scotland’s communities

We are writing to urge you to strengthen the Planning Bill by putting forward proposals to deliver a fairer planning system for Scotland that empowers our communities of place and interest.

We wholeheartedly agree that the places we live and work are key to our identity and wellbeing. Scotland is our land, it defines us and gives us a sense of identity. The way it is developed is hugely important to us all. We want to build a strong and successful nation, but this aspiration can only be realised if our planning system is fair and inclusive.

Research conducted by the Scottish Government demonstrates clearly that there is a significant lack of public confidence in planning. It is therefore imperative that amendments are introduced to the Planning Bill to give communities a greater say and better rights over how Scotland is developed in future and restore our trust in the planning system.

Collectively, we, the signatories to this letter have been involved in all aspects of planning, including the preparation of local and strategic development plans across Scotland and responding to planning applications. The one key emerging theme from our collective experience is that people feel very strongly that there is a need to change the current planning system which leaves them feeling disempowered and disregarded, particularly with respect to rights of appeal.

The fact that applicants can appeal when planning permission is refused but communities have no such right of appeal against a decision to allow development, no matter what the impact on their lives and environment, is viewed as one of the most unfair and inequitable aspects of planning.

Despite consistent calls from communities throughout Scotland for appeal rights to be considered the issue was not debated during the planning review and did not become part of the Planning Bill. This is a source of considerable disappointment to community groups and others who see the value of a balanced system of planning, where both developers and communities have equal rights to influence decision-making.

The Planning Bill is a once in a generation opportunity to consider the positive benefits of community appeals. We firmly believe that providing people with equal rights can help to build a stronger, more effective planning system that commands public trust. Equalizing appeal rights will encourage more positive and early engagement in planning, ensure stronger and better planning decisions and provide strong incentives to deliver appropriate development in keeping with the aspiration for a plan led system. A system of planning that allows communities to appeal decisions is a reflection of strong and democratic governance and public confidence in that system is far more likely to thrive.

We urge the Scottish Government to reconsider their stance on Equal Rights of Appeal and bring planning in line with the spirit of a fairer Scotland and community empowerment initiatives, which aim to really empower communities to protect and nurture their local environments.

Yours sincerely

Midlothian Federation of Community Councils; Edinburgh Association of Community Councils; Professor Mark Stephens Save Our Landscapes (Lanark); Granton & District Community Council; North Edinburgh Fights Back; Professor Emeritus Sir Thomas M Devine, The University of Edinburgh; Save East Linton From Excessive Expansion; Cluny, Midmar & Monymusk Community Council; South West (Edinburgh) Communities Forum; Monklands Residents Against Pyrolysis Plant; Brightons Community Council; Polmont Community Council; Reddingmuirhead & Wallacestone Community Council; Save Woodhall & Faskine Greenbelt; Professor Michael Pacione; Blackness Community Council; Leith Links Community Council; Friends of Burghlee Park Midlothian; Cockburn Association; Tollcross Community Council (Edinburgh); Community Action North, Edinburgh; Pencaitland Community Council, East Lothian; Strathblane Community Council; Dumgal Against Pylons; Dumfries and Galloway Biofuelwatch; John Muir Trust; Clyde River Action Group; Duneaton Community Council (South Lanarkshire); Kilmacolm Residents Association; Culter Community Council; Sustainable Shetland; Fairlie Community Council; Save Meadowbank Campaign; Jackton and Thorntonhall Community Council; Scone North Study Group; Scotland Against Spin; Ceres and District Community Council; Cupar and North Fife Preservation Society; Stop Scolty Redevelopment, Aberdeenshire; Scottish Wild Land Group; Grassmarket Residents Association; Dunbar Community Council; West Barns Community Council; Charlestown, Limekilns and Pattiesmuir Community Council; Halfway Community Council in Cambuslang East; Save Bishopriggs Canal Greenspace; Canonbie and District Residents Association; Scottish Wildlife Trust; Thainstone Resident Group, Aberdeenshire; Frackwatch; Residents Against Greenbelt Erosion, Dunblane; Denny & District Community Council; Avonbridge & Standburn Community Council; Bonnybridge Community Council; Grangemouth (including Skinflats) Community Council; Maddiston Community Council; Shieldhill & California Community Council; Friends of the Earth Scotland; Woodland Trust Scotland; The Cairngorms Campaign; Froglife; Ramblers Scotland; Archaeology Scotland; Buglife; North Lanarkshire Greens; Group to Stop Development at Culloden; Leith Links Residents Association; RSPB; Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland; Not Coull (Coull Links campaign); The Pollokshields Trust; Pollokshields Community Council; Silverton & Overtoun Community Council; Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group; Protect Damhead’s Greenbelt; Save Jim’s Farm; North East Mountain Trust; Aberdour Community Council; Our Forth; Nick Kempe, Parkswatchscotland; Kirkton Community & Safety Partnership; Save Kingspark for the Community; Care for Caird; Kinross-shire Civic Trust; Stockbridge & Inverleith Community Council; Wallyford Community Council; Gilmerton Inch Community Council