Trust welcomes Planning Democracy conference

John Muir Trust joins special conference called by campaigning charity Planning Democracy.

The John Muir Trust joined a wide range of environmental and community organisations from across Scotland in Glasgow Trades Hall on 25 April at a special conference called by the campaigning charity Planning Democracy.

The conference 'Planning: The People’s Perspective' focused on the growing clamour from communities and environmental charities for an overhaul of the Scottish planning system to allow for ‘Equal Rights of Appeal’.

As things stand, developers have the right to challenge a decision by a planning authority which they disagree with – a privilege denied to those objecting to a development.

Helen McDade of the John Muir Trust said: “The conference marks a further milestone in the campaign for a fair planning system in Scotland.

“Those objecting to a developments – whether an incinerator, a wind farm, an open-cast mine or a major housebuilding programme – have no redress other than to take legal action, which is prohibitively expensive for most groups. In contrast developers have an automatic right appeal if their application is rejected.

“This is fundamentally unfair, and it is to the credit of Planning Democracy that they have managed to pull together a diverse coalition of groups to call for level playing field.”

The Trust itself is currently involved in a judicial review against the 67-turbine Stronelairg wind farm in the heart of the Monadhliath Mountains, which could involve legal costs running to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The Trust has also given support and financial backing to Sustainable Shetland, which recently lost a judicial review against the giant Viking Wind Farm proposed for Shetland.

“We believe the Shetland example illuminates a wider problem with the system,” says Helen McDade. “Shetland Council is joint developer with a huge stake in the Viking Wind Farm application. Hardly surprisingly, they failed to object to an application in which they had a major financial interest. This meant there was no obligation on the Scottish Government to hold a Public Local Inquiry.

“And when the government approved the application, those in the community objecting to the application had no right of appeal. Thus the biggest the wind farm north of the Central Belt was approved with no opportunity for public scrutiny.

“The John Muir Trust believes that there can be no social or environmental justice until communities and environmental charities have the same rights as developers.”

Planning Democracy website