Scottish Housing News (21/06/2019) - Planning minister Kevin Stewart said communities will have more say in shaping the future development of their areas after MSPs agreed to a “radical shake-up” of planning laws.

The Planning (Scotland) Bill passed its final stage by 78 votes to 26 last night after a three-day debate at the Scottish Parliament saw further amendments agreed.

Opposition parties Labour, the Greens and Lib Dems all voted against it amid claimed of a “stitch up” to cut more ambitious plans from the final Bill.

Mr Stewart said the legislation includes a raft of new measures to empower people and organisations to get involved in planning the future of their communities.

A new right means people will now be able to prepare local place plans covering what will be done in their communities, including over issues such as housing, open space and community facilities as well as business and employment opportunities.

Local authorities will be legally required to take local place plans into account when preparing their development plans.

The Bill takes a new approach to strategic planning in Scotland introducing a duty on local authorities to work together to produce Regional Spatial Strategies (RSSs).

These strategies will provide long-term direction to large scale development, matching local and national planning needs, outcomes and priorities.

Additionally, the National Planning Framework, Scotland’s long-term plan for future development, will now be required to be approved by Parliament.

Other changes covered by the Bill include new powers for local authorities to introduce control areas where planning permission will always be required if owners want to change the use of their property to short-term lets.

Planning minister Kevin Stewart said: “Scotland’s varied places – our cities, towns, villages, countryside, coast and islands – are an integral part of our national and local identity.

“This Bill is a radical new way forward for planning in Scotland. It’s a vision that empowers communities to have a positive say in shaping their future.

“There is now more scope for local planning to influence regional and national plans, and we expect to see more collaboration where people and local authorities across Scotland work closely together for all our benefit.

“The quality of the places where we live, work and play can have a lasting impact on health, wellbeing and prosperity - that’s why planning, and this Bill, are so important.”

A number of key agreements reached during the final debate have been welcomed by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Scotland.

Included in the Bill, which now receives Royal Assent in order to become law, is a provision for the introduction of statutory Chief Planning Officers, an issue RTPI Scotland has campaigned on since the outset of the bill.

RTPI Scotland also welcomed the retention of statutory strategic planning with the introduction of RSSs which the planning body said closely follow the principles it set out earlier in the Bill’s process through Parliament, with a shifted emphasis on outcomes, more geographical flexibility and a less process-orientated preparation stage.

Convenor Julia Frost said: “We are especially delighted to see the Bill include provisions to make sure that there is a Chief Planning Officer in every local authority. This shows Scotland leading the way in ensuring that decisions on development, communities and policy will be made in the long term public interest.

“Many details remain to be thrashed out in taking forward secondary legislation and regulations and RTPI Scotland will work closely with Scottish Government and stakeholders to ensure we produce an effective planning system that can help Scotland unlock sustainable development for the next ten years.”

RTPI Scotland added it will continue to highlight the need to bring additional resourcing into the planning system as it outlined its remaining still concerns that many additional duties have been placed on Scottish Government and local authority planning departments which are still uncosted and unfunded.

RTPI President Ian Tant said: “From my visits to all parts of the United Kingdom, I constantly hear from planners that the lack of funding for local authorities is a major problem. Planners must be supported properly if they are to create a better and more sustainable society.” 

This is an edited version of the original article, published by Scottish Housing News.

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