Communities should have a stronger voice in the planning system

Written by Kate Shannon on 17 May 2018 in News

The Local Government and Communities Committee has set out a number of recommendations to strengthen the Planning (Scotland) Bill

House plans: Picture credit - Holyrood stock images

Communities should have a stronger voice in planning their neighbourhoods, according to a Scottish Parliament committee.

The Local Government and Communities Committee has set out a number of recommendations to strengthen the Planning (Scotland) Bill in a report published today.

The legislation aims to streamline the system of development planning, support delivery of planned developments and includes a new right for communities to produce their own plans for their local areas called Local Place Plans.

Committee convener, Bob Doris MSP, said: “Planning impacts every aspect of our lives. It decides where our homes are built, where our children go to school and how we use our outdoor spaces.

“Over the past few months, we have taken evidence on Scotland’s new approach to planning and while we consider this Bill has the potential to improve our lives, we have also outlined a number of ways it can be strengthened.

“A clear theme running through our report is the importance of empowering communities to have a meaningful say on the kind of place they want to live in. Communities being able to help shape their area by working with planning authorities early on makes for better places.

“It remains the case that more disadvantaged communities could lose out on shaping their local areas because of a lack of money, time and capacity, which we think may widen inequality. That’s why we’ve called for communities to be supported so that planning works for everyone.”

While the committee welcomed that planning authorities must “take account of” Local Place Plans, it is concerned that without further support, disadvantaged communities will be considerably less likely to take advantage of plans due to a lack of capacity, time and resources.

MSPs were also concerned that the Bill proposals don’t go far enough to address planning frustrations felt by many communities and the committee believes that in a plan-led system, appeals should only be allowed in certain circumstances.

In terms of music venues, the committee said it recognises that they make an important contribution to Scotland and it is “unreasonable” for those moving into a new development to complain about pre-existing noise levels.

The report recommends that Agent of Change – a principle that puts the onus on developers to mitigate pre-existing noise impacts – should be included within the Bill.

Doris continued: “We all have fond memories of visiting local music venues and hearing emerging new talents. Music venues are an incredibly valuable part of many communities and make an important contribution to the cultural life and economy of Scotland.

“We think it is unreasonable for those moving into a new development to be able to complain about pre-existing noise levels, which can result in music venues closing their doors because it’s too costly to mitigate that noise.

“That’s why we want to see the Agent of Change principle included within the Planning Bill.”

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