New planning laws billed as ‘power grab’ by opposition parties

Written by Tom Freeman on 30 May 2018 in News

Housing minister Kevin Stewart acknowledges planning reforms have no "overarching purpose"

Kevin Stewart MSP - Scottish Government

New planning laws proposed by the Scottish Government require major amendments if they are to avoid a centralising of power in Edinburgh, opposition parties have warned.

During a debate on the Planning Bill at stage 1, MSPs from all opposition parties raised the issue, although only the Scottish Liberal Democrats opposed the general principle of reform.

Local Government minister Kevin Stewart said the Scottish Government will consider proposals from other parties before stage 2.

The Local Government Committee had already recommended the legislation will require widespread changes if it to proceed.

The legislation is designed to “allow communities to have a greater say in their neighbourhoods and areas”, but Green MSP Andy Wightman said the bill as it stands "concentrates further power in the hands of ministers, pays lip-service to genuine public engagement and removes valuable strategic planning powers".

Scottish Conservative housing spokesman Graham Simpson said “all roads lead to Edinburgh” in the bill, while Labour’s Monica Lennon, a former town planner, said the SNP were “defending the status quo”.

Alex Cole Hamilton of the Scottish liberal Democrats said: "This bill assumes that civil servants and ministers know more about the needs and aspirations of local communities than democratically elected local councillors."

MSPs from all sides questioned why the bill did not include a requirement to establish a purpose for planning.

Stewart said: “I recognise Parliament’s desire for the bill to have a clear overarching purpose, and I will explore how we can bring forward appropriate wording.”

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