Review of Planning (Collar)

4th edition, Neil Collar

ISBN: 9780414019331
PRICE: £85

In the preface to the first edition, published in 1994, Neil Collar described the purpose of the book as an introduction to Scots planning law. It was intended for use by any person coming into contact with the planning system whether in their professional or private life. He described Young and Rowan Robinson’s Scottish Planning Law and Procedure as the bible and disavowed any intention of seeing his book as a replacement for their comprehensive work.

Through the editions Collar has kept to this formula. It might not be the first port of call for anyone seeking to do detailed research on an obscure area of planning law. On the other hand it has the merit of being up to date with a good index and comprehensive reference to case law. So even for the professional planning lawyer this book deserves a place on the bookshelf.

However it is as an introduction to the system that the book excels. It takes the reader through the planning system for the evolution of planning law, the development plans and planning control. I found chapter 8 – “Challenge to Planning Decisions” – to be a particularly good exposition of the options open to individuals who wished to challenge planning decisions. But it also sounds a cautionary note on the hurdles that challenges may face particularly in the courts. Collar concludes his book emphasising that the role of the court is limited to reviewing the decision challenged to ensure that it has been reached within the law.

There have of course been significant changes in the nature of development. When I first started as a junior counsel doing planning law in the late 1980s, two themes dominated planning inquiries: housing and retail development. Both of these could generate significant controversy. So far as shopping was concerned planning authorities sought to limit the impact of out-of-town centres on the high street and competitors challenged each other in the battle for market share. Planning inquiries could be lengthy and hard fought as well as lucrative for lawyers.

Housing of course is still a significant issue for planning authorities. But the retail industry has changed markedly as more people go online for both major and minor purchases. While significant issues remain in some town centres, many others have fought back, changing their profile but in the process becoming more vibrant.

What has taken its place as a controversial issue in the public mind has been the development of wind farms, as the Government has encouraged the switch to renewable energy to meet emissions targets under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. While many of these are small scale developments dealt with by local planning authorities, a significant number are over the 50MW threshold that requires them to be dealt with under the Electricity Act 1989, attracting deemed planning consent under s 57(2) of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997. This book is silent on this process, an omission which was entirely explicable in early editions when such applications were rare, but is now more difficult to justify.

One other development since the first edition is worth mentioning, and that is the rise in importance of environmental issues and the commensurate rise in significance of environmental law. These include the necessity for strategic environmental assessments for plans, projects and strategies, and environmental impact assessments for certain development applications. Collar has woven these into the text when dealing with both development plans and planning control. There is also a small section dealing with natural heritage, which concentrates on a number of special designations such as national scenic areas and sites of special scientific interest. Reference is also made to the Habitats Directive.

However environmental issues are often the major hurdle for any developer and form the basis of many objections to both plans and planning applications. For these reasons one might have expected a little more emphasis on the impact of environmental law on the planning system. But these are quibbles with an otherwise commendable book. Perhaps a new chapter for the fifth edition?

The Author
Lord Boyd of Duncansby, Senator of the College of Justice 
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