A programme of action culminating in a new Planning Bill has been set out by the Scottish Government in its response to the report of the independent planning review panel.

Published on 31 May, the report, Empowering Planning to Deliver Great Places, by Crawford Beveridge, Petra Biberbach and John Hamilton, put forward six key themes and 48 recommendations designed to rationalise, improve and modernise the Scottish planning system. The themes include strong and flexible development plans, delivering more quality homes, an infrastructure first approach to planning and development, and an inclusive, collaborative approach.

In response, ministers have confirmed that they agree in principle with many of the recommendations, while recognising that further work is required to consider each in more detail. Housing and Planning Minister Kevin Stewart yesterday announced 10 immediate actions. These include:

  • extending permitted development rights – where planning permission is not needed – to more types of development. This could mean removing uncontroversial minor developments from the system, as well as using permitted development to encourage developments which support low carbon living and digital infrastructure;
  • helping local authorities to strengthen skills and capacity for housing delivery in the short term, and consulting on enhanced fees to ensure authorities are better resourced;
  • introducing pilot simplified planning zones for housing, so that planning permission is granted for housing up front, allowing developments to progress more quickly and flexibly;
  • identifying how digital transformation of the planning service can be used to engage people in the process more effectively and at an earlier stage, using tools including the web and 3D visualisations. This is in preference to introducing third party rights of appeal.

Ministers will work with local authorities, developers and community groups to develop more detailed proposals for reform, which will be fully consulted on later this year. This will pave the way for a new Planning Bill to be brought forward to the Scottish Parliament in 2017. 

“It is clear from the recommendations of the independent panel, and the feedback from local authorities, developers and communities, that our planning system can do more for Scotland", Mr Stewart commented.

“I welcome the positive report produced by the panel and am impressed that public and private interests in planning are willing to work together and with government to make changes happen. We must now work together to ensure our planning system is best placed to support economic growth and housebuilding, whilst protecting and enhancing the quality of life of all our communities.

“We will now develop proposals for further reform of the planning system over the coming months and will bring forward consultation proposals by the end of the year. The review’s proposed outcomes – including strong and flexible development plans, more high quality homes and collaboration rather than conflict – are all aims we share.”

Click here to view the response paper.