The Planning (Scotland) Bill passed stage 1 in the Scottish Parliament yesterday, but with opposition parties warning that they would vote against it at a later stage if it is not radically amended.
Only the Liberal Democrats opposed the bill outright, and MSPs voted 107 to four to allow the bill to proceed to detailed consideration.
The bill, which follows an independent expert review completed in 2017, makes changes to the development plan framework; introduces simplified development zones; makes new provision for development management, including schemes of delegation of certain planning decisions; covers fees and enforcement provisions; and introduces a new infrastructure levy as a potential condition of planning permission.
Opening the debate, Local Government and Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said the bill was the result of a "thorough and inclusive process", and its aim was that the planning system should "start with good quality collaboration and truly involve stakeholders at the earliest stages". He completely disagreed with a charge by Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton that the bill amounted to "centralisation on an unprecedented scale by removing local autonomhy and accountability", pointing to the level of scrutiny that the present national planning framework had undergone.
He concluded: "There is a great deal of consensus on the outcomes that we are seeking, but it is also inevitable with planning that there will be different views on how the system should work."
However Graham Simpson for the Conservatives also maintained that "section after section" of the bill would result in powers folwing to the minister, describing the bill as a "power grab". He commented: "We would vote against the bill at stage 1, but we have an opportunity to rip the bill apart and produce a Planning Act that delivers, so we will back the bill at this stage."
Labour's Monica Lennon said her party would back the bill at that stage, but it would need "significant amendments at stage 2 to make it fit for purpose"; and the Greens' Andy Wightman said that if the bill was in its final form, they would vote against it.