Update: Planning (Scotland) Bill
In September 2015, as an acknowledgement of the national housing crisis, the Scottish Government started a ‘root and branch’ review of the planning system. Currently we are awaiting the final stage of the Bill (Stage 3), where the Bill will be considered by the whole of Parliament, which is expected in January 2019. Prior to this Stage, Stage 1 included the ‘Call for Written Evidence’, back in December 2015, and the ‘Planning Review Panel Statement’ in May 2016, which informed the publication of the Stage 1 report in May 2018. Stage 2 (September 2018), included the Parliamentary sessions, with MSP’s submitting amendments with each item being debated over three days. If all goes to plan, the new regulations will be implemented in 2020.
Recommendations from the Planning Review Panel (May 2016) included: strong and flexible development plans; an infrastructure first approach to planning and development; collaboration rather than conflict – inclusion and empowerment; stronger leadership, smarter resourcing and sharing of skills; and, efficient and transparent development management. These recommendations are apparent throughout the Parliamentary session amendments. In total, there were 230 amendments. Proposals for improvement within these amendments include: moving Local Development Plans (LDPs) to a 10 year cycle, the removal of the Main Issues Report (MIR), the introduction of Local Place Plans (LPPs), removal of Statutory Supplementary Guidance, National Housing Land Targets, Masterplan Consent Areas, Land Value Capture and Increased Planning Fees.
Community empowerment has also come to the forefront of the Bill, with increased community involvement at the LPP stage inevitable. Other potential changes which have been somewhat controversial are 3rd Party Right of Appeal, Masterplan Consent Areas and Land Value Capture. 3rd Party Right of Appeal was narrowly rejected at a vote, so currently is not in place, but the general consensus is that it will re-appear at Stage 3. Masterplan Consent Areas and Land Value Capture are also closely linked and are causing uncertainty for landowners. Masterplan Consent Areas will essentially grant planning permission for development within a specified scheme without the need for formal approval, and, Land Value Capture is a mechanism of compulsory purchase at existing use value, within Masterplan Consent Areas. Land Value Capture was set out as a measure to improve affordable housing delivery, however this means that landowners will miss out on any uplift in land value as a result of any future residential approval. This mechanism could essentially therefore delay or stop development from taking place as landowners won’t be achieving this uplift in value.
As for amendments not carried through these include the Infrastructure Levy (however it remains on the Scottish Government’s agenda), Performance Monitoring of Local Authorities, Mandatory Training for Elected Members and the removal of Strategic Development Plans (SDPs). Looking back on the recommendations from the Planning Review Panel (May 2016) mentioned previously, it seems that most of the amendments not carried through are some of the original recommendations.
Although infrastructure delivery was one of the key aims back in 2015 and again mentioned in May 2016 at the Review Panel, this ‘infrastructure first approach’ is now not included within the Bill. Same can be said for Mandatory Training for Elected Members, as this is no longer part of the Bill but in 2016 the recommendation was for ‘stronger leadership, smarter resourcing and sharing of skills’.
As for the impact on the development industry there is concern that 10-year LDP cycles will mean longer option agreements and essentially a longer wait for a return; the weight given to LPPs alongside LDPs may create greater uncertainty amongst developers as this will give more power to local communities; and, fee increases, which would be supported by the industry if the increase led to an improvement in services.
There is still time for a final say at Stage 3 to try and meet the original Planning Review Panel aims from 2016. Until then, the debate goes on…