We were delighted that Kevin Stewart, the Minister for Local Government and Housing, was able to join us at our recent seminar to outline the key provisions of the Planning (Scotland) Bill. With over 150 delegates from the public and private sectors attending our events in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, we heard lots of different views on the proposed reforms to the planning system.

The Minister has provided a guest blog setting out his key aims for the Bill.

Guest blog: Planning (Scotland) Bill
By Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Local Government and Housing

2018 is going to be an exciting year for planning, so I was pleased to start early with this opportunity to hear a wide variety of views on the Planning Bill.  I welcome Burness and Paull’s support in facilitating such a wide range of interests to come together and exchange ideas.

Planning is often seen as a dry or technical area, and that is perhaps not helped by the current structures and systems.  But in fact, planning is important to everyone, as it shapes the places where we live, work and spend our leisure time.  It has enormous potential to contribute to inclusive economic growth.  The aim of our reforms is to help planners get away from endless, complex procedures and allow them to focus on delivering great places, with the housing, infrastructure and employment opportunities our communities need.

It’s important to recognise that the Planning Bill is one part of a wider programme of reform.  Primary legislation can provide a better framework for planning but needs to be supported by many other actions.  Our other priorities include subsequent secondary legislation, a new and enhanced National Planning Framework, guidance, collaborative working and sharing of skills and good practice.  Improving the system and procedures is just one part of the story.

Some of the most substantial legislative changes are at the front end of the planning process.  That is the right place for our greatest focus – to get the most meaningful engagement and the big decisions about future development made up-front, setting how our places and our communities will grow for the better.  Our reforms will reduce duplication, and give authorities more flexibility to tailor regional planning activity to local needs.  

Links to community planning, and the opportunity to produce local place plans, will support more joined-up and effective community engagement.  This will help planning to focus on people’s aspirations for the future of their places, and greater corporate buy-in to support delivery of what is planned.

The Bill’s proposals for development management fit with the overall objective of creating a more effective, fair and transparent planning system.  I want both developers and communities to have greater clarity about what will be developed, where and in what timescale.

We are also putting measures in place to monitor and improve the performance of planning authorities, so that everyone can have confidence both in the efficiency of the system and the quality of decisions that are made.

I am happy to know that there is much support for the direction of travel of our reforms.  However, I am also aware of the challenges of delivering a system that works for everyone, and the concerns that some have raised.  I believe we have delivered a Bill that provides a good basis for the changes we want to see.  The Bill has been developed with a great deal of discussion and consultation.  It is over to the Parliament now, and I hope as many people as possible will continue to contribute their views to make the final legislation as good as it can be.  

This was a very positive discussion and I welcome more of the same as the Bill proceeds this year.

The deadline for submitting representations to the Scottish Ministers on the Bill is 2 February 2018.