The Scottish Parliament's Local Government and Communities Committee Stage 1 Report on the Planning (Scotland) Bill has been produced.

MSPs have called for further action by the Scottish Government in relation to equal rights of appeal as they want people to feel involved in the planning system at all stages.

Sarah Baillie, Planning Partner, said:

"The Scottish Government have put forward a Bill which many felt didn’t go far enough to be a step change or that it required further consultation because the detail was simply not there. The Committee have agreed with the general principles of the Bill but have called for a series of changes and amendments to be made.  

A clear theme running through the report is the importance of empowering communities to have a meaningful say on the kind of place they want to live in. It is interesting that the Committee consider that the current proposals are not enough to soothe frustrations felt by local people over the existing system but make no explicit comment or reference regarding the development sector's views.   

Developers typically commit many thousands of pounds on an application before it even comes before committee and there are concerns about performance and delays on major applications which the Scottish Government were trying to address through planning performance monitoring but the Committee have suggested that this is removed.  

Whether rights of appeal in the planning system should be equalised or not has also been a long standing issue on which there is a wide range of views. There is however, for the first time, notable political support for an "equalisation" agenda. Although, as far as I can see there was no new evidence presented to the Committee to support such a proposition. An Independent Review Panel and the Scottish Government’s view is that a Community Right of Appeal is unnecessary.  

This is a position fully supported by the development and investment sector who have made it clear that such an approach will extend the development process even further, make smaller developments unviable and require more officer time at a time when resources are scarce. It could lead to delays, uncertainty, reduce early engagement and investment in the housing and developments necessary to support people to live and work in their local area. Most worryingly, it could push investment outside Scotland where such rights don't exist and also delay further the building of much needed new homes.  

However, the Committee of MSPs clearly considers that there is an imbalance in a system whereby the applicant can appeal decisions that have been taken in clear accordance with the development plan. It has suggested that planning appeals should only be allowed in certain circumstances and there should be rules to deter repeat appeals or applications. But often this has been necessary because development plans are out of date and do not reflect current market or economic conditions.  

The Committee have urged the Scottish Government to look at this issue again and it will be interesting to see how they will or can respond to this."

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