Planning consultations perceived to be a pretense to local communities.

There is a much repeated assertion by government, politicians, media and local government that there is a housing shortage in Scotland. Alex Neil has said: “Housing is, and will remain, at the heart of the government’s ambitions to create a fairer and more prosperous country”. For those in power this concept must be rather attractive. Within the narrow bounds of our austerity economy the traditional ways of government to encourage our economy is to invest in capital projects, roads, schools and the like. There are currently capital projects ongoing but the need for housing might give the economy an additional boost. Let the developers spend the money, stipulate that a (small) percentage of the development should be “affordable” and encourage them to get on with it giving a boost to local economies in terms of construction jobs and subsequently giving local authorities additional income from the increase in numbers of council tax payers.

 So there is a tide flowing in favour of development. Attractive as this may be for the state for those currently living within the areas of planned development things are not so good. The not in my back yard principle has merit and should be taken into account. Those living within an area that is to have development imposed are the most affected by changes in infrastructure (or perhaps more the lack of new provision), traffic levels, emissions and population density all of which affects schools, doctor’s surgeries, journey times, health and the like but their opinions seem to be the least considered.

In recent submissions of Local Development Plans the methodology of seems to be:

Unelected officials within the local authority create the plan and draw lines around development sites. This appears to be done without local consultation and is often a surprise to the local community.

There is a token period of consultation, perhaps a local meeting or two, then objections and comments are summarised and noted. The plan is then submitted by the local authority to the Reporter for the Scottish Government usually WITHOUT CHANGE. This is not real democracy. We go through the motions, follow the procedures but make no change to the plans. With luck the Reporter might reduce the scope of the development but given the impetus for new housing this is unlikely to be of much consequence.

Once development has been approved a further impediment to local democracy arises. This is evident particularly in Edinburgh where the council effectively are giving approval to themselves in the guise of "arms length" developers who sell on the development having gained approval. A specific example of this is the current development proposal for East Edinburgh where much of the proposed development is on land within the control of EDI. "The EDI Group was established in 1988 by The City of Edinburgh Council" and is, ”a private company owned by the council”. So if the development plan is approved the council they will then be required to give approval to themselves. Profoundly undemocratic! More weight must be given to existing communities at an earlier stage and in a more open way.

Why the contribution is important

Every action has an effect and development does profoundly effect existing stable communities whose objections are submerged by the concept of "the greater good". Real consulation should take place earlier and more open and real way with less jargon. Planners can't PLACEMAKE - people do.

by Geo on February 20, 2016 at 12:35PM

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Comments

  • Posted by Geo February 20, 2016 at 13:04

    These arms length companies should not be permitted. An arms length is very short. Your feet can be under the same table.
  • Posted by DJJ February 20, 2016 at 14:15

    Agree that the current system causes problems in almost forbidding changes to a plan once it goes out to consultation. While this may increase the speed of the process, it makes it look as though the planners and councillors aren't listening...sometimes to valid objections that they might actually agree with. This does need to change, but without significant time penalties in an already long process.

    Reporters working on Local Development Plan examinations are currently much more likely to increase the scope for development in many parts of the country than decrease it.

    Agree that jargon can be problematic. Acronyms and specialist vocabulary can exclude people from conversations, creating a them/us or inside/outside mentality...even when this is not intentional. Things can be done about this though, while maintaining precise language.
  • Posted by DJJ February 20, 2016 at 14:23

    Arms length companies...these may actually be an important component of the way forward rather than a problem. However, it is important that they transparently operate in the public interest, including in line with the development plan, and are not just there to make money.
  • Posted by MaryLeith February 20, 2016 at 18:36

    I currently feel only a tiny minority of people have read the Local Development Plan for Edinburgh and it is appauling reading. When I talk to people about the proposed 'International Gateway' with 2000 homes they have NEVER heard of it. It seems to me producing an insearchable pdf document and hiding it in plain sight on the internet is a wonderful plan to make sure no one except the most persistent read it. Essentially finding out what is happening with planning issues is an enormous struggle with only the most time rich, highly educated and bloody mindedly persistent can get any information. GAME SET AND MATCH to developers who can take the long waiting game. Meanwhile the city's amenity, liveablity, attactiveness and green credentials go down the toilet.
  • Posted by LF February 23, 2016 at 23:23

    The reality is a market driven system and too often the development sector controls where development goes, to the frustration of communities.
    Providing communities with a right to appeal any planning decisions that runs contrary to a development plan would not only provide more certainty for communities, but would improve public trust; increasing the likelihood that people would want to engage positively with planning. This would help to change people’s engagement in planning from one of a negative, reactive, oppositional approach to one where people get more proactively involved in helping to shape Scotland into more socially and environmentally rewarding places.
    (with thanks to Planning Democracy)
  • Posted by SeanieRW February 25, 2016 at 15:22

    How would a community right of appeal work in practice? How is a community defined? How does a community take a decision to appeal? What is the mechanism being proposed?

    Because if it's anyone within a community who objects to something then it would be chaos, and if it's a right for Community Councils to appeal then there's a problem given the largely unelected nature of them, and the tendency of Community Councils to attract members who object to planning applications as a hobby.

    And a 3rd party right of appeal isn't necessarily going to provide much comfort if that appeal process is the normal route through the DPEA. People can be just as outraged, perhaps more so, by the decision of an unelected Reporter when it doesn't go their way.
     

  • Posted by JohnColledge February 28, 2016 at 19:38

    This is such an important issue. Our MSPs must be held to account for their failure to address the concerns of those who live in proposed development areas. After all, they have a moral obligation to the electorate to serve them in return for their votes and are obliged to comply with the MSPs' Code of Conduct.
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