Recognise that there is a fundamental imbalance in the current planning system which significantly favours the private interests of developers and other associated commercial interests.

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The primary principle of the planning system, as with all departments of government, is to act in the best interests of the public. Given the widespread public disillusionment with the current planning system and the raft of significant controversial 'developments' that have been granted permission by local authorities and the Scottish Government on appeal, the Minister must recognise that this principle is not being upheld.

 

Moreover, the current review of the planning system to 'focus on delivering a quicker, more accessible and efficient planning process' is disingenuous at a time when councils are contending with swingeing cut backs and redundancies and therefore hardy able to deliver such objectives without fundamentally compromising the credibility of the planning process. Indeed, by satisfying the above criteria rather than addressing the glaring deficiencies and disparities of the current system, this review is poised to further accentuate the democratic deficit in favour of private commercial interests.

 

While this forum is to be welcomed in encouraging public engagement in the digital age, citizens are poorly informed, ill equipped and otherwise overwhelmed contending with the current planning process. Indeed, rather than “delivering a quicker” planning system the process in certain instances needs to be slowed down and staggered for the benefit of those communities who are overwhelmed contending with commercial pressures. This is particularly evident in certain area such as the Old Town of Edinburgh which has come under such unrelenting commercial pressure in recent years the long term community is now in serious decline.

 

Considering the Scottish Parliament, which supposedly champions the Sovereignty of the People, has recently passed the Community Empowerment Bill the current situation is an affront to fairness, decency and democracy.

Why the contribution is important

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At a recent talk the Minister expressed his own concern for bad development, recognising how profoundly damaging this can be for the long term wellbeing of communities and the environment. Yet the planning process has come to be so dominated by commercial considerations and perverted by economics normal practise typically produces inferior/ BAD development. This may favour the interests of speculators in releasing land value through the continual process of demolition but from a social and environmental point of view such practice is anathema and wholly inconsistent with the guiding words inscribed on the Parliamentary Mace:

Wisdom – Justice – Compassion - Integrity

 

Though it must be patently obvious by now, developers have a huge advantage over communities given:

 

  • there is a presumption in favour of development and the opportunity for developers to appeal planning decisions, while communities have no Equal Right of Appeal

  • developers typically enlist the services of PR firms who have professional insight further favouring developers interests

  • developers are able to extend considerable influence by forming commercial alliances and successfully lobby government

  • controversial 'development' is often achieved through a protracted process of attrition where the community is ground down

  • the previous planning review to encourage community engagement through “front loading” has shown itself to be an all but meaningless box ticking exercise putting further strain on the demands of the community

 

In response to such a bias, when communities have made use of the new tools of social media such as online independent petitions in objecting to controversial 'developments' these have all but been ignored or regarded as a single objection when they might in fact be backed by thousands of signatures from the local community.

 

In spite of the primary principle of public office to act solely in the public's interests even this review has chosen to relegate community interests to the bottom of the list as is noted from the associated documentation.

 

 

 

by SimonB on February 03, 2016 at 04:06AM

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Comments

  • Posted by communitycouncillor February 04, 2016 at 14:50

    SimonB is correct there is an undesirable balance in favour of developers and at the expense of communities.
  • Posted by SteveHoltom February 04, 2016 at 20:21

    Could not agree more . An example currently in place is the application from a local developer CHAP to build 1500 house on their quarry site in Aberdeenshire. Despite several years of objections to the quarry with the Council planning office the permission was granted to extend the quarry . Strict planning conditions were placed on the site with a requirement o return it to arable land upon completion of each stage. These conditions were never maintained and never enforced by the Stonehaven planning office . The site now is uneconomical to return to farming land according to the developer and he now wants to build effectively a new town. This site is not on any planning strategy at any level and will cost councils considerable funds to support with new schools, public transport etc etc . This one sample is a true test of the ethical values of the planning process and I fell sure that CHAP will get permission to go ahead . In contrast I myself had several visits from the planning officer for a single window requirement on a house extension with 4 re-submissions to get approval . I live less than 200m from the proposed 1500 houses . The planing process clearly ignoring the enforcement of planning permission for the large corporate developers and spending way too much time on pointless minor issues. It makes one wonder if these developers have ways and means to influence the planning application process . It is perhaps not the process at fault but the people who make the decisions and enforce that process .
  • Posted by Rwamalamg February 19, 2016 at 16:53

    I believe that the planning review should consider the primacy of sustainable mixed communities: developments which favour economic benefits, and bring no other forms of social benefit, are currently favoured because local community views are unfairly treated. I believe all developers should have to demonstrate significant local social benefit for any large-scale development. Where planning permission is granted on this basis, there should be real and effective enforcement of proivisions for social benefits, e.g. promises for a % of affordable social housing, community-managed facilities, or reinstatement of landscape. Local community groups should have the right of appeal, and transparency of the entire process, with statutory periodic progress reports, should be included.
  • Posted by gdavis February 21, 2016 at 21:47

    I agree wholeheartedly with the above comment and that commercial planners should include social benefits to the community that they are building in. Whether this be through building a community area, playpark or feeding into existing community projects in the area. Community councils could be consulted as to the best benefits for the area.
  • Posted by kb21182 February 28, 2016 at 20:15

    Agree wholeheartedly with the above comments. The current system is heavily weighted in the developers favour very often at the expense of the local communities and indeed local councils which are left to clean up the mess.
  • Posted by JohnColledge February 29, 2016 at 10:58

    I would go further and say our local planning system is fundamentally dishonest. When Planning Dept staff knowingly misleading the public and their Planning Committee by providing them with information that makes applications appear more acceptable than they must know the end result will be is considered acceptable, there is something seriously wrong. It makes a mockery of democracy and raises serious questions about the Scottish Justice System.
  • Posted by Kacurry February 29, 2016 at 13:02

    Totally agree. The system is inherently unfair and biased towards developers: no right of appeal; confusing and jargon-laden planning systems; decisions which go against planners and neighbours preferences; decisions that do not follow policy but are non-the-less upheld; no support for public to challenge effectively against financed developers; no requirement to show impact of plans on land not owned by the developer but which affects neighbours who are not notified so never get the chance to object; and so on. The current system does not meet the moral or ethical expectations of community engagement good practice. It is a box ticking exercise only. And the developers know it and use the flawed system to help them get permission for plans they know may not be acceptable to neighbours, rather than engaging with neighbours to reach a mutually beneficial outcome.
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