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December 17, 2014

Let’s level the playing field

It’s often said that communities are by nature reactive.  Scotland’s planning system however, appears to assume the opposite. The planning reforms introduced in 2006 were designed to strengthen the hand of communities in the planning process but only if they are able to engage with it at an early stage. If they only hear about a planning application late in the day or after planning has been approved, the community has no right to appeal against the decision. Given that the developer is free to appeal, this seems deeply unfair.  A campaign is underway to right this wrong.



Clare Symonds, Planning Democracy

Support Planning Democracy’s campaign to establish a level playing field for communities and developers by calling on your MSP to back Equal Rights of Appeal in Planning.

Planning Democracy is campaigning to change a blatant inequality in planning that should have been addressed 8 years ago when the planning system was reformed. They are asking MSPs on Holyrood’s Petitions Committee to consider the case for Equal Rights of Appeal (ERA) for communities in planning decisions. The need for the petition comes from the strong feeling of injustice among the communities in Scotland who have been affected by decisions to grant planning permission, but who have had no right of appeal against these decisions.

Scotland is full of complex and controversial plans, from golf courses in Aberdeen to coal fired power stations in Ayrshire; wind farms in Shetland to unconventional gas in Dumfries and Falkirk; hotel complexes in Edinburgh to opencast mines in Midlothian; biomass plants in Grangemouth to container terminals in Fife; fish farms in Orkney to housing developments in the Cairngorms National Park. Important planning decisions that impact on Scotland’s future need adequate scrutiny, the community has an important role in that scrutiny and decision making process.

Currently in Scotland if planning permission is refused, the developer is always permitted to appeal. If however, planning permission is granted, the local communities, whose lives are affected by the development, are never allowed to appeal – no matter how strong their case or however much that development may affect their lives or however poor the scrutiny process has been. In other words there is no Equal Right to Appeal a planning decision.

The unfairness of the system that gives one group of people rights but not others is difficult to comprehend in a forward thinking country such as Scotland, particularly with the emphasis the post referendum debates have made on equality.

Planning Democracy is an organisation that represents the public voice in planning. They have heard from many people from Shetland to Galloway who feel angry and frustrated at being unable to influence what happens in their own areas. They frequently say they feel that developer’s interests are all too often prioritised over community interests. Growing numbers are convinced that the system should give locals an equal right of appeal.

Currently the Scottish Government’s position is that ERA is not necessary in Scotland. Supposedly the planning system reforms from 2006 ensure that there is ample opportunity for public involvement in planning decisions. Further, they are concerned ERA may slow down development (and by extension, economic growth).

We believe a limited right of appeal would give communities a level playing field in planning disputes and provide an incentive for developers to take local opinion seriously, without causing unnecessary delays.

If you agree that people most affected by development should have the right to appeal then you can help. You could a) call on your MSP to support our petition to the Scottish Parliament and b) call on your MSP to push for ERA to be included in their manifesto for the 2016 parliamentary elections.

It will take a lot of work for the Scottish Government to change their approach, but if enough of us get behind ERA, we can help convince them. You can use a sample letter on PD’s website, or you can write your own if you have something in particular that you would like to say – either way, the more letters they get, and the more MSPs that receive them, the harder it will be for them to ignore!