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June 1, 2016

Will this empower planning?

Last September, Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil set up an independent group to review Scotland’s planning system. They were to come up with some ‘game changing ideas’ that would make the planning system quicker, more efficient and more accessible. Some have argued those three ambitions are difficult to reconcile – particularly at a time when communities complain of being increasingly disempowered around the planning process. The Review Group’s report was published yesterday. A game changer? The jury’s out.


Planning Review Group

Today we have published our planning review report Empowering Planning to Deliver Great Places.  The report and further background information about the review is available at

We are extremely grateful to all those who took part in the review process, through the call for written evidence, the oral evidence sessions and the online discussion forum.   The evidence was vast and spanned a large number of subjects.  Whilst views differed on the priorities and the solutions, we were impressed by the collective will from all stakeholder groups to improve Scotland’s planning system.

From the outset, it was clear to us that the main structure of our planning system is not broken. However, it was also clear that for the potential of planning to be realised, a strong commitment to change existing practices and culture, and to re-focus the profession’s improvement agenda will be required.   The Scottish Ministers set out 6 themes for us to address and as the review progressed it was obvious that those were the right areas for priority action.  Our report builds on these themes and proposes a package of measures for change.   Some of the recommendations represent large scale and in our view, game changing, proposals.  Others are smaller scale improvements to ensure existing processes are as effective as possible.   Some would require legislative change, others could be done quickly and easily with collective buy in and co-operation and embed a culture of inclusion.

We appreciate that some stakeholders may have reservations about some of our recommendations, but based on the evidence before us, we are confident that these changes would significantly improve the operation and reputation of Scotland’s planning system.

We look forward to seeing the Scottish Minister’s response to our recommendations in due course, and call on all those with an interest in planning to work together to deliver real and positive change in the coming years.  


Crawford Beveridge, Petra Biberbach and John Hamilton.

See the whole report here –  Empowering Planning to deliver great places.

The section which deals most directly with the community empowerment agenda is Chapter 8. PP35-39