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May 30, 2018

Crunch time for Planning Bill

For almost three years now, work has been underway to scrutinise our planning system and consider how it might become less of a contested space for civic Scotland.  Now the talking is almost done and we’re getting to the business end of the proceedings. In its report, the scrutinising committee for the Bill called for substantial improvements. The Minister responded last week, offering few concessions and in yesterday’s Parliamentary debate, the battle lines were laid down for the next stage of the process. Earlier this week, over 70 communities signed an open letter to the Minister.

Planning Democracy

Kevin Stewart MSP,

Minister for Local Government & Housing

28th May 2018

Dear Minister,

Delivering a fairer planning system for Scotland’s communities

We are writing to urge you to strengthen the Planning Bill by putting forward proposals to deliver a fairer planning system for Scotland that empowers our communities of place and interest.

We wholeheartedly agree that the places we live and work are key to our identity and wellbeing. Scotland is our land, it defines us and gives us a sense of identity. The way it is developed is hugely important to us all. We want to build a strong and successful nation, but this aspiration can only be realised if our planning system is fair and inclusive.

Research conducted by the Scottish Government demonstrates clearly that there is a significant lack of public confidence in planning. It is therefore imperative that amendments are introduced to the Planning Bill to give communities a greater say and better rights over how Scotland is developed in future and restore our trust in the planning system.

Collectively, we, the signatories to this letter have been involved in all aspects of planning, including the preparation of local and strategic development plans across Scotland and responding to planning applications. The one key emerging theme from our collective experience is that people feel very strongly that there is a need to change the current planning system which leaves them feeling disempowered and disregarded, particularly with respect to rights of appeal.

The fact that applicants can appeal when planning permission is refused but communities have no such right of appeal against a decision to allow development, no matter what the impact on their lives and environment, is viewed as one of the most unfair and inequitable aspects of planning.

Despite consistent calls from communities throughout Scotland for appeal rights to be considered the issue was not debated during the planning review and did not become part of the Planning Bill. This is a source of considerable disappointment to community groups and others who see the value of a balanced system of planning, where both developers and communities have equal rights to influence decision-making.

The Planning Bill is a once in a generation opportunity to consider the positive benefits of community appeals. We firmly believe that providing people with equal rights can help to build a stronger, more effective planning system that commands public trust. Equalizing appeal rights will encourage more positive and early engagement in planning, ensure stronger and better planning decisions and provide strong incentives to deliver appropriate development in keeping with the aspiration for a plan led system. A system of planning that allows communities to appeal decisions is a reflection of strong and democratic governance and public confidence in that system is far more likely to thrive.

We urge the Scottish Government to reconsider their stance on Equal Rights of Appeal and bring planning in line with the spirit of a fairer Scotland and community empowerment initiatives, which aim to really empower communities to protect and nurture their local environments.

Yours sincerely 

Midlothian Federation of Community Councils

Edinburgh Association of Community Councils

Professor Mark Stephens Save Our Landscapes (Lanark)

Granton & District Community Council

North Edinburgh Fights Back

Professor Emeritus Sir Thomas M Devine, The University of Edinburgh

Save East Linton From Excessive Expansion

Cluny, Midmar & Monymusk Community Council

South West (Edinburgh) Communities Forum

Monklands Residents Against Pyrolysis Plant

Brightons Community Council

Polmont Community Council

Reddingmuirhead & Wallacestone Community Council

Save Woodhall & Faskine Greenbelt

Professor Michael Pacione

Blackness Community Council

Leith Links Community Council

Friends of Burghlee Park Midlothian

Cockburn Association

Tollcross Community Council (Edinburgh)

Community Action North, Edinburgh

Pencaitland Community Council, East Lothian

Strathblane Community Council

Dumgal Against Pylons Dumfries and Galloway


John Muir Trust

Clyde River Action Group

Duneaton Community Council (South Lanarkshire)

Kilmacolm Residents Association

Culter Community Council

Sustainable Shetland

Fairlie Community Council

Save Meadowbank Campaign

Jackton and Thorntonhall Community Council

Scone North Study Group

Scotland Against Spin

Ceres and District Community Council

Cupar and North Fife Preservation Society

Stop Scolty Redevelopment Aberdeenshire

Scottish Wild Land Group

Grassmarket Residents Association

Dunbar Community Council

West Barns Community Council

Charlestown, Limekilns and Pattiesmuir Community Council

Halfway Community Council in Cambuslang East

Save Bishopriggs Canal Greenspace

Canonbie and District Residents Association

Scottish Wildlife Trust

Thainstone Resident Group, Aberdeenshire


Residents Against Greenbelt Erosion Dunblane

Denny & District Community Council

Avonbridge & Standburn Community Council

Bonnybridge Community Council

Grangemouth (including Skinflats) Community Council 

Maddiston Community Council 

Shieldhill & California Community Council

Friends of the Earth Scotland

Woodland Trust Scotland

The Cairngorms Campaign



Archaeology Scotland


North Lanarkshire Greens

Group to Stop Development at Culloden

Leith Links Residents Association


Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland

Not Coull (Coull Links campaign)

The Pollokshields Trust

Pollokshields Community Council

Silverton & Overtoun Community Council

Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group

Protect Damhead’s Greenbelt

Save Jim’s Farm

North East Mountain Trust

Aberdour Community Council

Our Forth

Nick Kempe, Parkswatchscotland

Kirkton Community & Safety Partnership

Save Kingspark for the Community

Care for Caird

Kinross-shire Civic Trust

Stockbridge & Inverleith Community Council

Wallyford Community Council

Gilmerton Inch Community Council