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June 22, 2021

Will they be worth the effort?

When the Scottish Parliament was considering amendments to the 2019 Planning Bill, there was the (optimistic) hope that an equal right of appeal for communities might be included. Predictably, the development lobbyists had worked hard, and the planning system emerged unscathed and as skewed as ever in favour of the developer. Instead of offering a right to appeal to beleaguered communities, a new device has been proposed – Local Place Plans. A Scottish Government consultation ends 25th June. Planning Democracy, who argued long and hard for the 3rd party right of appeal, have made a submission. 

Planning Democracy

Email to Graham Robinson, Policy Manager, Scottish Government from Planning Democracy

As you know, Planning Democracy have expressed our concerns regarding Local Place Plans in the past. Our reservations about them, mean that we feel wary of being drawn into a consultation, the premise of which we feel is fundamentally flawed. However we have been encouraged by our network to send in a statement expressing our concerns and reservations so that they are known. We do not wish a response to the consultation to be represented as an endorsement of Local Place Plans.

Our position on Local Place Plans is as follows:

We believe that a Local Place Plan, once agreed by the community, should be given due priority and weight as a material consideration and should have meaningful influence on decision-making. Currently we don’t feel this is the case, the Planning Act Scotland 2019 require LDPs to take into account a registered Local Place Plan, however there is no guarantee that the Local Place Plan will affect the development plan or act as a significant material consideration in planning decisions. We are therefore reluctant to encourage communities to embark on a process whereby they have no recourse on decisions or plans that do not accord with their Local Place Plan.

We believe there should be credible legal routes for communities to question planning decisions by granting communities a right of appeal with applications that conflict with an agreed LPP, until that happens then Local Place Plans can be largely ignored.

We remain unclear as to how LPP’s will be incorporated into an LDP, if the LDP process is already underway or has been adopted. As NPF4 and LDPs are 10 year plans, but it is unlikely that a Local Place Plan is likely to trigger a review of them, so it is unlikely that any community embarking on a LPP after an LDP has been adopted, will be able to have their plan incorporated.

The process of developing community plans we believe has been captured by other interests. As currently enacted in the primary planning legislation, they are not a  expression of  community aspirations, but are merely a device that express the aspirations of the Government and local authorities under the guise of a community plan. Requiring LPPs to have regard for the NPF, LDP and LOIPs effectively ensures that they are a mechanism that captures the soul of the community and denies them a right of self expression. The process limits the plans to land use planning issues and what are considered planning or material considerations. We believe community plans should take a holistic approach that allows a broader range to be explored than merely planning issues.

That is not to say that communities should not develop their own community action plans. We would encourage people to do so, but in their own way, using their own expertise that focusses on their own community, and no others, future aspirations. They should be a form of self expression which should be free of other influences that allows people to self organise and develop activities that can really benefit the community. It is not fair for a process to encourage and distract communities into developing plans that are highly unlikely to be realised.

Any community developing a Local Place Plan under the current guidance should be aware that the plans themselves are not given statutory weight, so expectations should be kept realistic in terms of influencing planning decisions or development plans. Communities need to be aware that their plans carry very little weight and are unlikely, in our market driven planning system, to have much if any influence on development on the ground. If they are not provided with evidence of how the ‘system’ will respond to their aspirations then they are being given false promises that their plans will have some kind of power.

We believe that the current process requires communities to become quasi planners, the amount of documents they are required to have regard for including the NPF4, LDP and LOIPs not only requires a level of expertise and time that should be recompensed, but will exacerbate inequalities between communities further disadvantaging those who are less well resourced. Without adequate allocated funding behind them LPP’s will be a huge burden to many communities, requiring them to rely on specialist expertise. Currently there are not enough options for who can provide this expertise. As a priority, a broadly based pool of expertise needs to be developed which reflects the diversity of Scotland’s community sector. As a guiding principle, peer to peer learning and delivery of the LPP process should be encouraged.