More and More People Are Calling for a Change in Planning

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For several years now Planning Democracy have been calling for changes to be made to create a fairer and more inclusive planning system for Scotland.

Over this time we feel that our claims have often fallen on deaf ears.

There is no political acknowledgement of any problems and the professional bodies and Government officials tell us to focus on the positives, to look for case studies that demonstrate that the system is working for the public.

But increasingly it seems that we are not the only people calling for change. This week there is a clamour of letters in the press, collectively expressing concerns about the power and influence of commercial interests over public interest in planning.

For example in the Scotsman David Black expresses his concerns about a series of Edinburgh planning decisions.

In his letter he states “Everywhere we look, the fabric of a great European city is being degraded, whether it’s the allegedly unlawful demolition of listed buildings in St Andrew Square, the threat to smash down the listed Georgian tenement next to the Café Royal, or the lamentable Costa Canongate proposal which will wreck a vista which Michael Fry, in this newspaper, once rated alongside the view from Fiesole ­towards Florence”.

He calls for an investigation into the litany of “disastrous developer led ­planning decisions ” in the Capital.

And in today’s Herald some of Scotland’s largest environmental bodies call for an overhaul of the planning system, stating that confidence in the system is at an all time low. They complain that bodies set up to protect Scotland’s environment and natural heritage are routinely ignored in the face of powerful commercial interests. They invite the Scottish Government to discuss how best to create a level playing field in the planning system where “the needs of nature and communities can be weighed alongside other priorities”.

We have been calling for the same discussion at Planning Democracy and in the light of this growing call for an overhaul of Scotland’s planning system we urge the Local Government and Regeneration Committee to heed our recommendations to initiate an independent inquiry into experiences of the planning system from a community perspective.

At a time when the Community Empowerment Bill is being discussed by the same committee it would seem a little incongruent for the committee to ignore these increasingly loud voices calling for far more fairness and transparency in planning.


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Clare Symonds

Clare Symonds is the Chair of Planning Democracy.

2 Responses

  1. Avatar rt29781 says:

    I cannot get your e-mail address from your contact page to work….Is it complete? Does the form work?

  2. Avatar Jen says:

    Thank you for this hugely important site.

    It’s time Scotland has a planning and development system we can all be proud of.

    Please support Save Heriot Hill
    (Opposition to develop steep narrow hill bank behind long row of tenements on Broughton Road, Edinburgh)

    LAST YEAR (2014) Developers transgressed allowable behavior when they brought in heavy machinery and a professional team for a noisy, dust filled week to chop a mature woodland down and create significant land reconstruction and an access road without permission – or any engineering report. They also knocked down a Listed Buildings wall without permission. This behavior was not respectful of local residents or planning guidelines.

    They then submitted a planning application for a road which was withdrawn at the last min after major local opposition.

    THEY HAVE NOW (20 May 2015) submitted a development plan for 8 LARGE TOWN HOUSES which involves excavation of an entire, steep and narrow, hillside and creating a 19 meter high wall.

    They have also submitted a separate ‘stand alone’ Listed Buildings Consent. This ‘secret’ report does not require Neighbor Notification, which is why locals only stumbled upon it.

    Interestingly this LBC talks about instability of the land and the need to take in machinery to do all sorts of testing. When a local created a new doorway in their flat they had to get an engineer’s report as part of the application. How is it possible that a developer can apply to build 8 huge townhouses on what they admit is a steep and unstable site without any engineering reports?

    Although the two reports are separate, stand alone applications, it is important to read both to get a full understanding of their extreme proposals.

    Amongst many other objections extreme excavation activities, depth pylon driving, associated heavy machinery etc have a profound impact on air quality and respiratory health. And facing a 19 meter high wall would create the impact of living in a prison.

    Over many years there have been several applications to develop this step, narrow hill which have been withdrawn or defeated. The quiet green hill is a major reason for owners and residents living in this already high population density area

    I feel it is time to call on the wider community for support. We ask that planning departments be asked to stop this cat and mouse, multiple application and withdrawal game which dis-empowers local residents and concerned parties.

    Declare Heriot/Sandy Hill unsuitable for development.

    Elders in the community played on Heriot (locally known as Sandy) Hill as children. It is a much needed, small but valued inner city green space which has a huge impact on the quality of life for locals.

    It’s time Scotland has a planning and development system we can all be proud of.

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