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.