Research and ideas

Planning democracy are defining the barriers to public participation in the planning system, and gathering ideas for a more fair and inclusive system.

We need your help.  Below are some of our ideas.  We talk about the problems and solutions.  What do you think?  What have we missed? Comment below, or if you’d like to help us please get in touch.


Our research shows us that many people feel that the promises made by politicians to get better public involvement have not resulted in any real change.  We believe there continues to be a lack of trust in the process because there is both:

  1. a software problem; related to the attitudes and values of those who use the system.  These problems can be solved by a change in attitudes and values of professionals, politicians, advocacy groups and members of the public.  And;
  2. a hardware problem related to the structure of the system, the way the system is legislated and regulated.  These problems can be solved, for example by changes being made to legislation, regulations and planning guidance.


We have identified 6 aspects of a fair and inclusive planning system in Scotland:

  1. a culture of active democracy where policy priorities and planning decisions can be debated on equal terms.
  2. a just planning process where inequalities are challenged, including access to various resources and power, and  where wider social and environmental interests are balanced with local interests, not private gain.
  3. an open planning system that builds public trust through transparent accountable decision-making with a clear indication of how people’s input has been taken into account.
  4. an empowered public with the skills, experience and knowledge to participate in a decision-making process.
  5. an accountable planning process  in which there is an affordable and speedy system of redress.
  6. a planning system where power and influence flows both from the top-down and bottom-up where development is ‘plan-lead’ but people can challenge the principle of developments supported in national policy.

These ideas are an extract from ‘Re-valuing participation in the Scottish planning system‘ a consultation paper by Planning Democracy on barriers to public participation in the Scottish planning system and some potential solutions for a more democratic process.

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