Following an extended period of consultation, the Scottish Government has published an early Christmas present in the form of the Planning (Scotland) Bill, setting out its proposed changes to the Scottish planning system. The Scottish Government has said its aim is to provide an improved system of development planning, giving people a greater say in the future of their places and supporting delivery of planning development.
The Bill follows much of what was canvassed in the Scottish Government position statement from earlier this year. Key proposals include:-
- Abolition of strategic development plan, with the national planning framework to form part of the development plan.
- Abolition of statutory supplementary planning guidance.
- Reforms to the preparation of local development plans, with plans to be in place for 10 rather than 5 years, but with a right to amend during that time.
- Scottish Planning Policy to be incorporated into the national planning framework. NPF will also be reviewed every 10 years.
- Creation of Local Place Plans – to allow community bodies to prepare plans for their area.
- A return to the use of conditions (as opposed to directions) to specify time limits on planning permissions. Section 42 applications will be used to vary time limits.
- Amendments to the pre-application consultation process, secondary legislation will allow for an extension to the type of applications that can be dealt with under delegated authority.
- Changes to Section 75 so as to expressly allow for the payment of money as a planning obligation, unconnected with an obligation to regulate or restrict the use of land. This amendment may be in response to the recent Supreme Court decision in the STF case
- Changes to the s.75A procedures that deal with variations to existing section 75 agreements. Planning authorities and Reporters will be able to propose alternative obligations, not simply approve or reject the applicant’s proposals.
- Regulations will allow planning authorities and Scottish Ministers to charge for specific functions, could this see the introduction of fees for planning appeals?
- Councillors will be required to complete mandatory training, and will be prohibited for carrying out certain functions (such as sitting on a planning committee or local review body) until they have done so. If a planning authority has insufficient numbers of trained Councillors, its functions may be taken over by another planning authority or the Scottish Ministers.
- Increased oversight and monitoring of planning authorities by Scottish Ministers, including a power to direct a planning authority to take specified steps to improve performance.
- As anticipated, the Bill includes enabling provisions to allow for a community infrastructure levy to be brought forward through secondary legislation. There is limited detail in the Bill, but it does confirm the levy will be payable to the local authority, and will sit alongside development obligations secured by s75 or similar type agreements. Secondary legislation may include provisions preventing the grant of planning permission until the levy has been paid. This could indicate a difference from the English CIL system, where the levy is payable on commencement of development, not grant of consent.
This marks the start of the formal legislative process. The Bill will now be debated by the Scottish Parliament before being subject to detailed scrutiny at Committee. The expectation is the Bill will receive Royal Assent in the 2018-2019 Parliamentary year.
As with so much in planning, the devil is in the detail. There will doubtless be much debate around not only what is in the Bill, but what is not – including the absence of a third party right of appeal.