So how far has the Bill gone in achieving the purpose of the independent review? The response so far has been mixed, but there is still the opportunity for the Bill to be amended through the scrutiny process. The deadline for written evidence is 2 February 2018 and highlights include:-
The 'plan-led' system in Scotland is to continue whereby policy and proposals for how its areas will develop in the future are set out in the statutory development plan. National Planning Framework (NPF) and Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) are to take on an enhanced role, with strategic development plans being abolished. Additionally, local plans are to last for 10 year periods rather than five. This will be seen by some as a simplification of the process, but by others as a centralisation of policy making given the enhanced status of NPF and SPP which are published by Scottish Ministers.
Local Place Plans
Local Place Plans are also to be introduced allowing communities to produce plans for their places, with scope for these to become part of the development plan. With a third party right of appeal not in the Bill, this will be seen as an important tool for communities to use to ensure that they have a greater say in the future of their places. It is not clear who will help communities put together local place plans and how they will be funded. Additionally, it would appear that Planning Authorities need only have regard to local place plans when preparing their own local development plan which may limit their effectiveness.
Local Review Body (LRB)
The remit of the LRB is to be expanded. The expansion of LRBs will be closely monitored with the development industry broadly against it, as it allows the movement of appeal decision-making responsibilities from the Scottish Ministers to the LRB where developments are of a minor nature or of localised impact. Given that the LRB is a committee of the Planning Authority, it raises questions of the right to a fair and public hearing.
The decision of the UK Supreme Court in the ‘Elsick’ case in October last year underlined the difficulties that Planning Authorities have with collecting contributions towards strategic infrastructure. The Bill allows for regulations to come forward for an infrastructure levy which will presumably allow each Planning Authority to have the ability to set its own infrastructure levy based on its own needs and circumstances. The model is still to be determined.
As ever, the devil will be in the detail with the Bill to see what form it finally takes through legislation and regulations, and it remains to be seen if it will truly be 'game-changing' as hoped at the start of the independent review.
This article first appeared in the Public Sector Build Journal here.