Craig McLaren, National Director of RTPI Scotland, has a look at what he thinks the big issues in Scottish planning will be in 2013.
If you thought that 2012 was a busy and important year for planning in Scotland, it is my guess that 2013 is going to be even busier and more significant.
I’m pretty sure that the pace of change through the Planning Reform, Next Steps agenda will continue with Scottish Government and planning authorities drilling down and piloting new approaches to multiple consents, on using Processing Agreements, and on supplementary information and appraisals in the development management process.
February will see the Town Centres Review External Advisory Group present their report to Ministers. This group, led by Malcolm Fraser and involving RTPI Scotland representative Nick Wright, has been looking beyond retailing and focusing on issues including living on the high street, community development, access to public services, business rates and digital towns. A key thread is how the planning system can support town centres. RTPI Scotland is undertaking work on this looking at how we can create a positive policy framework; asking if current planning tools in development management and development planning are fit for purpose; exploring how planning can support collaboration to help town centres; and examining how to create a useful evidence base. Watch this space…
There is also the question as to how the Town centre Review will link into work on cities being taken forward by Scottish Government and the Scottish Cities Alliance.
Scottish Government has already announced that the Main Issues Report (MIR) for the 3rd National Planning Framework is scheduled to be published in March. I represent RTPI Scotland on the Advisory Group and have been impressed with Scottish Government’s drive to engage with the wide range of interests on this. The MIR should give a good indication of the issues faced and the approaches that may be taken to deal with them. For our part, RTPI Scotland has been calling on the document to provide real clarity on geographical priorities for Scotland.
The recently announced rise in planning fees will come into force in April. This, along with the Government’s announcement that it intends to penalise planning authorities who ‘underperform in the long term’ and ongoing pressures on local authority budgets, mean that resources and performance will continue to be a key issue in 2013. This will no doubt be the focus of the high level group that is to be established to review planning performance, and look at proposals to link performance with wider reform of planning fees. Given this, planning authorities’ returns on the Planning Performance Framework , which are scheduled for September, will be watched with interest. I’m sure that this will also to stimulate debate on how best to ensure we create a culture of continuous performance through identifying, sharing and applying good practice and innovation.
The Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee has agreed to undertake an inquiry on regeneration policy in Scotland. The remit for this Inquiry will be informed by the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Strategy, as well as by fact-finding visits and the scrutiny of the draft 2013/14 budget proposals. This Inquiry is scheduled to get underway in April.
We expect to see sight of a new Policy on Architecture and Placemaking in April, though there are questions as to how this is going to be ‘mainstreamed’ into Scottish Planning Policy and the new National Planning Policy Framework. The ‘place’ theme appears to be a strong component of the Scottish Government’s approach to planning reform, so look out for more work on Charrettes throughout the year.
Scottish Government has already announced that it intends to publish a draft new Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) document in the spring. They have already stated that the review will update policy, look to focus on sustainable economic growth and emphasise place making. RTPI Scotland is already exploring issues around how directive SPP should be; whether it should be based around outcomes, and if so what these should be; how it should link to the National Planning Framework; how we achieve clarity on links with other policy, guidance and advice; and how we monitor the document to ensure that it remains fit for purpose.
And some other things … there is also to be a review of Strategic Development Plans sometime in 2013 – we await to hear the exact details of this; work will continue on the development of the Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill where RTPI Scotland will push for better linkages between spatial planning and community planning; and there’s no doubt that issues around energy (particularly wind) will continue to be at the forefront of people’s minds. I also think that discussions on NPF3 will lead to a higher profile given to the links between land use planning and marine planning.
And of course, RTPI Scotland will have an exciting new leadership team. Alistair MacDonald, Head of Planning and Building Control at Glasgow City Council, becomes our Convenor. He will, I’m sure, be ably supported by Stephen Tucker as Senior Vice Convenor and Pam Ewen in the role of Junior Vice Convenor. Our policy priorities will include public service reform, NPF3, SPP, town centres and cities, and placemaking. We also aim to re-launch the Politicians in Planning Association in Scotland, to review our communications activity and to assess the potential implications of the 2014 Independence Referendum for the Institute’s operations.