Rhiannon Moylan discusses a recent RTPI East of Scotland Chapter event looking at ways in which the planning system could help to deliver development.
This event took place in the AK Bell Library in central Perth and was well attended by members throughout the region, with over 40 people in attendance. Three speakers were invited, from both the private and the public sector, to discuss their views on the delivery of development in Scotland.
First to take to the stage was David Morgan a Land Director at Miller Homes. David Morgan is a Chartered Planner and Chartered Surveyor, with experience in both the public and private sector. David discussed the need for a culture change that looked more positively towards development. He highlighted the need for an attitude shift which would encourage planning officers and other members of the council to work with developers to provide effective sites. David explored the importance of ensuring sites were in desirable locations as in the current economic climate developers are reluctant to take risks in sites which are unlikely to deliver a high profit margin.
In justifying the need for a culture change, particularly amongst politicians and community groups, he used the example of the Polofields in Edinburgh. This site has been going through the application stages for 15 years, but community opposition has played a part in reducing its deliverability. David suggested that, when communities and councils appear to be working against developers, developers are more likely to move to locations where development can be seen as more deliverable. He concluded by emphasising the need for collaboration and communication between developers and planning authorities to ensure the deliverability of development.
The second speaker of the evening was Ronnie Hair and he discussed how innovative funding can help deliver development. Ronnie Hair is the Property Investment and Development Manager for Fife Council.
Ronnie focused on the financial aspect and how innovative funding can positively impact the delivery of development. He led us through an example looking at Tax Incremental Funding (TIF) in Methil. A TIF is a long term plan to secure funding for essential infrastructure which will help encourage investment into an area where the profits of which will be fed back to the council, thus replacing the initial expenditure. This then makes the site appear much more attractive to developers as it helps to minimise risk and aid delivery. By providing an innovative example of a way in which the council helps to encourage the delivery of development, Ronnie Hair highlighted the importance of ensuring the right funding and finance is in place.
Our final speaker of the night was Dr Roddy Yarr who works at the University of St Andrews where he leads on the University’s efforts to become carbon neutral for energy by 2016. With over 23 years’ experience working on carbon reduction and environmental initiatives in the private and public sector, Roddy’s presentation focused on the experiences encountered whilst submitting two different renewable energy planning applications.
The first application was for a 6 turbine windfarm at Kenly near St Andrews. This process took five years, from initial discussions with landowner’s to the appeal that was lodged being successful and the planning permission being granted. Comparatively, an application for a renewable energy centre and district heating network at Guardbridge took less than a year to be approved, including time for the lengthy predatory work and EIA that was required alongside the submission. These offered two very different experiences of the planning system and highlighted a need for greater consistency. In Roddy’s opinion, greater consistency and reliably in the planning system will help inspire greater confidence which could reduce the risk associates with development and increase deliverability.
All three speakers focused on how the planning system can help to create conditions for growth. Be that through the planning process and a more collaborative, consistent approach, or by helping to provide funds which can help make sites more desirable. Perhaps a combination of all three approaches would be the best way forward? The importance of delivery of development is something that, as planners, we should be looking to improve; after all our aim of creating a sustainable, resilient economy cannot be met without delivering the right developments in the right places.