RTPI Scotland will be working closely with our members over the coming months to prepare our response to the Scottish Government consultation paper Places, People and Planning. We have already published a paper, Repositioning Planning, setting out some key gamechangers. Alongside our chapters we are running workshops for members across Scotland, each one tasked with exploring one of the review’s key themes. These will discuss a number of propositions to help RTPI Scotland to pull together thinkpiece papers on key issues. These papers will form part of our response to the consultation and, hopefully, provide some constructive thinking on practical ways forward.
The Grampian chapter is hosting a workshop on 16 February in Aberdeen, tasked with looking at collaborative planning. The propositions to be discussed are:
Proposition 1: There should be a statutory link between Community Planning and spatial Planning
RTPI Scotland supports a Community Right to Plan, allowing communities to have a greater influence in the early stages of development planning. This will demand a more collaborative and frontloaded approach to plan preparation. Places, People and Planning proposes that communities should be able to prepare their own spatial plans – local place plans – which have a clear connection with the statutory development plan. Uncertainty remains as to how Local Authorities can resource local place planning alongside local development plan processes. The Consultation Paper anticipates that not all communities may have the resources, or want, to produce a full statutory plan for some time. It acknowledges a need for capacity building within communities and suggests a flexible system with varying levels of community participation available to suit different local circumstances. This proposal and others relating to improving engagement in the system may have implications in terms of the skills and knowledge required of planners and related professionals. To try and address some of these practical concerns, RTPI Scotland is suggesting that direct community involvement in spatial planning could be enabled by widening existing Community Planning processes. Questions provoked by this, that we will address on Thursday, are:
- Do you agree that this would deliver ‘the community right to plan’?
- How would this enable different communities to better influence development outcomes?
- What could be done to ensure that as diverse a section of society as possible engages with this wider Community Planning remit?
- What weight should be attached to spatial proposals included in Community Plans?
- How will local authority teams need to work together differently if linking spatial and Community Planning is to go ahead?
- How could resource support for the spatial elements of community planning be provided?
Proposition 2: Third party rights of appeal will not improve public trust in the system, nor ensure that planning acts in the public interest
Many people care about their places but find the planning system complicated and uninspiring. And, some feel that the system is structured so that communities’ interests are not treated ‘equally’ in the planning system. Progress has been made and there are many examples of good practice of efforts to encourage community participation in planning. However, it is clear that we still have room for improvement.
The proposals in Places, People and Planning include measures to encourage greater community influence on development plans and to strengthen pre-application consultation and enforcement.
RTPI Scotland believes that giving communities a meaningful say early in the planning process, and then, as far as is possible given constraints and circumstance, delivering on what has been agreed, is the most effective way of ensuring that the public have a say in how places change over time. We therefore support the principles behind the proposals described above.
RTPI Scotland does not believe that the additional introduction of third party rights of appeal would support a more proactive and positive community role in the planning system. We think it is far preferable to enable public involvement in decisions early on. It is the responsibility of the planning system to make decisions on development in the wider public interest, having weighed up all of the complex, and sometimes conflicting, issues. Shifting the focus of public participation to the development plan writing stage, instead of the development management stage, should make it easier decision makers to take into account any material considerations important to a community when making that public interest decision.
On Thursday evening in Aberdeen we will be asking workshop attendees:
- Do you agree with RTPI Scotland’s position?
- Are there any alternative changes to the appeals system that could support public trust in the planning system?