RTPI Scotland Director Craig McLaren looks into his crystal ball to see what could be the key issues for planning in 2018
If you thought that 2017 was a big year for planning in Scotland, my bet is that it’s going to be even bigger in 2018! Last year saw the publication of the Planning (Scotland) Bill so the focus will be translating that into an Act. RTPI Scotland set out its initial reaction to the Bill in December and we have already contacted the political parties to speak with them about what we would like to see included.
The Bill will receive intensive scrutiny by the Parliament and the Local Government and Communities Committee and the Finance and Constitution Committee have already sought written evidence on the Bill. This will be followed by oral evidence sessions in February and March. There will be opportunities to support, amend and add new provisions to the Bill as it progresses through Parliament and I’m hopeful that it will lead to a positive debate about the good things that planning can do and what it needs to be able to do this well. We will continue to work with our partners in the Scottish Alliance for People and Places to promote this.
The Bill should receive Royal Assent before the summer recess but the reform of the planning system will not stop there. Many of the really game-changing elements of the planning review will come through secondary legislation emanating from the Planning Act. This is where the real detail on key issues will be set out on key issues including new arrangements for the National Planning Framework and strategic planning; the process, shape and content of future development plans; Local Place Plans and how they relate to development and community planning; future approaches to community engagement and empowerment; and the future of any infrastructure levy. The detail of new arrangements on measuring performance, organising support for improvement and resourcing the planning service will also need to be agreed.
However the Planning Bill will not be the only thing important for planners in 2018. For example the next national Planning Framework is scheduled to be published in 2020 and, given this, it is likely that the preparatory work on this will begin sometime in the year. Also, we will see the publication of the new Climate Change Plan in February paving the way for more challenging climate change and emissions targets. These will rely on planners and the planning system in supporting renewables and energy efficiency and reducing the need to travel.
Linked to this is the review of the National Transport Strategy. It presents a real opportunity to promote the important role of planning and placemaking and to highlight the need to make active travel, including walking and cycling, as a key way forward. The proposed doubling of the annual active travel budget from £40m a year to £80m as announced in the Programme for Government was a very welcome signal on this.
I’ve no doubt that the housing crisis will continue to be an ongoing issue throughout 2018. The Government’s target of 50,000 affordable homes will remain a challenge at the forefront of many people’s minds and the Joint Housing Policy and Delivery Forum set up by Scottish Government (and which RTPI Scotland sits on) will have an important role in monitoring progress, identifying challenges and generating solutions on this. It will also be interesting to see how Scottish Government intends to take forward approaches to housing land allocations given the withdrawal of their draft advice on housing in late 2017.
We will also see the agreement and implementation of City Region Deals across Scotland closely aligned to the inclusive growth agenda. At RTPI Scotland we will be exploring how planners and planning can contribute to, and influence, these to ensure the long term transfomational change they aim to achieve. The Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into City Region Deals and should be published soon.
The recent establishment of the Scottish Land Commission will lead to further discussion on land reform in Scotland. It has already published a useful paper on land market intervention to increase housing supply in Scotland and is in the process of commissioning research looking into the potential for land value taxes in Scotland.
Just before Christmas the Scottish Government and COSLA jointly launched a Local Governance Review, which will aim to make sure local communities have more say about how public services in their area are run. The review will involve hearing from communities all across the country to get a clear understanding of the type of changes that are needed, and how these can be made to happen. The engagement process will run throughout 2018 with people’s views being used to inform new legislation.
Last, but certainly by no means least, will be the work undertaken to prepare for Brexit. From a planning perspective this involves how best to repatriate powers to the UK and devolved Governments; future environmental standards; skills and talent retention; impact on investment in infrastructure and development; and approaches to research.