Planning reform proposals in ‘unworkable tangle’, says industry boss

MSPs have been urged to reconsider legislation to reform Scotland’s planning system after the proposals were described as “unworkable”.

The Planning (Scotland) Bill, first introduced in December 2017, aims to change the way the system works, as well as empowering communities around decision making.

However, a number of changes were made to the bill at stage two of consideration after concerns were raised by opposition members at Holyrood.

The Scottish Property Federation (SPF) has now suggested that the bill is “unrecognisable” from its original purpose and should be altered.

SPF chairman Miller Mathieson urged politicians from across the benches at the Scottish Parliament to accept the need for changes to be made.

“The good news is that confidence in Scotland as a destination for investment remains high and the real estate sector continues to offer the potential to drive economic success,” said Mr Mathieson.

“But we should be under no illusion that there are critical factors that could undermine that position.

“In the last few years we have seen a decline in the number of major planning applications and while securing finance is tough, we need development for growth.

“Our planning system is broken and is in severe danger of being made worse. The proposed Planning Bill has been hugely changed at Holyrood and, while it started out with good intentions, it has lost its way.

“The latest assessment is that the bill adds a further 91 additional burdens – 66 on local authorities and 25 on the Scottish Government.

“The resourcing is already at breaking point and this cannot make it better.

“Let’s step back from the brink and in the words of Henry Ford – ‘Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently’.”

Local Government Minister Kevin Stewart said: “I welcome the Scottish Property Federation’s comments and share the concerns raised about ensuring we have an effective planning system that helps to create quality places with the housing, infrastructure and investment that people need.

“The changes made to the Planning Bill so far would increase the complexity of the planning system and could deter investment in Scotland.

“As we move forward I want to continue to work with stakeholders and MSPs to deliver a Planning Bill that supports the original aim of simplifying and modernising our planning system.”

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