The Operation of the Planning System in Practice

Author:Mr Murray Shaw
Profession:Biggart Baillie


The new planning system has been in operation in Scotland since August 2009. Many involved in the new system do not think it is has yet been fully tested given the relatively low number of significant applications which have been made, largely as a consequence of the current economic climate. Notwithstanding this the Scottish Government is already reviewing some aspects of the new system which it knows are not operating satisfactorily [Click here to view - The New Planning Regime - First Changes article].

Apart from the legislative changes brought about by the 2006 Act the Scottish Government made very clear that it was important for local authorities (acting as planning authorities) to engage meaningfully with the new system as part of the "culture change" which the Scottish Government saw as essential to make the new system operate more efficiently. Quite what "culture change" means in reality is difficult to define.

Edinburgh City Council Review

Be that as it may Edinburgh Council has started a process of reviewing aspects of their processes in light of their experience of applying the new Act for just over a year and potential changes were considered by the Planning Committee at the end of 2010. Before making a decision about implementing these changes it has been decided to consult with key stakeholders about the changes proposed, a process which is currently ongoing. Even if these changes are brought into effect however it appears to be intended that there should be ongoing review of how the proposed changes operate with a further report being submitted back to the Planning Committee approximately twelve months after the date the proposed changes come into effect (assuming they do). This commitment to ongoing review is welcome.

The report appears to have resulted from consideration by the Council of how the new system operates in relation to three specific criteria namely the principles for a fair hearing (where a hearing is appropriate), transparency of the decision making for all involved and efficiency in the decision making process. In regard to that last point the report notes good practice suggests that planning authorities ought to be able to delegate more than 90% of planning decisions. In fact the figure in Edinburgh appears to be 95%. Those which are not delegated are likely to be the more significant applications and those in relation to which there is most public interest.

The report from the Council...

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