The Scottish Planning System – response to Scottish Government’s Consultation on Planning Reform

In January 2017, the Scottish Government published a consultation paper ("Places People and Planning") which provided details of the proposed changes to the planning system in Scotland. This was in response to an independent review of the Scottish planning system in May 2016, Empowering Planning to Deliver Great Places”.

NTBCC submitted comments to the initial independent review in August 2016 (which can be viewed here) as well as responding to these latest Scottish Government (SG) proposals, titled "Places People and Planning" ; this April 2017 NTBCC submission can be viewed here.

Overall, NTBCC were disappointed in the SG response to the Independent review’s recommendations. Planning should and can provide a long-term perspective, tackling important issues such as development delivery, health, inclusion, environmental quality and climate change. But the SG response is too vague; containing too many aspirational proposals and too much “sloganeering” with too few practical detailed actions. The importance of creating “place” is barely touched on. Despite statements about increasing “people” involvement, too many of the suggestions imply drawing control into the centre. We believe that considerably more work is required to redress these issues and we hope that following further consultation, a more meaningful proposal will emerge.

Key NTBCC comments to the latest SG proposal include :

  • Questioning the lack of defined role for Community Councils in “Community Partnerships” (which are aimed at aligning community planning and spatial planning) and further examination of Community Councils’ status within the formal planning process.
  • Concern over the very limited statements covering the role of planning in achieving high quality place making, urban design, landscape and architecture. We believe that the aims should be rewritten to include protection and enhancement of our distinctive places and high quality environment; ensuring that changes are in keeping with and of comparable quality with the established townscape.
  • The real or perceived effectiveness of the Pre-application consultation process and the need to lower the threshold for what constitutes a “major development”.
  • Raising many concerns with the current planning process which undermine public trust e.g. questionable decisions following appeals ; accountability of Councillor’s decisions (no record of individual votes) ; attritional approach to gaining approval by some developers by resubmitting almost identical applications; lack of enforcement (adequate powers exist but local authorities frequently too timid or risk-averse to exercise them) ; concern over the decision-making process where the local authority is also party to the development.
  • Questioning the absence of proposals to extend the right of appeal to objectors in certain cases e.g. when an application has been approved (often on appeal) contrary to the officials’ recommendations and to the council’s own adopted policies ; or where the local authority has a financial or other interest.
  • Support in principle for an infrastructure levy for specific developments but with some caveats.
  • Support for increasing planning fees for larger developments to reflect the added complexity but noting that this needs to provide a more dedicated service.
  • Ensuring that the planning service is properly trained and resourced to deliver good planning.

Thanks to Stephen Hajducki for drafting this response for NTBCC.

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Campaign by Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust to Challenge “India Building” Planning Approval

The £65m scheme which includes the historic cluster known as India Buildings at the bottom of Victoria Street and Cowgatehead Church, across from the Grassmarket was approved in May 2016. The consented development comprises a 200+ bed hotel with bar, restaurant, café as well as retail and commercial uses. The developer argues the scheme will bring the listed India Buildings back into use for the first time in 10 years.

Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust as well as others aim to mount a legal challenge to the granting of the application though a campaign ‘SAVE Edinburgh Central Library’ (although to be clear, the library function will remain unchanged).

NTBCC have been contacted to make people aware of a public meeting on 5th April – full details can be seen here. This will also include the launch of online fundraising to cover legal costs.

As this falls well outside of the NTBCC boundary, as is normal, we did not make representation on the proposal.

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City Centre Neighbourhood Partnership

The City Centre Neighbourhood Partnership is an advisory committee to the City of Edinburgh Council. The Partnership has a statuary responsibility to make sure that communities are engaged in decisions on services.

The City Centre Neighbourhood Partnership is part of  the South East locality. Each of the 12 Neighbourhood Partnerships in Edinburgh has been managing a Local Community Plan which has run from 2014 to 2017.

These have now evolved into Locality Improvement Plans for 2017 to 2023.

The Neighbourhood Partnership has Community Grants which it can award to projects within its area. The fund can provide grants of up to £5000 to voluntary and community groups.  Continue reading

NTBCC March meeting agenda – UPDATE

As well as the normal items, the agenda includes a presentation and Q & A on the revised hotel proposal for the former Royal High School by Duddingston House Properties and Urbanist Hotels development team – see planning application 17/00588/FUL. with representatives from Urbanist Hotels, Hoskins Architects and Sorrell Associates.

In addition, given the various news items on the proposed closure of Leith Street (between Waterloo Place and Calton Road) which is scheduled for discussion at next weeks Edinburgh Council Transport & Environment Committee, we will also be hearing from Donald Anderson (who is working with Henderson Global regarding the St James Centre) about the justification and background to the proposed closure of Leith Street for 44 weeks, starting after this year's Edinburgh Festival. More details can be found here.

 

 

Royal High School – latest plans

Are you interested in what's to happen to Edinburgh's Royal High School? If so, please come to New Town & Broughton Community Council's meeting on Monday 13 March (7:30pm at Broughton St Mary’s Church, Bellevue Crescent).
 
Duddingston House Properties and Urbanist Hotels development team are presenting their latest proposals. Thee will also be a Q&A session.
 
The planning application is on Edinburgh Council's planning portal at https://citydev-portal.edinburgh.gov.uk. (Search for reference 17/00588/FUL.)