The Planning Bill is back

United KingdomScotland

The Planning (Scotland) Bill is back on the Scottish Government’s legislative agenda, after a short hiatus since the end of stage two of the parliamentary process in November last year.

This month, the Government published the Financial Memorandum for the Bill, and the Planning Minister, Kevin Stewart, provided an update on the Government’s plans for the legislation.

The Bill was heavily amended by opposition parties at stage two, with a series of new provisions and duties added to the draft. Some interested groups, including the RTPI, had expressed concerns about the additional burden these provisions would place on the Scottish Government, and on planning authorities. These concerns are supported in part by the figures in the Financial Memorandum, which estimate that the new duties introduced to the Bill at stage two could add costs to the planning process of up to £75 million for planning authorities, and also increase costs for businesses.

In his update, the Planning Minister suggested that the amendments introduced at stage two were threatening the aims of the Bill, which was introduced after an independent panel was commissioned to make recommendations for reforming Scotland’s planning system. The key aims of the Bill were to streamline the system, to make it better able to help with delivering growth in Scotland. In fact, the members of the independent panel have written to the Minister to express their concerns about the amendments to the Bill, telling him in the letter that the Bill is “dangerously close to creating a system that is more complex than before, more remote and in danger of losing the spirit of the original review recommendations”. The Scottish Property Federation has made similar remarks.

In response to these concerns, the Minister has confirmed that the Scottish Government’s intention is to try and remove the additional provisions and duties at stage three of the parliamentary process. No further detail has been provided as to how this might be achieved, given the strong positions taken by the opposition parties during stage two.

Stage three is expected to commence in the Scottish Parliament in May or June of this year.