The Scottish Government has been consulting on ironing out some of the wrinkles in the freshly modernised planning system. Here’s a thought for another tweak:
The complaints about the performance of Local Review Bodies (LRBs) are, to some extent, to be expected – LRBs after all are intended to provide more summary treatment for smaller applications. However, the feedback I’ve had suggests that there is at least a perception that the quality of decision-making can be uneven (as an example, in a previous blog I’ve mentioned that LRBs do not appear to have applied the “new matters” rule uniformly with each other or with reporters).
But the problem for anyone who’s got a gripe about the way they have been treated by an LRB is that the only remedy they have is to take their case to the Court of Session for a statutory appeal or judicial review on a point of law. The new planning system was designed to treat each application in a manner proportionate to its scale. Given that LRBs by definition deal with smaller developments, it seems disproportionate to require an applicant to pay the costs of counsel and Edinburgh agents to represent them to get a remedy for an LRB’s misinterpretation of a tree report in an application for a single house (for instance).
So, why not make statutory appeals from decisions of the LRB (presently dealt with by the Court of Session) a matter for the Sheriff? This would have the advantage of providing local justice at a proportionate cost for the local developer or objector. The Sheriff would not be asked to deal with the planning merits, simply matters of law: was the decision outwith the LRB’s powers? Was there a failure to adhere to proper procedure by which the appellant was substantially prejudiced? Sheriffs are used to dealing with similar statutory appeals from local authority decisions on liquor licensing, taxi licensing, statutory access rights and many more – so why not LRB decisions?
I’m inspired by the inhabitants of the Menie Estate to suggest petitioning Parliament for this change. Anyone with me?
On January 19, 2011