Planning & Environment

The Scottish Government’s planning reform announcement on 29 March includes a consultation paper on miscellaneous amendments to the planning system,with responses due by 22 June 2012. The intention is to lay the necessary orders in the Scottish Parliament in Autumn 2012.

There are two proposals which would remove headaches for developers:

  • removal of the requirement for pre-application consultations (PAC) with the public for section 42 applications (variation of conditions); and
  • relaxation of the requirement to submit a formal application for approval of matters specified in conditions (AMSC) – possibly returning to the previous system, in which only certain “reserved matters” required an application, and other matters could be dealt with informally.

Planning authorities will welcome the proposal to remove the prohibition against delegation to officer for decision of any planning application, irrespective of the nature of the development, in which the authority has an ownership or financial interest. Depending on the individual scheme of delegation, controversial developments might still require to be decided by the councillors, so safeguards remain.

Developments subject to review by Local Review Body (LRB):

  • extend time for determination of planning application (this power already exists for non-review cases, ie. applications not delegated to officers for decision)
  • automatic deemed refusal by LRBs –  to occur after 3 months (currently 2 months).

Proposals of a limited/ technical nature:

  • Publicity for planning applications – removal of requirement to advertise in certain circumstances.
  • Consultation with Network Rail – new requirement for developments within 10 metres of a railway line or the boundary of a railway property.
  • Appeals – reporter to be given power to decide whether requests for minor pieces of information require full procedure.

The reform package was wide-ranging and it was inevitable that this sort of fine-tuning would be required. The final question in the consultation paper gives an opportunity to highlight other necessary fine-tuning – any suggestions?

Neil Collar