Blog: Delaying development, delaying growth



Keith Geddes

Keith Geddes gives his thoughts on the Planning (Scotland) Bill the threat of a new right of appeal.

The impetus behind the current Planning (Scotland) Bill was to speed up the planning process to secure much needed development, especially housing developments.

Sadly, deliberations around the Bill may result in exactly the opposite.

There is growing support for a community right of appeal.

Supporters argue that where a site is not included in the Local Development Plan, (LDP) the local community council - or indeed a single individual in that community - would be able to exercise a new right to appeal.

Yes that’s right, a single individual could firstly object to an application and - if it were to be approved by the local planning committee - then appeal against the decision.

Those who support a new right of appeal, apparently have not appreciated that since it is proposed that LDP’s move to a ten year cycle (instead of the present five)  inevitably, more suitable sites will become available in that new time frame.

But would developers really risk submitting an application and the significant investment involved, if the chances of an appeal being submitted were high?

I suspect that the majority would think more than twice before doing so.

The deliberations of some MSPs on this issue, highlights – in my view - a lack of understanding.

At a time when Scotland needs to stimulate economic growth, private and public house completions are still significantly below their pre-crash levels.

In 2007 there were 21,683 completions yet a decade on, the figure remains obstinately low at 17, 739.

And there is a growing trend for Scottish housebuilders to look south of the border to grow their business, where there are arguably fewer barriers and investment by private sector housebuilders is welcomed by politicians.

The SNP sensibly dropped their opposition to a third party right of appeal during the passage of the 2006 Planning (Scotland) Act and remain of the view that such an appeal, or an “equal right of appeal” is not to be welcomed.

However, the SNP no longer have a parliamentary majority and routinely rely on the Greens to secure support for legislation.

On this occasion they cannot.

Indeed with Labour and the Liberal Democrats likely to take the populist position and vote in favour of an equal right of appeal, it will be the Conservative group in Scottish Parliament, who will be the key decision makers.

Allegedly split over the issue, it would be ironic if they tipped the balance in favour of a new right of appeal.

  • Keith Geddes is a past president of CoSLA and former leader of the City of Edinburgh Council. He has also served on a number of public bodies, including Scottish Enterprise, the Accounts Commission, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Arts Council, and is chair of the Central Scotland Green Network Trust. He has extensive experience in local government, planning, housing and education and is now at Pagoda PR.