Saturday, 20 June 2009

Sharing our Planning Experiences

I thought that you might be interested to read an extract from an e mail conversation that APTSec had with Ann Coleman back in March this year:


"At the NPF 2 Conference in Inverness in February 2008, Mr Mackinnon, The Chief Planner, talked of the new Planning Act as having wide cross party support, and was at pains to state the importance of planning to theGovernment's Economic Strategy. Enhanced public participation and emphasis on public engagement are supposed to be strong features of the new Act. Whilst it is appreciated that new processes need time to 'bed down', we have grave concerns, given our experiences to date, that the new measures for public involvement will not result in any significant improvement in the public experience of the planning system where and when it really matters.

On a personal note, my concern is growing with respect to the announcement made by John Swinney at the Planning Summit in Edinburgh on 28/10/2008. Mr Swinney stated there that, "Planning reform needs to help, not hinder, the economy - especially in the current climate", and that the Government's intention is to" let local circumstances drive local decisions and innovation" and that the focus in future will be, "on identifying and spreading good practice across Scotland".

Whilst I appreciate that Mr Swinney states that the emphasis will be on good practice and the positive potential of the planning process and he has also stated that it will not be development anywhere at any price, I remain cautious, and feel that there is potential for the Government to make the rules and then stand back while local democracy deals with difficult and often contentious issues.

Given that Local Authorities are often cash strapped; that increasing co-operation between the public and private sector is being encouraged; that the planning process itself balances competing and conflicting demands and that the outcomes of consideration by Ministers of recent high profile planning applications has been controversial, I can see the potential for many areas suffering, not simply the public involvement agenda."


"Hi Cathy

Thank You for sharing this with us.

We have a considerable empathy with the concerns expressed by you. Our local Community Councils participated in the Structure Plan and the final approved plan reflects our input, we participated in the emerging Local Plan which is now at the final draft stage, and, so far, it too reflects our input. However we are fighting an application for a large capacity incinerator which is contrary to both the Structure Plan and the emerging Local Plan despite the fact that the developer, as always, has far greater resources and expertise and therefore has even less reason to justify not coming forward with the development proposal during the consultation for the development plans. The application will go before the council committee at the end of March/beginning of April and we are being told that a number of councillors are supportive of the application and that it is likely to be approved at local level.

Like you I was incensed by the announcements on the 28Th October and the whole tone of the press release. I wrote to the Minister and sent copies to our MSP and List MSPs'.

I am so saddened by the planning system but resolved to keep going by the increase in the number of public representative organisations that are becoming more aware and more critical. Our voice is growing louder, slowly perhaps, but it is happening. Sharing and recording experiences, I believe, could be a very useful measure in pressurising the Government to committ to genuine public empowerment as opposed to simply a paperwork exercise in public engagement in the planning system.

Kind Regards
Ann (Coleman)

SPEL Part 2

Scottish Planning and Environmental Law Conference 21st May 2009

Report from a Community Representative - part 2

"Gerry Gormal from Glasgow City Council made the point that in future, development proposals that create jobs would be given priority. I raised the issue that this could lead to developers inflating potential employment to get approval. While this tactic is unlikely to fool financial institutions when the developer pursues funding, the opportunity for independent scrutiny by the Banks usually follows planning approval.

The rest of the presentations followed the theme of where to now. The present system and the development plans which are in place, some of which have only just been completed, do not reflect the very different financial situation we now find ourselves in. They no longer represent realistic expectations and could be largely irrelevant. Jim Mackinnon, Chief Planner for Scotland, was bombarded with questions about how long it would take to alter/update the development plans to represent the current situation. His response was that if the Minister decided that it was relevant he is unlikely to accept any argument that it would take over 4 years and would insist that a few months is more acceptable.

Radical solutions were suggested like doing away with development plans altogether and relaxing policies. Most of the attendees were of the opinion that the present system is too restricting and inflexible. I couldn’t relate to the claims they were making about how strictly local authorities stick to development plans, it certainly isn’t our experience. One legal representative made the point that he does not regard the changes in the planning system as a reformed system but the same system with additions. There was quite a bit of comment on culture change from the developers’ point of view.

The presentation by Andrew Thin, Chair, Scottish Natural Heritage was concerning from my point of view. He commented that it was the remit of the statutory consultees to advise on development proposals and that they have no authority to object. The message I took from the presentation was that the remit of the statutory consultees is to facilitate development where possible.

The final presentation of the day concentrated on the changes in the review process for developers. If the Scottish Government insists on bringing the new Local Authority review process into line, there will be a legal challenge on the basis of the human rights of developers. I cannot see how the local hearing process is compliant with the human rights of the public either.

So where does all of this leave community groups and members of the public?

I am concerned that community engagement at the level that we were promised is unlikely to continue.

Is there a chance that development plans will be altered or have their purpose weakened with very little warning?

Will our green belts become more at risk rather than regeneration of brown field sites?

Will planning policies become a thing of the past regardless of the SPP consultation responses?

Perhaps we should see the changing situation as an opportunity?

If so, how do we influence where we go from here?

To read more from the author Ann Coleman MBE (for services to community on environmental justice) try the link below:

Friday, 19 June 2009

SPEL - Part 1

The Scottish Planning and Environmental Law - SPEL - Conference is widely accepted as the premier planning law event in Scotland. The conference presents attendees with an opportunity to hear about topical planning issues from key speakers and to participate in discussion and debate at the very highest level.

Over the next two days APTSec will post an informal report which was produced, from the community perspective, by a new contact APT has met through our association with recently formed group, Planning Democracy (Scotland Wide). More details about the author in the last instalment.

Scottish Planning and Environmental Law Conference 21st May 2009

Report from a Community Representative

"I was fortunate to receive a complimentary invite to the SPEL Conference and found it very worthwhile to have taken the time out to attend.

The first speaker was Ken Ross OBE; Chairman of the Scottish Property Federation, his presentation was an overview of “The Scottish Economy and Implications for the Development Industry”. I found him very informative, he said it as it is, he didn’t spend time analysing how we got here or apportioning blame. His message was simple - here are the facts of where we are - we now have to find a way to deal with it.

The facts are that there will be no return to the pre August 2007 financial environment; it could potentially be 2064 before we get back to building the same number of houses a year as before the credit crisis. The days of planning gains are over, as Developers are highly unlikely to get funding from the financial institutions in the future for Section 75 agreements. This will impact considerably on infrastructure improvements which are frequently included in planning agreements for major developments. Mr Ross explained that financial institutions now require more conditions to be satisfied for funding agreements, in fact, on some occasions, there can be more conditions than the number that would normally be part of a planning approval. Frequently the conditions required by each of these parties contradict each other making it impossible to move forward even with approvals that are already in place. This means that the greatest influence on planning and development is more likely to come from the financial institutions as opposed to the usual interested parties.

Government funding will be limited, although there is an initiative to have the Banks release some funding for certain projects. With more and more decision making being devolved to Local Authorities there will be uncertainty and inconsistency in the allocation of funding. It could be that LAs’ who are feeling the pinch of the credit crunch will use the finance to maintain current services as opposed to investing in public service development projects.

The market will be dominated by developments that the financial institutions regard as prime while the less profitable sub-prime developments will suffer considerably. Regeneration projects will require “bucket loads” of subsidies as these will be viewed as sub-prime by the Banks. Mr Ross suggests that we will have to ask ourselves more detailed questions about what kind of developments we need and where - do we need more retail, will we happily pay more tax for regeneration projects, how do we maintain communities?..."

More details about Planning Democracy in later blogs

"Making Planning Sexy"

A letter published in Planning magazine earlier this month asked amongst other things:

"Who are your planning heroes or icons? Why isn’t planning sexy when it is, I believe, such an important profession?

"I believe that the RTPI needs a debate about what planning is, who planners are and where the profession should be going. And I think that we need more planners who are prepared to be vocal about the profession, who are prepared to raise their heads above the parapet to voice why they are passionate about planning and its purpose. To be planning heroes."

In response to the letter Michael Donnelly of Planning Magazine set a task on the planning blog

"... I’d like to get your ideas on what the profession can do to make it hold its head high and get the respect it deserves."

In response to that question I posted a comment - see below: Iwonder if you agree?

Well folks that was a really interesting set of comments. Personally as a member of the public who has spent the best part of the last 4 years getting to know the planning system (out of necessity and sadly because of perceived unjustice with planning locally) I find it fascinating; although, even I see people’s eyes glaze over frequently when I start to try and explain the finer points of how the system works.

Professional is as professional does. Whether I am speaking to an architect, legal eagle, surveyor or planner or for that matter doctor or teacher I expect there to be good and not so good in all.

You are talking about a quasi legal system; it is difficult to understand; I have heard it described as more of an ART than a science and decisions on development are taken by elected members, firstly by looking at the development plan and then by weighing up what is also material.

The potential is for greatness, for public involvement to help create better places; for attention to be paid to climate change issues; for design to enhance and contribute to the quality of our lives, to our health and to our wellbeing.

But I fear that if planning is quite simply reduced to the lowest common denominator of landowner with reasonable plan and deep pockets meets cash strapped local authority then there is not hope for any of us. Planning will simply be reduced to a damage limitation exercise.

When you read this I hope that it arouses feelings of curiousity and interest rather than feelings of resignation and defensiveness.


Press and Journal reports on 'Speakeasy'

The Aberdeen Press and Journal carries a story on page 6 today (Friday) regarding the 'speakeasy'.

Residents’ anger over A96 meeting

Community councillors told they can attend – but not speak – at development forum

The article is written by Samantha Chetwynd

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Speakeasy means we won't sleepeasy

If someone invited you to a Speakeasy, what would be your first thoughts? An illicit liquor shop or drinking club somewhere I suspect. Well, I have come across a few more 'modern' uses of the term whilst 'googling', but not quite with the same meaning as outlined below.

It will interest you to know that The A96 Strategic Development Advisor to The Highland Council, Scott Davidson of Halcrow, is organising a 'speakeasy' event aimed at developers. His Invitation reads:

"You are invited to a Speakeasy on the delivery of the A96 Growth Corridor on the Tuesday, 23 June 2009 from 9:00am at the Eden Court, Inverness..."

"The purpose of the Speakeasy is to allow developers/landowners the opportunity to informally develop views on the delivery of the A96 Framework; particularly with regard to short, medium and long term phasing".

"Developers will be encouraged to contribute on how to phase delivery of the A96 Growth Corridor over the development period. In these considerations representatives from public sector infrastructure providers will be available." (The Highland Council, Transport Scotland and Scottish Water).

The invitation continues in part:

"In considering implementation there must be amongst the landowner, developers, infrastructure providers and other public agencies a meaningful and pragmatic understanding of the challenges faced. Garnering of a commitment to a strategic delivery solution for the Corridor that recognises the relationship between infrastructure provision & development and their phasing is critical. The Speakeasy provides an informal first stage for this."

"Working collaboratively to deliver growth in the A96 Corridor will reap social, environmental and economic rewards for all stakeholders and the communities of the Highlands for generations to come"

and concludes:

"Together these proposals will, over the next 35 years, provide accommodation for around 30,000 people in 16,500 homes. The potential for over 20,000 jobs is provided. Fundamental within this will be significant proportions of affordable homes in line with key Highland Council priorities."

APTSec has sent an initial e mail to Richard Hartland asking a few basic questions:

1 How do you see this event contributing to the new Highland wide Local Development Plan process?

2 How many Community Councils and other Community Groups have been invited to the ‘Speakeasy’ and then is that only to the morning session?

3 Given that the stated purpose of the Speakeasy, “…is to allow developers/landowners the opportunity to informally develop views on the delivery of the A96 Framework; particularly with regard to short, medium and long term phasing.” What would be the role of any community group who elected to attend?

4 Why has THC appointed Mr Davidson as A96 Strategic Development Advisor to The Highland Council?

Bláthnaid Duffy, a Senior Planning Consultant at Halcrow wrote to an ISCC member:

"Please note, this particular forum will focus on the phasing of infrastructure development only and is aimed at developers. As a representative of South Inverness Community Council you are more than welcome to attend to listen to the views being expressed. I have noted your intention to attend. Please feel free to contact me if you require further information."

Initial thoughts coming in from APT members and contacts include:

1 We need concentrated action to bring together all those in the community with a stake in the future of the area.

2 Would smaller developments allow more time for infrastructure to catch up?

3 It was news to me (the speakeasy

4 I will raise this with our councillors at our CC meeting ,will you be asking for an explanation from Highland Council.??

5 It would seem to me that they don't want any "community" involvement (not a public meeting in the true sense of the words). If they did, they wouldn't be holding it on a morning when most people will be at work!

6 Given that Transport Scotland, HC and Scottish Water are to speak, it will only reinforce people's perceptions that the Tornagrain, as a major "proposed" component of the A96 Framework, is going to go ahead.

7 How can all parties involved prepare proper paperwork within one weeks time?

8 Post on the blog as soon as possible perhaps with your concerns and questions asked and invite comments? Other blogs will surely want to link and drive the issue up the public agenda.

9 "THE POTENTIAL FOR OVER 20,000 JOBS IS PROVIDED" Where can this figure be substantiated?

10 It would be good to know which landowners and developers have been invited. that way we will be able to see who is benefiting from these appalling decisions being made about our future.

11 It' s the passion that motivates the folk in APT.

12 I keep on about the use of the Tornagrain lands as a most unforgivable
proposal. However I think this point is the only one that could be made to
carry enough weight to stop the progress of the development.

It is hard I know but we must keep sight of the fact that:

Modernising the Planning System, Development Management – was supposed to allow local communities a greater role at the pre-application stages of development, to influence the nature of larger proposals and to allow enhanced scrutiny during application processing.

The Planning etc (Scotland) Act 2006 provides many more opportunities for communities to get involved in planning, and planning authorities are encouraged to invest sufficient resources to help deliver a more participatory planning service and greater community engagement.

The Council has resolved to use the National Standards of Community Engagement within a publicly open process of involvement, evaluation and recording.

Please take this opportunity to give us your views, on this blog, on other blogs or via our e mail.

Launch of National Model Scheme for Community Councils

The Spring 2009 Journal of the Association of Scottish Community Councils advises that:

"The Scottish Government, the ASCC and CoSLA have launched the National Model Scheme for the Establishment of Community Councils. This is the product of the Government’s CC Working Group, that was given the task of proposing a single Scheme that could be used in every local authority to replace the thirty-two wildly different schemes used by them today.

The model scheme sets out some key principles for CCs, such as:

• All CCllrs directly elected by voters;

• Electoral and voting age for CCllrs set at 16;

• Promotion of contested CC elections.

The Scheme also contains a voluntary Code of Conduct, to which all nominees for election to a CC should sign up when nominated. The Government, the ASCC and CoSLA are jointly urging ALL local authorities to adopt the model scheme as it is written. Local authorities should use the local flexibility allowed within the scheme, but otherwise not make arbitrary changes to the national model."

Why not go along to your local community council meetings (if you do not already do so) to get the latest news as to how Highland Council are progressing with any adoption of the National Model Scheme...

You could also try raising the subject at ward meetings if it has not already been raised.

Public Inquiry - the out of town supermarket at Nairn

Good Morning

This is just a short note to say that the 'Gurn from Nurn'

is well worth a look for those wishing to keep up to date with the events at this weeks Public Inquiry for the Sainsbury's planned 'out of town' supermarket in Nairn.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Highland wide Local Development Plan

According to Highland Council the latest timetable for bringing forward a new plan for the Highlands seems to be:

1 Updated Development Plan Scheme March 2009

2 Main Issues Report - 6 wks consultation August 2009 - see Blog

3 Proposed Plan - 6 wks consultation November 09

4 Proposed Plan changes plus March 2010

5 Plan Examination 2010

6 Modified Plan post Examination 2010

7 Plan in place/ monitor progress2010

The Council web site tells us that the Highland Development Plan Scheme has 3 purposes:

  • to explain what future local development plans for Highland will contain;
  • when they are likely to be produced;
  • and how individuals, communities and organisations can be involved in making these plans.

What Communities have to offer

Community knowledge about how environments function is invaluable to assisting authorities create successful places that meet residents' needs.

We should not forget this and indeed, Development Interests should not forget this either.

Don’t forget!

Don’t forget!

The development plan contains policies and proposals and provides the main basis for the local planning authority to assess applications for planning permission.

Know the Development Plan! (Planning Aid Scotland)

Culture Change and Planning documents

Scottish Planning Policy

National planning policy is currently set out through the following documents:

the National Planning Framework (NPF)

the Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) and National Planning Policy Guideline (NPPG) series

Designing Places

Some readers may be aware that the Scottish Government is rationalising national planning policy by replacing the current series of Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) documents and National Planning Policy Guidelines with a single SPP. More information on this can be found at

This "Consolidated SPP" is currently out for consultation which ends on 240609 and several APT members attended an event

But what will happen to the Planning Advice Notes?

The notes below are from a non-attributable record of a Q and A session which formed part of discussions at the Government road show events . The advice on the bottom of the note states that they should not be interpreted as advice or guidance of the Scottish Government. APTSec will need to follow up where we can find the up to date guidance regarding PANs.

"Planning Advice Notes are being retained as a series. Some will be retained in their current form, some will be withdrawn and others will be updated, with some PANs being merged during review. The proposed approach is :

RETAINED IN CURRENT FORM (subject to legislative and policy reference updates)

PAN 33 Development of Contaminated Land
PAN 39 Farm and Forestry Buildings
PAN 51 Planning, Environmental Protection and Regulation
PAN 59 Improving Town Centres
PAN 65 Planning and Open Space
PAN 67 Housing Quality
PAN 68 Design Statements
PAN 72 Housing in the Countryside
PAN 73 Rural Diversification
PAN 77 Designing Safer Places
PAN 78 Inclusive Design
PAN 80 Control and Management of Fly-posting
PAN 83 Masterplanning
PAN 84 Reducing Carbon Emissions in New Development


PAN 45 Renewable Energy Technologies merged with Annex 1 Planning for Micro Renewables and Annex 2 Spatial Frameworks and Supplementary Guidance for Wind Farms
PAN 56 Planning and Noise
PAN 74 Affordable Housing to incorporate SPP3 Annex on Housing Land Audits
PAN 81 Community Engagement
PAN 66 Best Practice in Handling Planning Applications Affecting Trunk Roads merged with PAN 75 Planning for Transport
PAN 70 Electronic Planning Service Delivery
PAN 82 Local Authority Interest Developments
PAN – SEA of Development Plans (new)

TO BE UPDATED IN 2010-2011

PAN 42 Archaeology
PAN 44 Fitting New Housing Development into the Landscape
PAN 50 Controlling the Environmental Effects of Surface Mineral Workings merged with 4 annexes and PAN 64 Reclamation of Surface Mineral Workings
PAN 58 Environmental Impact Assessment
PAN 60 Planning for Natural Heritage
PAN 61 Planning and Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems merged with PAN 79 Water and Drainage
PAN 62 Radio Telecommunications
PAN 63 Waste Management Planning
PAN 69 Planning and Building Standards Advice on Flooding
PAN 71 Conservation Area Management

PAN 40 Development Control
PAN 41 Development Plan Departures
PAN 43 Golf Courses and Associated Development
PAN 47 Community Councils
PAN 48 Planning Application Forms
PAN 52 Planning and Small Towns
PAN 53 Classifying the Coast for Planning Purposes
PAN 54 Enforcement
PAN 55 Private Finance Initiative and the Planning Process
PAN 76 New Residential Streets"


What do they do?

The role of DBE is to work in partnership with others towards implementing a modernised planning system that supports the Scottish Government’s central, overarching purpose of increasing sustainable economic growth. They state that the outcome should be well designed spaces and buildings that are safe, healthy, efficient and sustainable.

Their key responsibilities are:

Supporting Scottish Ministers in delivering the national outcomes.
Maintaining and developing planning legislation.
Representing SG interests in development plans, notified planning applications, recalled appeals and other casework that comes before Scottish Ministers.
Preparing and monitoring delivery of the National Planning Framework.
Providing clear and proportionate planning policy and advice.
Facilitating the dissemination of good practice.
Promoting high quality design and place making.
Leading and co-ordinating the implementation of e-planning.

They state on the web page that there are two main themes to the changes that are taking place to modernise planning:

What people do – the processes & How people do it – the culture


The DBE states that the focus of the Planning Divisions in recent years has necessarily been on the legislative and policy processes of the planning system and that they are committed to completing the remaining aspects of this.

Some of their stated Process IMPROVEMENTS FOR 2009/2010 include:

  • Completing the regulatory framework for planning reform.

    Publishing the National Planning Framework and associated Action Plan in Summer 2009 and bringing together relevant stakeholders to monitor progress.

    Publishing the consolidated SPP by the end of 2009.

    Supporting key stakeholders in the delivery of planning reform.


They state that they will focus on influencing the attitudes and behaviours of how stakeholders put new processes in place, emphasising communication of information and partnership working which will assist in accelerating the pace of reform and achieve the intended outcomes.

Some of their stated IMPROVEMENTS FOR 2009/2010 include:

  • To improve opportunities for key stakeholders to meet with their peers and SG staff to discuss, question and share best practice as the new system comes into place, for example visits by the Chief Planner to all planning authorities; road shows for front line staff and elected members; a new annual Convenors meeting; continue an annual Heads of Planning meeting; and good practice forums.

  • To improve the liaison role with planning authorities by being more proactive and supportive, placing greater emphasis on regular and purposeful discussions, particularly on development plans.
  • To improve The Planning Advice Series as a way of communicating advice and information on technical planning matters. Out-of-date and irrelevant PANs will be revoked, others will be updated and some merged together.

  • To improve the focus and pace on place-making through an action programme which includes publication of Designing Streets and a new statement on Architecture policy, as well as Scotland’s first housing expo, the Highland Housing Fair.

  • The delivery of exemplar developments through the Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative.

  • The delivery of exemplar developments through the Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative. (SSCI)

Please refer to the link below for the orignal information as presented on the Scottish Government Web Pages

APTSec is currently concerned as to what impact this will have on the public involvement. agenda. APT is also concerned about reference to the Highland Housing Fair and to the SSCI. The SSCI has named 2 exemplars from Highland - Tornagrain and An Camas Mor in Aviemore.

The SG DBE states that it is open to suggestions that identify how we can improve as well as explore new ways that enable the planning system to create better quality places and contribute more effectively to Scotland’s long term prosperity.

They can be contacted on: or 0131 244 7543

And APT intends to continue to contact the Directorate as they have done many times in the past.


Architecture: Courting Controversy

BBC news reported this morning that:

'The architect Lord Rogers has said he believes Prince Charles has broken the "constitutional understanding" governing the role of the monarchy.'

The BBC web site quotes Lord Rogers as saying, amongst other things:

"I think there's a dangerous precedent that the Prince has entered into, which is very much about how he sees style," he said.

"And the Prince is not willing to debate. If the Prince does not debate there must be a question over why he can participate in political situations.

"I think that anyone who uses his power due to birth [like this] breaks a constitutional understanding - it's not a law, it's a constitutional understanding - and a trust we have within our society about the role of people who have received power in that manner."

More detail on this issue is available on the BBC web site:

APTSec introduces this point, not to discuss the merits of this particular proposal for Chlesea Barracks, but to raise the subject of architecture and what and who influences our choices in terms of style of building. Keep following for more on the subject architecture in later blogs, where local circumstances will be reviewed.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Come Along and Chat with APT

Over the next few months APT will be holding a number of 'Drop-in Sessions'. These sessions are not formal meetings but enable you to just 'drop by' and chat about planning issues, and in particular find our more about the forthcoming new Development Plan process.

Following the success of our last 'Drop-in Session' we have arranged opportunities to meet at the following dates, times and venues,

All sessions will be open between 7pm and 9pm

Tuesday 23 June 2009; Nairn Community Centre Youth Cafe

Wednesday 24 June 2009; Croy Village Hall

Wednesday 01 July 2009 Spectrum Centre, Inverness

There are also plans to hold other sessions in Ardersier and Culloden; details to be confirmed

Please do pass the word around and look out for posters.