Saturday, 14 May 2011

How are MSPs elected and what do they do?

If you've ever wondered

How are MSPs elected and what do they do?

Then follow the link here

There is an interesting section on:

How do MSPs deal with issues raised by members of the public?

A constituent has the right to expect one of their MSPs to take on a case or query. However, it is up to the MSP to decide how best to deal with it.

MSPs may choose to deal with an issue in a number of ways, including:

(click on link above to read further)

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Cash for Sprawl; undermining the role of planning?

Concerns are being expressed via various on line sources (I first came across this via my daily RTPI Planning newsletter) re Eric Pickles latest moves regarding the localism bill south of the border:

From the* web pages

A fundamental principle of the planning system will be undermined with long term and hugely damaging consequences for local communities and the environment, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has claimed.

Prompted by legal concerns first highlighted by CPRE, Communities Sectary Eric Pickles has taken the 'shocking and controversial step' of tabling an amendment to the Localism Bill that would allow councils to accept government money for saying ‘yes’ to development.

Legal advice obtained by CPRE last year suggested that by linking the outcome of planning decisions to un-ring fenced financial rewards, as outlined in the Government’s flagship housing scheme the ‘New Homes Bonus’ (NHB), any decision taken would be legally ‘tainted’ and open to question.

According to the campaign group, Pickles’ amendment, to be debated in the House of Commons next week, aims to skirt this legal constraint and reward local councils for making pro-growth decisions – regardless of whether development is in line with the local plan or environmentally sustainable.

Neil Sinden, Director of Policy for CPRE, says: “This amendment is a brazen attempt to legalise cash for sprawl. Many may have criticised the UK planning system in the past, but at least decisions were, on the whole, made on merit and not money.

“Councils are currently facing hard financial choices. In these circumstances it is very tempting to seek to fill shrinking coffers by permitting any development, regardless of its environmental impact or the views of local communities.

"But decisions based on financial benefit, rather than on whether proposed development is appropriate, could be hugely damaging to the environment and public confidence in planning.

"It also undermines the fundamental principle that planning decisions should be in the long term public interest, taking account of land use consequences.”

The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) said the move was a 'major change' to the way local councils make planning decisions.

It said the last minute amendment to the Bill, which was not subject to any consultation, makes direct payments by Government a key consideration in deciding on planning applications.

Dr Hugh Ellis, TCPA Chief Planner said: “While the Government claims this is a minor change to reinforce the New Homes Bonus, in fact it means direct cash payments will become the first amongst equals of considerations for new development.

"This, along with other measures announced in the Budget, risks further undermining the role of planning which is to deliver sustainable development in the wider public interest.”* web site states: is the UK's most up-to-date Social Housing and Public Sector news website, combining national coverage from the Press Association and our team of professional journalists with press releases loaded direct by housing associations, local authorities, charities and other relevant organisations.

Urgent call to prevent loss of Environmental Legislation

This just arrived via email and it is strong stuff.
(I have been a a regular recipient of the CIWEM e newsletter for some years now.)

CIWEM describes itself as:

Working for the public benefit for a clean, green and sustainable world, CIWEM (The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management) is the only independent, chartered professional body and registered charity with an integrated approach to environmental, social and cultural issues.

"Dear Contacts,

The Coalition Government, under its ‘Red Tape Challenge’ are asking people to tell them what ‘red tape’ is unnecessary and in response the Government will ‘reduce the burden of regulation’.

All our environmental regulation and legislation is individually listed on the red tape challenge website and is open to this process and unless you respond to the call for comments using the link below as a concerned individual, the protection of our environment is seriously under threat.

This email is a call to action for CIWEM members and contacts and we implore you to add your comments.

The Government’s view is ‘regulations and the inspections and bureaucracy that go with them have piled up and up….this has hurt business…’.

The CIWEM view is that we need to be working towards a clean, green and sustainable world and effective, strong environmental legislation is crucial rather than a hindrance to business that needs to be removed. As noted in a recent CIWEM press release, we are utterly opposed to ‘asset stripping the environment’.

Please use the link below and enter your comments in the environment section or under specific parts of the environment section. Please enter your comments as ‘I am commenting on my own behalf’ and CIWEM’s Policy Team will also send responses from CIWEM.

It is utterly essential that you respond and pass this email to others you know so they can comment.


Justin Taberham
Director of Policy

A82 Priority Upgrade

From Highland Council Press Release

The upgrade of a 10-mile stretch of the A82 between Tarbert and Inverarnan in Argyll has been identified as the key priority in the campaign to make the trunk link between Inverness and Glasgow safer.

A high level meeting of interested parties this week identified the urgent need to commission a strategic route alignment study at an estimated cost of £200,000.

This upgrade would see the road widened to 6 metres and includes edge strengthening to accommodate heavy goods vehicles/buses.

The meeting at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel on Monday was called and chaired by The Highland Council Leader, Councillor Michael Foxley. Also in attendance were senior representatives of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority, Transport Scotland. Argyll & Bute Council and Hitrans .

Councillor Foxley said: “We had a very good meeting indeed and we have agreed a positive way forward to improve one of the most dangerous roads in Scotland.

“We have identified the tortuous stretch of road between Tarbert and Inverarnan as the priority for action by upgrading the existing line.

“I was delighted that the National Park Authority said they intend to withdraw their objection to the proposed improvements at Pulpit Rock if we take on board the environmental sensitivities involved in the design of the upgrade, including lay-bys, cycle tracks and structures. They are very keen to see an indicative line for them to identify very sensitive areas of shoreline or woodlands.

“Each agency has agreed to contribute funding towards the design contract.”

Councilllor Foxley hopes soon to meet the new Transport Minister about this project.

Councillor Brian Murphy, Vice-Chairman of the TEC Services Committee, said: “The meeting was a very positive one, and reaching agreement on the priority for upgrading this road is an important step forward. Hopefully, we will now see early progress in awarding a design contract.”