Saturday, 8 September 2012

Railways - High Level Output Specification and Statement of Funds Available

Lying awake in the wee small hours it suddenly occurred to me that we should be due another HLOS and lo and behold there it was on the Transport Scotland web site here.


...Following the Rail 2014 statement from the Minister for Housing and Transport on 21 June 2012, Scottish Ministers have published their High Level Output Specification (HLOS) and Statement of Funds Available (SoFA). These documents outline what they require the rail industry to achieve in Scotland between 2014-2019 and the public finances which are available to support that.

From the specification:
3.18 Aberdeen to Inverness Rail Line Improvements Phase 1, delivering the network capability to enable the operation of enhanced commuting services into both cities, working with station promoters  to enable them to deliver Kintore and Dalcross stations, and enhancing the end to end service to support the longer term objective for an hourly interval service between the two cities with an average day journey time, calling at all stations, of around 2 hours. 
I am not sure what 3.18 actually says; does it mean that a station will be built or simply that the delivery will be 'planned'?
It is also unclear to me as to which 'Tier' the development falls into.  
Comments as always are welcome.

Scottish Government Cabinet Changes Announced

News Release here


The Scottish Government's new Cabinet team has been announced by First Minister Alex Salmond, subject to the necessary parliamentary approval.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s longest serving health secretary, will now become Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities, playing a key role in the Scottish Government’s programme for economic recovery.
She will also take lead responsibility for Government Strategy and the Constitution, including preparations for the independence referendum.
Ms Sturgeon’s junior ministers will be Keith Brown, Minister for Transport and Veterans, and Margaret Burgess, MSP for Cunninghame South, who will become new Minister for Housing and Welfare, reflecting the importance of housing in aiding economic recovery and also the challenges facing those in poverty.
...portfolio responsibilities
Deputy First Minister Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities (with responsibility for Government Strategy and the Constitution) Nicola Sturgeon MSP
Infrastructure and capital investment, transport policy, housing policy, Scottish Water, procurement, European Structural Funds, Scottish Futures Trust, cities strategy, welfare reform, broadband and digital. Developing Government strategy and co-ordinating policy delivery across portfolios. Responsible for constitution policy, including preparations for the Referendum, UK relations. Freedom of Information.
No change to LG and P
Minister for Local Government and Planning Derek Mackay MSP
Local Government, Community Planning, Business Improvement, Elections, Planning, Building Standards

Friday, 7 September 2012

Post Plan Award; Where do the public stand now?

Further to the announcement that the HwLDP has been commended at the Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning, well...

Regular readers may have a vague memory of my approach to the previous  Minister for LG and P, Aileen Campbell in an email saying:

...Dear Minister

We have been totally overwhelmed by our experiences of planning over the last few years.  One of our members was in touch with PAS recently and Mr David Wood at PAS mentioned that you were keen to find out how the new planning act was performing.  For some time now we have felt that our input into the planning system is not meaningful and carries little weight.  The new planning reforms have not improved matters and in fact in our particular circumstances have made things worse. 

We desperately want to take a constructive part in the development of our community but feel marginalised and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the motivation to continue.  Please could you help us to find a way to restore our faith in the system and please could we send you a note of our experiences to date for your serious consideration.

Well, Mrs Campbell was in the process of being 'reshuffled' at the time of sending the email and Mr Mackay, new in post, responded to the mail - with an opening paragraph as follows:

"Thank you for sight of the correspondence you sent to my Private Secretary regarding your experiences and concerns with the Planning system. I am keen to see community
engagement in planning which is meaningful and effective, and was interested to hear about your experiences to date."

And what correspondence did I send that he could have had sight of? Well a great deal of information (some 15 pieces in total) but one item of (recent at that time) correspondence to the Reporters' unit contained this statement:

...Based on my experiences I cannot conclude anything other than that Highland Council’s actions to date have resulted in me being unable to meaningfully participate in and exert any genuine influence within the statutory development plan process.  No amount of planning reform has changed that position; in fact, the loss of the ‘Right to be heard’, the existence of the ‘National Planning Framework’ and the uncertainties caused by Highland Planning Authority being allowed to use a ‘Pseudo Structure Plan’ (with legal issues still to be ironed out) has made the situation worse and placed obstacles in the way of clarity, openness, transparency and faith in the process.

So if the HwLDP is what the Government apparently endorses as embracing the modernised planning system; where does leave the public engagement agenda if our negative experiences seem to count for nought? 

HwLDP gets Awards Commendation

News Just released:

...The Highland Council’s ambitious vision to support the sustainable economic growth of the Highland’s has been commended at a national awards ceremony.

The Highland-wide Local Development Plan received a Commendation at the Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning in the Quality of Service Category. This year marked the 15th Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning (SAQP) which is one of the Scottish Government's most prestigious events and celebrates achievements in planning, from strategic visions to development on the ground.

The Highland-wide Local Development Plan seeks to deliver new houses, jobs and infrastructure while recognising and protecting the special natural, built and cultural heritage of our area. The Plan was commended as it “embraced the modernised planning system by streamlining all of its different local development plans into one ‘live’ map-based document that supports delivery on the ground.”

Councillor George Farlow, Vice Chair of the Planning, Environment and Development Committee, who collected the commendation with, Malcolm Macleod, Head of Planning said, “The Highland-wide Local Development Plan is a document which has and will continue to deliver sustainable economic growth across Highland. This commendation is an excellent achievement and rewards the hard work which has been put into delivering this ambitious plan which will help to grow and strengthen communities.”

In presenting the award Derek Mackay, Minister for Local Government and Planning said, "I congratulate The Highland Council’s Highland-wide Local Development Plan on their commendation at the Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning. This is the first year that I have had the pleasure of being involved in the awards, and I was struck by the high number of good quality applications, and the innovation and hard work that has clearly gone into these projects. Such good applications are a testament to the continued hard work of the profession, and how important it is for us to promote, highlight and celebrate success. Given the standard of the competition, the Highland-wide Local Development Plan’s commendation is all the more impressive, and I congratulate everyone involved."

Monday, 3 September 2012

We must step up our involvement in how Policy is made

Recommended reading - short factsheets and packed with interesting stuff

I became aware of the info below today, via  my feed to the 'Development Planning in Highland' blog:

'Learning Resources - Development Economics and Viability'

...The Government is committed to building the development economics and viability skills of planning authorities and others who are involved in bringing development to fruition. The attached resources are designed to provide a working knowledge of development economics and viability, with accompanying policy context, and to assist with clarifying terminology commonly used by the development sector.

These are stage one, of a suite of resources - there will be more coming in later months. And we will be also distributing a print version of these in the coming weeks.
Extracts from a couple of links above - (very abridged)
...Since first elected in 2007, the Government’s purpose has been increasing sustainable economic growth. 
 ...The development industry is a major contributor  to the Scottish economy, both in terms of wealth generation, and in terms of job creation: 
...The construction of high quality built space, is vital in attracting inward investment to Scotland.  Businesses seeking to locate in Scotland  require premises and accommodation for their workers.   
...In recent years, the development sector has been hard hit by  the global banking crisis, and subsequent recession.  
...The Government has been leading a range of work to ensure that the planning system can assist in delivering good development, and that planning can support development even in challenging times (Link to government webpage )
...Providing certainty through  consistency of advice, process and decision-making.  Business values certainty.  If developers are clear about expectations on them from the outset, they can adjust their business plans accordingly and pursue their proposals with a degree of confidence.  It is the downstream ‘surprises’ and additional or unexpected requests which can cause delays and disputes, and incur costs for all;
...The planning system guides the future development and use of land, ensuring that this occurs in suitable, sustainable locations. It provides strong support for economic development, where it is consistent with other national and local policies. (APTSec Highlight)

'Development viability Factsheet'
..Delivering development requires the involvement  of many parties.  Their actions can have a significant impact on the viability  of a development – ie whether  it is capable of coming to fruition or not.   
It is therefore important to  have an understanding of the economics of development and an awareness of how our actions can impact on delivery.  This document provides a brief outline of some key points.

Why did I highlight the paragraph above? 
Because 'advice' and 'certainty' is provided through policy and we must ensure that not only do we take part in setting policy (through Local Plan consultations), but that the procedures and processes for setting policy are fair, just, robust, easily understood and capable of being influenced by all