Headlines: October 21st, 2005

Representatives from organisations across Scotland will meet next weekend to discuss proposals put forward by the Scottish Executive for the modernisation of the country’s planning system. The event has been organised by the Scottish Parliament’s Communities Committee to give people a voice before the changes to the law are considered by Holyrood.The Planning Bill is expected to be introduced to Parliament before the end of the year but the Communities Committee believed it was important to have input from members of the public. The committee’s convenor, Karen Whitefield, said the planning law proposals would be among the most far-reaching pieces of legislation to go before MSPs. They would affect local authorities, businesses and local people so it was imperative that members should listen to opinions from communities across Scotland.

The meeting on October 29th will hear an outline of the White Paper, the purposes of the planning system and the implications of reform. There will also be a debate on the theme “Meaningful Public Participation in the Planning Process”, looking at measures such as pre-application consultations, transferring neighbour notification responsibilities to planning authorities, greater use of hearings, a requirement that planning authorities should give reasons for their decisions and enhanced levels of scrutiny for applications out of line with development plans or that require an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Karen Whitefield said, “The White Paper, ‘Modernising the Planning System’, outlines wide ranging and significant changes designed to benefit communities, so now is the time to encourage involvement and identify any concerns which might exist.” Views put forward on the day will be used to aid the Communities Committee in its scrutiny of the Bill.

The meeting is expected to attract a large number of individuals and members of Community Councils. Other organisations attending on the day will include pressure groups such as Friends of the Earth Scotland, and conservation bodies such as the RSPB and the National Trust for Scotland. The Committee will also hold three further events in November for planning professionals, for developers and other businesses and for councillors who have a role in the planning system.