Planning reforms in a spin

A 22-page Cabinet memo leaked to the Sunday Herald has revealed the Scottish Executive’s “presentation strategy” which will be launched to try and counteract the outcry that has greeted its plans to fast-track large scale building developments and to restrict community rights to appeal. A long-awaited white paper proposing sweeping reforms to the planning system is due to be released by the Executive next month.

The reforms include new streamlined procedures for dealing with applications for major developments such as nuclear power stations, motorways and wind-farms. By including such developments within a “national planning framework”, ministers would be able to limit public consultations and restrict public inquiries to local issues. This would effectively remove any “third party right of appeal”.

Councillor Willie Dunn, planning spokesman for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), views the planning reforms as a threat to democratic accountability. Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "Not content with rejecting community calls for meaningful rights of appeal in the planning system, ministers have added insult to injury with proposals to centralise powers in their hands."

Secret memo reveals extent of efforts to justify controversial reforms (Sunday Herald, 8 May 2005)