Fifers are calling for a radical overhaul of the Scottish planning system, according to the results of a Council-led survey.
Residents, community groups and business people have shown widespread support for a shake-up of development planning and future housing delivery via Fife Council’s ‘Your Place, Your Views’ online survey.
The results follow Fife Council’s letter to the Scottish Government earlier this year in which the local authority called for a review of Scottish Planning Law.
As a result, a consultation is being headed up by Alex Neil MSP, cabinet secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights, in a bid to improve development planning.
Fife Council has also been asked to provide both written and oral evidence to the Independent Panel set up to carry out the review.
Launched ahead of the Government’s review, the Fife Council survey, which ran from September 10 to October 23 2015, attracted more than 260 submissions.
Its key findings, which have been published in a new report, include the following:
94% agree that place-making, including community engagement and empowerment, should play a major role in planning
90% support moving away from delivering targets for housing and employment land – preferring instead the right development in the right place
77% support the idea of funding for infrastructure to kick-start development, with the development refunding the expenditure at development completion
81% support incentives for the development of town centres and brownfield sites
75% agree that development plan examination decisions should be made by locally elected representatives and communities.
Cllr Lesley Laird, depute leader and spokesperson for Economy and Planning, said: “I would like to thank all the people and organisations who took part in the survey.
“Reform of the development planning system is much-needed, and this is widely supported in Fife. Our aim is to make the Kingdom a great place for people, communities and businesses, and to do this we need to deliver a planning service that meets local needs. We are making a strong case to the Government’s planning review panel and have asked to be invited to provide oral evidence, so that we can expand on these points and reflect the views of the wider community.
“An effective planning system must also better embrace economic development and regeneration, to ensure that Fife plays a key part in the Scottish economy. Future developments should also be sustainable and supported by local people.”
The Council says its survey reveals strong support for the role of place-making, with less emphasis on the delivery of targets for housing and employment land, so that towns and villages are well-served with amenities and infrastructure.
It says respondents are looking to move away from what is seen as simply meeting targets in favour of promoting the right type and scale of development in the right place.
Respondents back more local democracy for planning decisions, and comments suggest that there is potential to develop closer partnerships between Fife Council and community organisations.
They also support the idea of incentives being made available to assist in the re-development of town centres and brownfield sites in urban areas, and making funds available to provide community services, which are repaid at the end of the development.
The Council claims many comments express a perception that the planning system is currently developer-led, with the bias towards development against communities and that there are also wide-ranging comments around simplifying the current system.
The feedback has been submitted as part of the Council’s response to the national Scottish Government consultation on planning policy and procedures and will also be used by Fife Council to help improve planning processes.
Cllr Laird added: “While I welcome this review of the planning system I am concerned about the timescales of the consultation. It is also unclear, at this time, whether sufficient account taken will be taken of other core elements that must play into an effective planning system. For example, economic strategy, community and town centre regeneration, infrastructure delivery, as well as a skilled workforce and access to affordable finance.
“Unless the review fully examines these elements, and their pivotal role in unlocking development delivery on the ground, then I fear we may just end up with a more centralising, target-led approach pushing house building numbers. As our survey shows, this is not what people want, and this is not what Fife or its communities need.”
The Independent Panel will now consider the evidence before reporting to Scottish ministers, who will then respond to recommendations, in Spring 2016.