On 20th March the Scottish Planning Review Working Groups reconvened for a further round of discussions. This time the focus was on the Scottish Government’s published response to the Review, ‘Places, People and Planning: A consultation of the future of the Scottish Planning System
’, which is out for consultation until the 4th April.
I was delighted to attend again and share my experiences of plan making; and of, establishing, defending and challenging of housing targets. I was even more delighted to be asked by the Scottish Government to facilitate the Delivering More Homes session on “…how much housing is required and establishing demand for housing…”.
The reconvened workshop looked at two key aspects of Places, People and Planning.
The first workshop session considered the ways in which design/place and delivery can be actively supported by proposed changes in the system.
The purpose of the first workshop was to focus on how planning can help to diversify the ways in which we deliver homes. This considered the proposals from the consultation paper that aim to deliver more homes under the headings Actively Enabling Development – diversifying how we deliver homes and the types of homes that we deliver, and providing improved practical tools, such as SPZs.
The second workshop session (which I facilitated) provided the opportunity to clarify the proposed process of establishing the demand for housing in the LDP, the role of the proposed gate-check and the translating of this into land and sites as part of a strong place-making aim.
The purpose of the second workshop was to focus on the potential changes set out in the consultation – using the HNDA tool to provide national/regional estimates; signing off the number of homes at an early stage in plan production by the gatecheck, and improving monitoring of housing land availability. It was a pretty tall order to expect a solution to be provided in a 2 hour session but there was a clear call for unambiguous housing numbers to be set at the national level so that at a local level the business of plan making and quality of place could be achieved with less distraction.
There was broad discussion about how these numbers would be set and how often they would be reviewed, always with an eye to the ambition of simplifying not further complicating the process. The NRS projections adjusted to take account of the economic growth ambitions of Scottish Government seemed to be a sensible starting point.
But how often should these be reviewed? There are new projections every 2 years, surely it isn’t sensible to revise the national housing numbers as often as that? There was a clear consensus that the number set should be expressed as an “at least” and that via the regional arrangements and Local Development Plans there would be the flexibility to exceed this number if local circumstances supported that. The maintenance of a regional tier of planning was supported.
If the current SDP process must change then it was thought important that the regional tier became the link between the nationally set requirements and the translation of those into Local Development Plans. This regional tier would deal with the requirements of the housing market areas and would ensure the cross boundary working that was needed between individual LAs to deliver the ambitions of the national plan. It was felt that there was still the need for this regional tier to produce a set of requirements for their constituent LAs to deliver, even if this wasn’t a full SDP and that this should be signed off at the highest level of each LA. There also seemed to be a role for the regional tier in the “gatecheck”.
This was seen to be ensuring that where proposals in the national plan crossed LA boundaries there was a mechanism to ensure each LA was planning properly for their contribution to this bigger picture. What was clear from these discussions was that there should be a drive to get the numbers fixed and signed off at the highest level. For this to streamline the process there must be agreement that once the numbers are set they are fixed, otherwise there is the danger that housing numbers will be discussed and scrutinised 3 times at national, regional and local levels. Whatever new process is that is put in place it needs to be mindful of the necessity to avoid this.
The discussions at these workshop sessions will feed into Scottish Government’s thinking as they refine their approach and revise the system ahead of legislative changes. The consultation remains open and all that have a stake in the Scottish Planning System are encouraged to make representations by 4th April.
If you require Lichfields to make representations on your behalf get in touch soon, the clock is ticking…