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Planning (Scotland) Act 2019

Planning (Scotland) Act 2019

Nicola Woodward 14 Aug 2019
So back in January 2018 I was bemoaning three main elements with regards to plan making under the Planning Bill as was: The loss of regional planning; The apparent centralisation of plan making - a shift toward Scottish Government and away from local authorities; and  The reduced opportunities for the development industry and public at large to be involved in plan making. At the time there seemed to be significant consequences of the Bill as written that were at odds with the very reasons stated for the planning review in the first place. Since then our MSPs and Scottish Government have been engaged in a Planning Bill “Hokey Cokey” with provisions “put in” and provisions “taken out” – including regional planning. This blog deals with where we got to as a result of this merry dance and what it might mean for the development industry in terms of plan making in the future. But first what of my 3 moans? Regional Planning is “in” but out of the Development Plan; Central Government are still preparing one of the essential documents in the Development Plan (NPF) and are still responsible for approving LDPs. Seems there has been little change from that that was contained in the Bill in January 2018 in this respect other than clarity that the Planning Authorities must provide info, as required by Scottish Government, to inform the making of the NPF; and The new Act lays it on really thick in terms of consulting with young people and gypsy and travellers, community councils, the public at large but not the development industry who will be the main users of the Plans prepared. There remains little opportunity for the development industry to get involved in the plan making process unless you force it at every stage. The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 was placed on the statute book at the end of July.  There are some big changes proposed and transitional arrangements are required.  Scotland’s chief planner John McNairney has forecast that it will take two years for the planning system to be up and fully running now that the new Act is on the statute books.  The big question is how much opportunity is there to influence the provisions for the implementation and regulations? A series of blogs on topics related to the new Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 will be published by Lichfields over the next few weeks setting out our thoughts on matters arising including first the new arrangements for regional planning, the national planning framework, local development plans and local place plans and then consideration of what the new evidence reports should contain, our thought on assessing housing need and allocation deliverable housing land, thoughts on assessing properly and planning for employment land, examinations, viability and deliverability, etc. Subscribe to Lichfields’ blog to get all Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 series sent direct to your inbox.

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Planning for economic needs – implications of the amended PPG
Amid the flurry of pre-summer recess updates to the Planning Practice Guidance were two new additions on planning for economic needs. The first relates to specific guidance on, “how can authorities assess need and allocate space for logistics?” (new para 31), and second, guidance on the wider question of, “how can the specific locational requirements of specialist or new sectors be addressed?” (new para 32). The addition of logistics within the PPG is perhaps not surprising given it was one of the notable updates made to the revised NPPF published earlier this year. As we have summarised previously, it is welcome to see this critically-important sector being given specific recognition (particularly as the sector is not always universally welcomed at a local level) and this is now reflected in the guidance. Importantly, the PPG emphasises that policies for logistics should be formulated “separately from those relating to general employment land”. However, this has typically not been the case in all local plans. Part of the issue is that logistics space markets and networks often cut across local authority boundaries, with wide functional economic market areas and specific needs in terms of access to the strategic transport network, power capacity and labour supply. This emphasises the need for collaboration between local authorities and also engagement with logistics operators and developers – the sector should embrace this invitation to help plan-makers better understand their current and future needs. Further, research by Lichfields on the ‘last mile’ segment of logistics highlighted that planning is to some extent still catching up with this fast-moving sector, and needs to better understand industry trends. Some 58% of authorities surveyed viewed the lack of an up-to-date local plan as a key barrier to meeting last mile needs. The PPG now points to a broad range of evidence being considered to help determine local logistics needs, including “changes in the local population and the housing stock as well as the local business base and infrastructure availability”. The second addition to the PPG on understanding the locational requirements of specialist or new sectors appears, at face value, to be a recognition that traditional ‘predict and provide’ approaches to employment land forecasting are not without their limitations. The PPG cites high tech, engineering, digital, creative and logistics as examples of such industries, where clustering can drive innovation, productivity and economic growth. These and other fast-growing sectors don’t always fit neatly into traditional B use class definitions, so it’s arguably a rallying call for a more nuanced understanding of the inter-relationships between sectors and space and the factors that drive competitive advantage. More qualitative evidence and engagement with businesses and occupiers in this regard will contribute to better plan-making. Echoing the revised NPPF (see para 81a), there’s also now specific reference in the PPG to the need to take account of policy and evidence contained in Local Industrial Strategies. There are currently 6 Local Industrial Strategies in place nationally, and with more on their way, they will have an increasingly important role to play in setting the direction of policy as well as future public funding to support delivery. Lichfields’ work on a number of Local Industrial Strategies nationally has reinforced how getting land use planning policies right is critical to facilitating local economic ambitions. The challenge now is how to translate broad strategies to enhance regional economic productivity into clear and focused policies in future local plans, and having the evidence in place to back these up. Image credit: DNPBFN SWNS Alamy Stock Photo

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