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8 Nov 2017

Planning without the people

Culloden battlefield
A survey of more than 1,000 people found that most feel they have no influence on planning decisions.

A survey commissioned by the Trust shows that a majority of people feel they have no influence on local planning decisions and that the planning system needs to do more to protect and enhance our heritage.

Our charity, which has the role of protecting and sharing Scotland’s historic and natural landscapes, arranged a survey of 1,025 Scots aged over 16 years in August 2017. The survey sample was weighted to reflect the country’s socio-demographic distribution.

The key findings were:

  • 60% felt they had no influence on planning decisions affecting their local area;
  • Only 41% of those surveyed felt their local historic environment has been protected or enhanced by the planning system.
  • Fewer than half (47%) felt that local greenspaces and natural heritage had been protected by the planning system.
  • Local communities’ priorities for protection and future improvement go much further than the current focus on enabling housing development – 49% prioritise outdoor areas, 47% housing, 46% public facilities and shops, 40% transport.
  • 90% want local communities to have the same rights of appeal in the planning system as enjoyed by developers, indicating dissatisfaction with the balance of power in the system at present.

The backdrop to the survey is a review being conducted by the Scottish Government as a prelude to a proposed Planning Bill, which recognises the system needs to work better. However, the consultation paper issued by civil servants in January 2017 referenced ‘housing’ 75 times, ‘greenspace’ 3 times and ‘natural heritage’ only once. There were no references at all to ‘amenity’, ‘beauty’, ‘landscape,’ ‘recreation’ or ‘sustainable development’. The research shows that the new bill must go further than just housing if it is to meet public expectations.

Diarmid Hearns, the National Trust for Scotland’s Head of Policy, said:

“It is clear from the responses that there is much to do in Scotland to get a planning system that Scots have confidence in and that delivers the kinds of places they want to live in. The forthcoming bill is an opportunity for us all to work together to make Scotland a better place to live, work and play.

“From the research, there is a perception that the system is stacked in favour of developers - people want to see this being rebalanced so that communities have greater weight in decisions. I thought that it was very interesting that, although the most affluent people surveyed in general terms felt they had more influence on the planning process, even among them 55% felt they had no influence at all, compared to 46% in a similar survey undertaken in 2013.

“It is good news that the Scottish Government are considering sweeping changes to the system and are taking in a wide range of views. We hope this information is of value to them and that the public’s genuinely held views can assist in shaping the forthcoming Planning Bill.”