May 1999 to April 2003
Report Subject/Ref No:MF/DA
Department: Development and Promotion
Appendix Title Answers To Questions in Annex To Review of Strategic Planning
Appendix 1ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS IN ANNEX TO REVIEW OF STRATEGIC PLANNING.Scottish ExecutiveShould National Planning Policy Guidelines be renamed National Planning Policy Statements?
Although seemingly semantic, the change represents a major shift in emphasis for the Executive. With one or two exceptions the main strength of the NPPG system has been to place into a national consensus emerging policy issues largely derived at the sub-national level. "Guidance" is therefore the key word. It allows for sub-national flexibility. It suggests the appropriate way forward - but without insistence. It gives councils the opportunity to reflect a national agenda modified to suit local circumstance.
A "statement" is not the same, it implies a formal prepared announcement, and it may well have different legal connotations. It also requires more certainty from the person making the statement (needing more research and more staff?). With the intention of making the NPPGs more spatial in nature, it will undoubtedly lead to tensions, and indeed legal challenges, between centrally derived statements and local circumstance at development plan/control level (for example, over the capacity of an area to take a particular form of development).Should some form of national overview document be prepared?What issues should be addressed?
The need for some form of national framework is accepted. It is difficult from the text to judge whether the proposals will suffice. The need is to produce a document somewhere between a vision and a framework. It should seek to reposition planning back at the heart of an integrated government agenda, complementing the Economic Framework etc. It should not be prescriptive - more a setting of context.
It is more important, however, that any national planning arrangement achieves both status and integration with the main implementing agencies. Indeed the key issue at the national level is the co-ordination of the national agencies. For example, where does statutory land use planning fit into the plethora of initiatives being undertaken through the auspices of the Scottish Executive? How does development planning relate to the roles being assumed by key agencies in areas central to the operation of statutory planning, e.g. in housing?
None of this is addressed and for such a key recommendation this section lacks significant detail. An overview statement for Scotland must surely include only those elements of a strategy that can be decided at a national level if concerns over subsidiarity are to be avoided, and should also set the context for the shape, form and content of subsidiary plans. Vincent Goodstadt's article (Planning No. 1426 6 July 2001) has already identified a potential list of topics.
Although much has been made of a "light touch" approach to this plan, the Review is unclear as to how that will be achieved. Certainly the bullet point list of topics in para. 20 gives an impression of an all-embracing spatial overview of considerable complexity. Much of that list is currently prepared by councils, so that, once again, the Review seems to set a direct challenge to local democratic accountability.How should it be prepared?What sort of scrutiny/approval process should be involved?
Given that outside the four city regions this national overview will provide the only strategic context the current proposals fall far short of the rigour of the current system. Whilst stakeholder involvement might be a worthy objective it is the community that is likely to bear the burden of any change and their involvement is almost certainly precluded by the process. If a strategic development plan requires a mandatory examination in public then so too should the spatial overview and National Planning Policy Statements.
None of the proposals gives as effective an appraisal process as the current two-tier approach at Council level, and although approval may be speeded it is at the price of local democracy.Should model development plan policies be drawn up? If so, for what subjects?
There is some merit in this proposal. In practice implementation may prove to be more difficult unless it is specifically confined to the protection of national/international designations e.g. Natura 2000 sites, or, say, national criteria for the treatment of archaeological remains. However, it is difficult to envisage how nationally derived mainstream planning policy could reflect local circumstance, or the need to balance conflicting policy requirements. Local AuthoritiesStructure PlansShould the current requirement to prepare structure plans for all parts of Scotland be removed?
For some time it has been obvious that universal structure plan coverage of Scotland could not be supported given the size of some current local authorities and the planning issues involved. Equally, the case for joint working by adjoining councils has been established, and, in some parts of Scotland, is working well. In accepting that 2-tier planning may not be appropriate in all parts of Scotland, however, throws in to focus where it is appropriate and how those areas might be defined. None of this comes through in the Review.Do you agree strategic development plans should be prepared only for the four city regions?
The three Ayrshire Councils are unique in Scotland. Nowhere else outside the four city regions do three separate and distinct planning authorities occupy such a historic, geographical, economic and socially well-defined area, or have such inter-related spheres of interest. Thus with the three main towns all less than 10kms. apart, and in three different Council areas, there is an overriding imperative to ensure balance in the development process - a balance that can only be provided by a jointly produced strategic overview. The fact that the scale of issues is less significant in terms of size of units or hectares than in city regions is not relevant. What is relevant is the need to ensure that equitable and sustainable development takes place for the benefit of the whole community. With three separate planning authorities this would not be possible. Similarly the assertion that that the number of cross-boundary issues is limited does not bear analysis (see Appendix 1).
The three Ayrshire Councils wish to be added to the list of those authorities required to draw up a strategic development plan.Do you agree joint committees be set up to oversee the preparation of strategic development plans?
Experience in the west of Scotland has confirmed joint committees as an effective means of delivering strategic planning policy. It allows the correct balance between the ability of a council to act in a formalised joint working arrangement whilst still retaining independence of action. However, making the process statutory alters the nature of the arrangement; as with any partnership, individual partners must want to work together. It has to be remembered that the principle of joint committees for strategic city-region planning is already established by the 1995 legislation, but on a voluntary basis.Do you agree strategic development plans should concentrate on a limited number of strategic issues, and they should not restate national planning policy?
The general answer to both elements of the question is yes, but what is at issue is the subjects suggested by the Review.
The case for strategic development plans is argued only on the basis of a return to the "big issues" type of planning last seen in the late 1960s/early 1970s in response to perceived, and unrealised, economic growth. It is surely inherently wrong to argue that strategic planning is just about new development. If sustainable development is the goal, then the management, improvement and safeguarding of existing investment, natural resources and environmental capital is even more crucial. And this should be promoted in a coherent and co-ordinated manner to achieve best value solutions.
Current structure plans are seen, increasingly, to be hampered by the enabling legislation. This is exemplified by the recent Executive modifications to Highland Council's structure plan removing elements of corporate policy, and by Glasgow and Clyde Valley and Ayrshire Joint SP Committees use of non-statutory strategic/framework documents to promote corporate action.
In all cases this is a response to the importance of both integration and implementation as the key elements of a new and more corporate planning response at the strategic level. In the Review the Executive seems totally out of touch with this agenda, and, as a result, the concept of a strategic development plan seem strangely dated, and can only serve to further marginalise the planning process.
The RTPI in Scotland has identified key tests for the preparation of a strategic plan. These include such elements as a natural geographic area, containment in socio-economic catchments, co-ordinated with plans for infrastructure, related to areas of key implementing agencies and not being dependent on decisions by adjoining authorities. It is only after
this type of analysis that consideration should be given to the realities of council boundaries and whether there is a need to apply a joint approach.
The Review recognises this analysis can only be done once the results of the 2001 Census are known. How then can areas requiring a strategic development plan be defined today except by a need to have a neat and tidy solution? The real planning issues currently facing Scotland are much more complex.Do you agree that strategic development plans should be site specific?
No. The two-tier planning approach to development planning works well in the interaction with the community. It allows balanced judgements to take place in the correct setting. If it were to be introduced it would almost certainly result in the same delays currently being experienced in local plan preparation being transferred into the strategic system. What is required is a resolution to the local plan delays not a transference of the problem. This might be better achieved by dropping the requirement for the draft plan stage.Do you agree that an action plan should be prepared as part of the strategic development plan and that it should be reviewed every two years as part of the process of monitoring and review?
This proposal is worthy of consideration, though it is already available in legislation. It may also be useful to consider applying the same philosophy to subjects as well as areas.Do you agree that a public examination of objections should be made mandatory?
It is noted having not called an Examination in Public for 20 years, the Scottish Executive now thinks they should be mandatory - but with all costs now paid by the joint committees. This would only apply to strategic development plans in the four largest city regions. In practice outside these areas the spatial overview provides the strategic context and should have the same rigour attached to its proposals. Given that much of the strategic system proposed by the Review is likely to have been developed at national level a more equitable solution would seem to be to adjust cost between central and local government on the basis of the issues raised.Do you agree the Scottish Ministers should issue a certificate of uniformity with national policy rather than formally approve structure plans as at present?
YesDo you support the arrangements for monitoring set out in paragraph 36?
It should be noted that there is a general lack of ability to answer the questions in this section as there is insufficient detail on which to base any real comment. In general, therefore, the view would be to reserve judgement until a later stage.Do you agree that outwith the four city regions there is no need for 2 tiers of development planning?
See the answer to previous question on structure plans being site specific.Do you think there should be a requirement for councils to submit a development plan scheme for the agreement of the Scottish Ministers?
YesDo you agree the processes for drawing up development plans and local development plans should be similar to the procedures for strategic development plans?
If this question relates simply to paragraph 39, then, in principle, yes. There is considerable concern, however, if the inclusion of the limited range of topics identified for a strategic development plan is carried through to the local level.Do you agree more use could be made of supplementary guidance?
YesSpecialist SubjectsWasteDo you agree Waste Subject Plans should be drawn up and their boundaries should be aligned with Area Waste Plans?
The proposals seem to make an inherently simple process complicated. It is na´ve to assume that removing the problem issues of waste to a separate plan and realigning it to area waste plans will somehow stop the process being problematic. For the most part the planning issues of waste management are simple in nature, though clearly contentious, and can readily be promoted through existing plans. Separating waste planning from waste authorities seems illogical, as does the separation of waste from the wider planning agenda.MineralsDo you agree a period of stability is now required in respect of the strategic planning policy framework for opencast coal? In the case of aggregates, strategic planning arrangements will be informed by the current review of NPPG 4.
The comments about opencast coal are agreed. Although no substantive recommendations are put forward for aggregates the proposal is that they should be dealt with in a separate and distinctive manner. As with waste, it is difficult to follow the logic. There are already successful examples of Aggregate Subject Plans as part of the overall planning response. Where markets overlap council boundaries it would seem that the partnership approach currently adopted for waste could also be applied. Other Issues not Covered by the QuestionsThe Urban/Rural Split
The Review notes that strategic development plans should only focus on the four largest cities and should not be interpreted as giving sustainable rural development a lesser priority. However, in splitting Scotland into simplistic "urban" and "rural" areas the Review has already failed to recognise the complexity of the Scottish landscape and the need for planning to manage their interaction for sustainable ends. It would be difficult to convince many councils outside the four cities that their "urban" problems were of lesser significance when it comes to the sharing out of resources.The Structure Planning Process
The main criticism levelled at the planning system is delay in plan preparation and approval. The key test of any new process developed, therefore, must be whether it is likely to improve on current practice whilst still retaining the system's strengths. The only substantive new elements likely to achieve greater efficiency are limiting the 2-tier approach to the four largest cities and their hinterlands, thus relieving the burden of consultation in rural areas, and limiting the number of topics covered.
Comment has already been made on whether or not the limiting of topics actually gives a better and more sustainable plan. In practice many structure plans only deal with priority issues as a first step, leaving residual elements to be developed at a later stage - and increasingly in other ways. Most other changes; a mandatory EIP, enhanced monitoring, site specific strategic land releases and action plans can only add to the time taken to prepare a strategic development plan.
The Review is also silent on the transport issue, and the links between the Executive's Transport Delivery Plan and any review of strategic planning, where there are bound to be implications.
The conclusion remains that the Review in seeking to improve the planning process has in turn removed the importance of the holistic approach to planning, complicated a readily understood system on the grounds of perceived efficiency and overseen a new urban and rural division in Scotland.