On 19 March, the Minister for Local Government and Housing sent a letter to Bob Doris MSP, Convener of the Local Government and Communities Committee on the issue of Equal Rights of Appeal in response to the oral evidence that had been provided to the Committee in the context of its ongoing scrutiny of the Planning Bill.
Scottish Environment LINK members took note of this letter and reflected on the responses provided:
No one wants to have to appeal a planning decision. Appeals happen when the system has not worked elsewhere. However, the right of the public to review procedures to challenge public decisions is enshrined in the Aarhus Convention, to which the UK is a signatory, and review is a critical part of ensuring good decision making in the long term public interest and in the interests of achieving sustainable development.
The Scottish planning system currently provides for a review of decisions by those fortunate enough to be able to submit applications for planning permission but provides no comparable review for others with an interest in the outcome or how places develop or are protected from development. Scottish Environment LINK therefore strongly believes that appeal rights need to be made more equal, as part of a number of major changes required to the Planning Bill.
The Minister’s letter and annex unfortunately seem to assume that any change to the current appeal arrangements will automatically be abused and result in many developments being stopped. This is illustrative of the wider culture change that is required in order to shift planning from being about regulating and restricting the worst excesses of development to being about making places better in future in the long term, wider public interest. This is not possible whilst only applicants for planning permission can instigate a review of planning decisions.
For more detailed views and responses, please read the full briefing here.