Green MSP Ross Greer has said the SNP have sold local communities in Renfrewshire short after relying on Conservative votes to reject proposals to give communities a right of appeal and to pass a weak and centralising Planning Bill.
Following 3 days of debate in the Scottish Parliament at the end of June, Green MSPs voted to oppose the Bill after the SNP and Conservatives joined forces on dozens of amendments, removing changes made at an earlier stage and voting down an amendment which would see communities gain the right currently only given to developers to appeal planning decisions which go against them.
Currently, if a planning application is turned down, the developer can appeal to the Scottish Government, even if elected councillors reject their plans unanimously. This scenario recently played out in Bishopbriggs last year, where 569 residents’ letters and the vote of every single councillor in East Dunbartonshire was overturned by a government official, after the developer appealed. If the application had been approved in the first place, the community would not have had the same right as the developer to appeal. Community groups from all over Scotland who have been affected by this unequal system came together to campaign for an “equal right of appeal” in the new Planning Bill.
Despite securing wins on air pollution, forestry, public toilets and water refill points, the Greens said that overall the Bill would hand too much power to Ministers, keep local communities frozen out, and continue serving the interests of large developers, property speculators and wealthy landowners.
Ross, said: “This SNP-Tory stitch-up is a real blow for local communities in Renfrewshire who will be left almost powerless against a planning system that’s more centralised than ever and which continues to put property speculators, landowners and big business first.
“This Planning Bill should have been a chance for change, making sure that developments which are clearly against the interests of communities could be properly challenged. Instead, due to SNP and Tory collaboration, the deck is still stacked in favour of developers.
“The SNP had a clear choice. They could have held to the spirit of cross-party working which we were all committed to at earlier stages, but instead they decided to stitch the whole thing up with Tory votes. While the Greens pushed hard and secured some positives, it’s deeply disappointing that the final outcome is a new era of SNP centralisation, leaving communities well and truly frozen out. Our communities and all those who care about their local environments deserved so much better.”
Tom Arthur, SNP MSP for Renfrewshire South, hit back, said: “The quality of the places where we live, work and play can have a lasting impact on health, wellbeing and prosperity. This Bill is a radical new way forward for planning in Scotland and includes a raft of new measures to empower people and organisations in Renfrewshire and across Scotland to get involved in planning the future of their communities.
“A new right means people will now be able to prepare local place plans covering what will be done in their communities, and Local Authorities will be legally required to take local place plans into account when preparing their development plans.
“The Bill also takes a new approach to strategic planning in Scotland introducing a duty on local authorities to work together to produce ‘regional spatial strategies’. These strategies will provide long-term direction to large-scale development, matching local and national planning needs, outcomes and priorities.
“There is now more scope for local planning to influence regional and national plans, and we expect to see more collaboration where people and local authorities across Scotland work closely together for all our benefit.”