LOTHIANS GREEN MSPs: NEW PLANNING BILL IS A MISSED OPPORTUNITY AND BAD NEWS FOR LOCAL COMMUNITIES

Local MSPs have criticised Labour and Libdems today for abandoning any commitment to environmental justice by voting against Greens’ last-ditch attempt to grant communities a right of appeal in the planning system. (1)

The proposal – to introduce a third party right of appeal when local development plans are out of date – would have also benefited developers because it would have encouraged local authorities to keep plans up-to-date.

Following the crucial vote during the stage three debate on the Planning etc (Scotland) Bill, Mark Ballard, Green Lothians MSP, said,

“Labour and LibDems have repeatedly rejected Greens’ proposals for a third party right of appeal, meaning that developers such as Tesco, will still be able to appeal if they have an application turned-down, but objectors will not be able to appeal if an application being given the go-ahead. This is a developers’ charter which will ride rough-shod over local democracy and communities.”

During Stage 2, several variations on the TPRA concept were proposed, and rejected by Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative MSPs. Today’s Stage 3 debate offered a last-ditch attempt to introduce a new variant on the idea. During the debate Patrick Harvie MSP argued that if development plans are left to go out of date, third party appeal rights should then apply – but

Labour and LibDems again voted against it.

Mr Ballard added, “This was an attempt to give the public some meaningful rights in the planning system, but Labour and LibDems rejected it outright and in doing so denied communities even a minimal degree of justice.

“So many variations of TPRA have been knocked back by Labour and the LibDems that we can only conclude that their consultation on the issue was a sham all along. Most of the LibDems seem determined to vote against their own party policy – TPRA was in their manifesto – and Labour’s proposal for community notification is worth next to nothing.”

Greens’ Co-Convenor, Robin Harper MSP said, “This is bill is bad news for Lothians communities. We will see more unpopular decisions like the Meggetland development being pushed through against the will of communities who will have even less say than before.

“The many people who took the time to respond to the Executive’s consultation exercises will feel betrayed – 86% respondents favoured the introduction of TPRA but they are now being faced with the prospect that major developments will be rubber-stamped by those in power, and that parts of the planning system will simply be closed off to the public.”

This bill will give ministers unprecedented powers to ‘fast-track’ major projects they deem to be ‘national developments’ and incorporated into the National Planning Framework. Such proposals will be subject to limited parliamentary scrutiny and the wider public will not have anyway of blocking controversial proposals or subjecting them to the sort of scrutiny which would be accomplished by a Public Local Inquiry. When you consider that such projects would almost certainly include, nuclear power stations, airport extensions, super-quarries, power lines and land-fill sites, then it is extremely worrying that so much power could be placed directly in the hands of ministers.

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