Effective Strategic Planning

The new planning system brought about in Scotland by the Planning Etc (Scotland) Act 2006 is now in the course of practical implementation. A number of Local Development Plans have been prepared and reached the examination stage. For example in relation to the Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan, the Reporters have just concluded a series of 9 hearings in respect of specific topics. The Local Development Plan prepared by Aberdeen City is also under consideration by Reporters, though interesting enough no hearings were held by a different team of Reporters in relation to that Local Development Plan.

At the strategic level the Strategic Development Plans which relate to the Central Belt (and the bulk of Scotland's population therefore) are progressing. The Glasgow & Clyde Valley Strategic Development Plan was submitted by the relevant authority to Scottish Ministers on 31 October and SES Plan (South East Scotland Strategic Development Plan) will shortly be subject to a representation process due to finish before the end of this year resulting in the examination process in relation to that Plan in 2012.

Strategic Development Plans are subject to mandatory examination process under the new legislation. Both of these Plans have been criticised by the development industry for the lack of ambition, a view Scottish Ministers (or at least Scottish Government officials) appear to share given some comments that have been made. Under the previous planning system there was no requirement to hold an examination into a Structure Plan (the equivalent to a Strategic Development Plan) and no significant examination has been held for over 25 years (since the early 1980's). A request to Scottish Ministers to hold examinations into Structure Plans were routinely ignored and when that position was challenged the courts were unwilling to intervene (see for example SHBA v Scottish Ministers 2002 SLT 1321).

The position in relation to these strategic plans is probably of considerable significance to the country given the current economic climate and the ambitions of the Scottish Government to drive sustainable economic growth. Whilst Strategic Development Plans are to be reviewed on a regular basis, the first generation of these new Strategic Development Plans are likely to shape the new generation of Local Development Plans for both Glasgow (and the surrounding authorities) and Edinburgh (and the surrounding authorities) and are therefore of considerable...

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