Cults Bieldside and Milltimber Community Council Response to Planning Review

Cults Bieldside and Milltimber Community Council
Response to Planning Review

CONSULTATION QUESTIONS:

CULTS, BIELDSIDE AND MILLTIMBER COMMUNITY COUNCIL RESPONSES

P.15 MAKING PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

KEY QUESTION

A: Do you agree that our proposed package of reforms will improve development planning? Please explain your answer.

Not as they stand – some aspects are far too vague and others rely on bodies which do not really embrace community input. The Aberdeen Community Planning Partnerships do not have much real community involvement or engagement yet and so they do not reflect the views of the community. Consultation must reach the residents in a community and processes must therefore allow adequate time and resourcing to gather information. There also appears to be a move towards greater central government control; we would expect the opposite in a reformed planning system.

Optional technical questions

  1. Do you agree that local development plans should be required to take account of community planning?

Yes, they should but as noted above there needs to be genuine engagement and involvement of the local community and their views need to be respected

  1. Do you agree that strategic development plans should be replaced by improved regional partnership working?

No – the current Strategic Plan process brings together the key authorities for the area to set out the long term view and plan; it helps set the context and direction for the Local Development Plan. The regional partnership working proposal is far too vague and does not offer a clear structure that will require affected parties to work together. There is the possibility that some will agree to cooperate and others will not.

    1. How can planning add greatest value at a regional scale?

Regional views can help establish the longer term strategic needs and inform national plans.

    1. Which activities should be carried out at the national and regional levels?

Major infrastructure works e.g. roads, railways, utility provision are best directed at the national and regional level

    1. Should regional activities take the form of duties or discretionary powers?

If regional groups are to be established then formal duties will be required. There must also be a requirement for consultation with local communities.

    1. What is your view on the scale and geography of regional partnerships?

The scale of the partnerships needs to be large enough to justify taking a strategic view over long term planning matters e.g. infrastructure delivery. Ideally the partnerships will have similar issues to address.

    1. What role and responsibilities should Scottish Government, agencies, partners and stakeholders have within regional partnership working?

The Scottish Government agencies will need to be supportive and provide the information and possibly resources needed to help the regional groups complete their analysis.

  1. Should the National Planning Framework (NPF), Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) or both be given more weight in decision making?

The NPF and SPP can be useful in guiding decision making and the setting of local policies. There is a preference for greater devolved authority so it would not be appropriate to give more weight to NPF and SPP.

    1. Do you agree with our proposals to update the way in which the National Planning Framework (NPF) is prepared?

Overall yes e.g. 10 year cycle period, extended review periods. The process needs to incorporate a two way direction of information, drawing requirements and needs from the local/regional Strategic plans then feeding back to Local Authorities what actions will be taken nationally so that Strategic and Local Development Plans can be updated.

  1. Do you agree with our proposals to simplify the preparation of development plans?

No, a cycle time of 10 years is too long for Local Development Plans. Circumstances can change quickly and even allowing for some form of interim update process, a period of 10 years is too long. The plan could have a detailed assessment of the next 5 years with a 10 year look-ahead, drawing from the Strategic Plan. Communities will find it difficult to engage and maintain contact with a 10 year planning process. Time must be allowed for Communities to engage and then receive feedback on comments made, with explanations of why a particular aspect has been chosen.

    1. Should the plan review cycle be lengthened to 10 years?

No, a cycle time of 10 years is too long for Local Development Plans.

    1. Should there be scope to review the plan between review cycles?

Yes, flexibility to review to accommodate unexpected events can be useful but there must be careful scrutiny to ensure that any new proposals are addressing urgent community needs; if they are not then the proposals should be rejected. Time must be allowed for Communities to engage and then receive feedback on comments made, with explanations of why a particular aspect has been chosen.

    1. Should we remove supplementary guidance?

No. The model used by Aberdeen City appears to strike a good balance of detail. The 5 year plan presents the Vision, the Spatial Strategy, the Policies which will guide the developments and a summary of the Supplementary Guidance which will apply. The detailed Supplementary Guidance is provided in separate documents. This gives readers a comprehensive reference when reviewing planned developments. Breaking elements into several documents will not be helpful.

  1. Do you agree that local development plan examinations should be retained?

The examination process can be helpful in ensuring local plans are addressing Regional Strategic and National Planning objectives. What we should avoid is central government second guessing or over-ruling what are clearly local decisions e.g. recent circumstances where the Scottish Reporter went against Local Authority proposals without consulting the local communities directly impacted.

    1. Should an early gatecheck be added to the process?

This could be helpful if the Main Issues report process is removed, however we do not support that change. The early gatecheck could be sole central government review to ensure the plan will address regional and national strategic objectives.

    1. Who should be involved?

Could be a small body of planning experts at the national level charged with testing fit with regional and national strategic objectives

    1. What matters should the gatecheck look at?

The contribution that the local plan is making towards the delivery of regional and national strategic objectives. How well the planning process is working locally, regionally and nationally. Testing that the process is engaging communities adequately and responding to community needs.

    1. What matters should be the final examination look at?

If the gatecheck process is invoked then a final examination should be light touch to confirm that local plans are contributing to regional and national objectives. It is not desirable to have central government looking at and changing details of the plan. Recent experience with the Scottish Reporters review of the Aberdeen Local Development Plan shows us that central interference is neither helpful nor welcome.

    1. Could professional mediation support the process of allocating land?

Potentially but at present developers appear to have little difficulty in persuading Government and Local Authorities to release land.

  1. Do you agree that an allocated site in a local development plan should not be afforded planning permission in principle?

Most definitely – an allocated site should not automatically receive planning permission in principle. Communities and Local Authority Planners must have the ability to review and comment upon Masterplans and detailed applications to ensure that what is being proposed is right for the community.

  1. Do you agree that plans could be strengthened by the following measures:

Some elements may be helpful but some are not required

    1. Setting out the information required to accompany proposed allocations

Surely this is already well understood by developers and any new parties can get advice from the local planning department. Developer’s proposals should make a full disclosure of their plans for public review.

    1. Requiring information on the feasibility of the site to be provided

This could help persuade communities and local authorities that a site would be suitable for development. The study must show both the positive and negative aspects to demonstrate its viability e.g. susceptibility to flooding, access, impact on local traffic, contribution to local services.

    1. Increasing requirements for consultation for applications relating to non-allocated sites

Ideally there should be no applications considered for sites not included in the local development plan; if allowed at all, there should be exceptional circumstances and the proposals must offer something that a community urgently needs. In these cases there would be a need for detailed consultation with the affected community.

    1. Working with the key agencies so that where they agree to a site being included in the plan, they do not object to the principle of an application

Yes as long as this does not preclude an examination of a Masterplan and detailed planning application

  1. Do you agree that stronger delivery programmes could be used to drive delivery of development?

A nice principle and it would be helpful to have local authorities given some power to press developers to move forward with approved development sites e.g. removal of consent. In reality it will be the developer who determines the pace of development which will be driven by economic and local market conditions and they would most certainly raise legal challenges against any forced activity.

    1. What should they include?

Agreed milestones and a review process.

P.27 PEOPLE MAKE THE SYSTEM WORK

KEY QUESTION

B: Do you agree that our proposed package of reforms will increase community involvement in planning? Please explain your answer.

We are doubtful that community involvement would increase in reality unless we can have trust that our contributions at each stage will be respected and given equal weight with those of developers. It is also essential to develop the capacity and competence of representative groups, especially community councils, to deliver constructive input and critique. We dislike the implication in Section 2 of the consultation paper that community involvement should simply rubber-stamp development.

Optional technical questions

  1. Should communities be given an opportunity to prepare their own local place plans?

Yes in principle but preparation of such plans will require resources and some technical competence to be meaningful. Training could be provided to those who require it.

    1. Should these plans inform, or be informed by, the development requirements specified in the statutory development plan?

Ideally this should be an iterative process. It is difficult to see that communities will be satisfied to produce a local place plan which merely reflects development proposals already made. Equally there is no point in them producing local place plans which fail to reflect wider realities faced by the local authority.

    1. Does Figure 1 cover all of the relevant considerations?

Pre-plan preparation: While we can understand that there may be circumstances where a special interest or expertise group wishes to produce or contribute to a local place plan, we believe that the default option should be for these plans to be developed by community councils. Otherwise it is difficult to see what the latter bodies are for. It would be sensible for plan boundaries as far as possible to align with community council boundaries.

Plan preparation: We accept that local place plans should be generally in line with planning policies and legislation but not to the extent of stifling innovative ideas. We dislike the suggestion that the plan should “play a positive role in delivering development” as this makes an a priori assumption about all development being good. It must also be recognised that “consulting the community and getting approval” is likely to challenge many community councils since most members of the community most of the time do not take an interest in planning matters until they are directly affected. We would be interested to hear the Government’s proposals for making this process affordable and comprehensive. We would prefer to see the resolution of discrepancies between the LDP and local place plans being held at local level possibly with the support of a Reporter.

  1. Should local authorities be given a new duty to consult community councils on preparing the statutory development plan?

It is not clear to us that adding a further statutory duty will improve the planning process.

    1. Should local authorities be required to involve communities in the preparation of the Development Plan Scheme?

It would be better to retain the current approach of using Community Councils as the conduit for community input and review.

  1. How can we ensure more people are involved?

In order to encourage greater involvement in planning issues, people need to feel that their views are being listened to and respected and that they can trust the integrity of planning decisions. Opposition to a specific development proposal should not automatically be seen as NIMBYism. This should run right through the planning process and in particular it is essential that an Equal Third Party Right of Appeal is allowed.

    1. Should planning authorities be required to use methods to support children and young people in planning?

We wonder what question this is the answer to! It would be better to give priority in the education system to improving understanding of “civics” in general before getting into the detail of planning. However, we can see that communicating with parents via their young children can sometimes be effective and involving children and young people in planning issues which directly interest or affect them e.g. playparks, sports facilities or school travel could be a useful introduction to planning processes for them. Involve learning specialists to design suitable approaches for engaging children.

  1. Should requirements for pre-application consultation with communities be enhanced? Please explain your answer(s).

The quality of PACs is highly variable in our experience. Some (usually smaller) developers take the process seriously and are prepared to iterate to an acceptable proposal through several meetings or events. However others regard it as a box-ticking exercise and are happy to renege on commitments made when it suits them.

    1. What would be the most effective means of improving this part of the process?

We think that the second (or more) public meeting is important to demonstrate that the developer is either taking community input on board or can show good reasons to disregard it. However as public meetings are unlikely to deliver consensus (between developer and community or even within communities) we think that repeated engagement with the community council during the PAC process is also essential.

    1. Are there procedural aspects relating to pre-application consultation (PAC) that should be clarified?

Normally the developer advises the planning authority what community consultation has taken place. There should also be a requirement on the local authority to obtain confirmation from the relevant community council that it is satisfied with the scope and quality of PAC.

    1. Are the circumstances in which PAC is required still appropriate?

Yes

    1. Should the period from the serving of the Proposal of Application Notice for PAC to the submission of the application have a maximum time-limit?

Obviously there needs to be some schedule discipline in the process but there should be a mechanism for either the local authority or the developer to “stop the clock” if it is clear that more time will deliver a better quality outcome.

  1. Do you agree that the provision for a second planning application to be made at no cost following a refusal should be removed?

We agree in principle as long as repeat fees for individual householders (for example making a repeat application to address detailed objections from neighbours) are waived.

  1. Should enforcement powers be strengthened by increasing penalties for non-compliance with enforcement action?

We would welcome stronger enforcement powers for local authorities in the area of planning control as we have seen too many cases where developers and/or their sub-contractors breach planning conditions. However proper investigation and enforcement of breaches requires the local authority to have sufficient resources, and the will, to do this. We support making it easier to recover costs from the developer or landowner and increased financial penalties for breaches.

  1. Should current appeal and review arrangements be revised:

Yes, in particular an Equal Rights of Appeal process is badly needed to restore public trust in the planning system. We strongly disagree with the contention that an Equal Rights of Appeal would discourage early community engagement and that it would ignore the role of elected members. It would encourage developers to take more notice of and respond to community concerns.

    1. for more decisions to be made by local review bodies?

In principle we would prefer planning decisions and reviews to be kept as local as possible except perhaps for matters related to nationally important infrastructure. The current size of development at which developers may to appeal to Ministers is set far too low.

We would prefer the default appeal option to be to a Local Review Body of elected members – obviously not directly involved in the prior planning process. Perhaps the Scottish Government Reporter could be usefully engaged to offer a professional planning audit of the process but not to have a decision-making role.

    1. to introduce fees for appeals and reviews?

Yes, we support this. Some dispensation may be allowed for with individual householders addressing neighbour concerns.

    1. for training of elected members involved in a planning committee or local review body to be mandatory?

We would hope and expect that elected members are competent to take planning decisions! Training needs to be meaningful and not just a box-ticking exercise. A possible model of how this might be undertaken is the “Trustee Toolkit” offered by the Pensions Regulator to non-professional pension fund trustees.

    1. Do you agree that Ministers, rather than reporters, should make decisions more often?

We totally disagree with the present system under which Reporters can make decisions with no third party (equal) right of appeal and no political accountability. So in principle we would always prefer Ministers rather than Reporters to take decisions. However as already stated, if the objective is to improve people’s trust in planning, the scope for appeal to Ministers should be kept to an absolute minimum.

  1. What changes to the planning system are required to reflect the particular challenges and opportunities of island communities?

A flexible approach as discussed in the document.

P.39 BUILDING MORE HOMES AND DELIVERING INFRASTRUCTURE

KEY QUESTION

C: Will these proposals help to deliver more homes and the infrastructure we need? Please explain your answer.

The proposals go some way to help in delivering more homes and the infrastructure we need. They can be strengthened by:

  1. As well as being clear on how much housing land and the number of houses required, it is also important to be clear on the type of home needed in the community.
  2. Local Authorities being given more power to encourage a developer to proceed, including the power to remove consent if development has not started by an agreed date. The report implies this power exists; if so why is it never exercised? Is more legal protection needed?
  3. Including provision for community consultation before any decision is taken to establish an SPZ or Consented Development Zone.
  4. A requirement for an agreed infrastructure delivery plan and funding obligations from the developer together with a delivery plan and funding commitments from National and Local Government where infrastructure improvements outside the development are needed to make it successful and mitigate impacts on the existing community, to be agreed as part of the planning permission.
  5. Making clear the green space requirements for each new development, including the provision of play parks, recreation areas, footpaths and cycle ways.
  6. Stronger powers for Local Authorities to require infrastructure to be delivered early in the development and also require the developer to fulfil their obligations regardless of how quickly the development proceeds.
  7. Better enforcement of the requirements of Section 72 of the Climate Change Act (2009) as there is little evidence that new technologies (solar panels, solar water heating, heat pumps) are being routinely installed.

Optional technical questions

  1. Do you agree with the proposed improvements to defining how much housing land should be allocated in the development plan?

Overall yes, but the assessment must include views of the local communities and Local Authorities. There must be a linkage with the local economy and business development plans – the current proposals are too Scottish Government centred.

  1. Should there be a requirement to provide evidence on the viability of major housing developments as part of information required to validate a planning application?

We agree the need for an assessment of the viability of major housing developments, which should include an evaluation of the local and regional business need. The assessment should include a review of the housing types proposed and compare it with the types of houses needed locally

  1. Do you agree that planning can help to diversify the ways we deliver homes?

Yes

    1. What practical tools can be used to achieve this?

Working with developers on new approaches early in the process of setting National and Regional targets can help define different solutions. Involvement of communities should be a key part of the process. The introduction of competitions to attract ideas from architects and planners may also yield some good ideas.

  1. What are your views on greater use of zoning to support housing delivery?

Zoning can help in speeding up the delivery of homes but this should be restricted to those areas where there is a widely agreed urgent need for more housing. Where zoning is being considered, early involvement of the local community should be a requirement and any concerns they may have should be addressed.

    1. How can the procedures for Simplified Planning Zones be improved to allow for their wider use in Scotland?

We are not convinced a wider use of Simplified Planning Zones is warranted. They should only be used in areas where there is a widely agreed urgent need for more housing

    1. What needs to be done to help resource them?

If a Simplified Planning Zone is justified then the Local Authority should be given extra support to help define the areas and conditions that will apply. There should be a clear assessment of the infrastructure needed and an agreement established to provide it before any development is allowed to proceed.

  1. Do you agree that rather than introducing a new infrastructure agency, improved national co-ordination of development and infrastructure delivery in the shorter term would be more effective?

The infrastructure first approach is strongly supported – this is a clear gap in current development planning. While we note the reservation about establishing an infrastructure agency, we doubt an informal infrastructure and development delivery group will have the ability to ensure the required infrastructure will be built.

We need to avoid the situation seen in the Aberdeen Countesswells development where the developer was allowed to close a key link road for more than 6 months to install gas, electricity and water utilities rather than building the access roads on the site early and installing the utilities under the new roads. This caused great disruption and inconvenience to local residents and hundreds of daily commuters

  1. Would the proposed arrangements for regional partnership working support better infrastructure planning and delivery?

It could help inform wider, more strategic infrastructure needs but we don’t see this as a major improvement

    1. What actions or duties at this scale would help?

Each development should have a full assessment of infrastructure requirement and an agreed plan for delivery. There should be an obligation on the developer to fund and install the infrastructure required to incorporate the proposed development within the existing community e.g. road upgrades, schooling, medical services, and mitigate the impacts on the community. Where infrastructure upgrades outside the development are required to mitigate impacts on the community, there should be an agreed Government funding and infrastructure delivery programme which would be part of the planning permission process.

  1. Should the ability to modify or discharge Section 75 planning obligations (Section 75A) be restricted?

Yes, developers should be held to the agreements reached for infrastructure delivery in awarding planning permission. If a developer feels so strongly about the need to renegotiate the Section 75 agreement they may need to be encouraged to give up the planning consent to another developer. We would like to see stronger powers for Local Authorities to require that infrastructure be delivered early in the development when establishing Section 75 agreements.

  1. Do you agree that future legislation should include new powers for an infrastructure levy? If so,

The introduction of an infrastructure levy is supported

    1. at what scale should it be applied?

Major housing developments e.g. greater than 100 new homes and large commercial developments, either retail of offices.

    1. to what type of development should it apply?

All developments which will add to the use of existing infrastructure e.g. roads, services

    1. who should be responsible for administering it?

The Local Authority in whose area the development is taking place together with the national government where there is a requirement to upgrade nationally managed infrastructure e.g. trunk roads, railways

    1. what type of infrastructure should it be used for?

Roads and rail links, education and medical services provision, green/recreational space

    1. If not, please explain why.
  1. Do you agree that Section 3F of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, as introduced by Section 72 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, should be removed?

There is no evidence that new developments are installing and operating low and zero carbon generating technologies in the Aberdeen area. Thermal insulation techniques may be improving but there is no wide scale installation of solar panels, solar water heating, heat pumps – one might argue that the requirements of Section 72 of the Climate Change Act (2009) are being ignored by developers and planners.

P.47 STRONGER LEADERSHIP AND SMARTER RESOURCING

KEY QUESTION

D: Do you agree the measures set out here will improve the way that the planning service is resourced? Please explain your answer.

Yes we believe that the measure will improve the planning service by providing:

1. Better qualified and Knowledgeable planners

2. Improve the skills of planners and their ability to interact with all levels of the community

Optional technical questions

  1. What measures can we take to improve leadership of the Scottish planning profession?

Provide management training and ensure that planning leadership is well informed on all aspects of planning and are prepared to make decisions at all levels and provide guidance to less experienced planners. All leaders should be able to communicate well with all outside bodies.

  1. What are the priorities for developing skills in the planning profession?

Education ,make them aware of best practice, talk and meet with other planners from other areas in the UK/Scotland and identify best practice

  1. Are there ways in which we can support stronger multidisciplinary working between built environment professions?

Provide training in Team Work ensure that different disciplines understand that only by working together and understanding each other problems will provide the best solutions

  1. How can we better support planning authorities to improve their performance as well as the performance of others involved in the process?

By being involved at an early stage and provide feedback and comments on planning proposals; identify areas for improvement in the process.

  1. Do you agree that we should focus more on monitoring outcomes from planning (e.g. how places have changed)?

yes

    1. Do you have any ideas on how this could be achieved?

Perform peer reviews of planning outcomes and measure the quality and impact of public engagement

  1. Do you have any comments on our early proposals for restructuring of planning fees?

The fees established should reflect the cost of running an adequately resourced planning system.

  1. What types of development would be suitable for extended permitted development rights?

None

  1. What targeted improvements should be made to further simplify and clarify development management procedures?

It is important to recognise that a quality planning process is essential for developing good communities – simplifying the procedures will not necessarily deliver that goal; clarity is usually helpful.

    1. Should we make provisions on the duration of planning permission in principle more flexible by introducing powers to amend the duration after permission has been granted? How can existing provisions be simplified?

No, this could be counterproductive and inhibit the aim of getting approved developments started.

    1. Currently developers can apply for a new planning permission with different conditions to those attached to an existing permission for the same development. Can these procedures be improved?

Yes, the procedures should be made more difficult to avoid developers trying to get around required conditions. Planners should be allowed to restate the conditions already specified.

    1. What changes, if any, would you like to see to arrangements for public consultation of applications for approvals of detail required by a condition on a planning permission in principle?

It would be helpful if Planning Departments consulted with Community bodies e.g. Community Councils, before confirming that required conditions attached to a planning application have been satisfied.

    1. Do you have any views on the requirements for pre-determination hearings and determination of applications by full council?

No

  1. What scope is there for digitally enabling the transformation of the planning service around the user need?

We believe that it is very important to embrace modern techniques – digital transformation would be of great use.

For example 3D images could be developed for proposed buildings etc.

The use of drones may be considered to provide aerial views of proposed development areas.

Planners should be aware that some people are not computer literate, or even own a computer, and they may have to rely on assistance to review materials at their local libraries. Planning should consider providing materials on a DVD or memory stick which maybe can be used in conjunction with modern televisions.

P.49 NEXT STEPS – OPTIONAL TECHNICAL QUESTIONS

  1. Do you think any of the proposals set out in this consultation will have an impact, positive or negative, on equalities as set out above? If so, what impact do you think that will be?

We believe that all proposals if modified as suggested above and properly actioned will provide a positive impact. As they stand, the proposals will not deliver improved public engagement or trust in the planning system.

  1. What implications (including potential costs) will there be for business and public sector delivery organisations from these proposals?

We believe that these proposals will increase the cost to business and possibly the public sector; a price worth paying for improved quality of development.

  1. Do you think any of these proposals will have an impact, positive or negative, on children’s rights? If so, what impact do you think that will be?

No

  1. Do you have any early views on whether these proposals will generate significant environmental effects? Please explain your answer.

If planners are properly trained and knowledgeable of all environmental issue and best practices, these proposals should generate significant environmental improvements. Failure to be rigorous and the taking of short cuts to allow a development could be damaging.

 

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