Planning (Scotland) Bill

I write to address concerns about the Planning Bill which was debated and passed at stage 3 last week, specifically amendments on planning permissions and third party right of appeal.

I understand concerns about the creation of private ways and appreciate that they have a potential negative impact on the environment or can in some instances be unsightly. I can confirm that the Scottish Government is committed to carrying out a review of the Order under which permission is allowed for such tracks but will do so after the completion of the Planning Bill. Operating in this way will ensure that any proposed changes to the current Order will be subject to a full public consultation, allowing a range of views on the matter to be collected for consideration.

We must take into consideration the needs of farmers and foresters who contribute heavily to Scotland’s rural economy- these people and groups must have access to their land and in some circumstances must create private ways to mitigate against delays to planting and harvesting operations, or to reach remote grazing areas. Removing permitted development rights for private ways could have significant operational and cost impacts on agricultural businesses. According to 2016 Scottish Government research, 78% of notifications were for forestry private ways.

While some have raised concerns about landowners developing private ways for the purposes of blood-sports, I confirm that there are not currently, nor have there ever been, permitted development rights for private ways for shooting or other field sports. If a planning authority is not satisfied, on prior notification, that a private way is for agriculture or forestry use, it should require a planning application to be submitted for it.

I want to reiterate that putting these controls into primary legislation would make it more difficult for future Governments to respond to changing behaviour. At present, permitted development rights are set out in secondary legislation, meaning that rules over such rights can change depending on circumstantial needs.

Other concerns have been raised about third party right of appeal, or the ability of others (i.e. third parties who are not the applicant or the planning authority) to appeal against the decision of a planning authority.
The Independent Review Panel considered appeals as part of their root and branch review of the system and concluded that third party right of appeal would add time and complexity to the planning process, centralising decisions and deterring investment. The panel believe that investing time and resources in improved early engagement will be far more influential towards positive outcomes and delivering the right development in the right places than more appeals at the end of the process.

I would like to be clear that decisions against this amendment are not about big business having an advantage but are about the delivery of real people’s actual homes and jobs. Restricting applicants current right of appeal would deter investment and put Scotland at a commercial disadvantage, as investors perceive conditions in other parts of the UK to be more favourable. This will risk developers choosing not to invest in some parts of the country where they do not feel welcome, even if there is an identified need for development.
The SNP Scottish Government shares concerns over the sometimes-harmful effects of short-term lets as seen in the Programme for Government and have taken action on this issue, from funding the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership to introducing the LBTT Additional Dwelling Supplement.

It is important to get the balance of short-term lets right across Scotland.  I understand the pressure, particularly in tourist hot spots, where short term lets are making it harder to find homes to live in. However, there are many others which are attempting to increase tourism and ensure sufficient accommodation for traveling tourists.
Recognising the need in some parts of the country for new controls over short-term letting of residential properties, the Scottish Government sought views on a new system of regulation to make short term lets subject to the same controls as other accommodation. The ‘Short-Term Lets: Consultation’ closed on 19th July 2019, everyone considered to have an interest having been encouraged to submit their views.

The Scottish Government is considering other measures to ensure that short term lets are properly regulated. Its Short Term Lets Delivery Group will gather evidence on the issue and work on piloting possible solutions.
The Scottish Government also agreed to support an amendment to the Planning Bill by Rachel Hamilton that will enable local authorities to designate a ‘short-term let control area’ in which short-term letting would require planning permission for change of use. This will ensure a proportionate approach and empower councils to take decisions based on their local circumstances.

I believe this is the best way of ensuring that local council have the powers that they need to control short-term lets in their areas.

Please be assured that I am taking on board all points of view in relation to the amendments to the Planning Bill. While I fully understand the concerns raised about planning permissions for private ways, proposals for a third part right of appeal, and short term lets, I have every confidence that these concerns can be addressed and better mitigated by the alternatives outlined above.

Please do continue to follow the progress of the Bill as it waits on legal challenges before being sent for Royal Assent, and as always, I encourage constituents to contact me with any concerns or issues with which I could be of assistance.

Yours Sincerely,

Joan McAlpine MSP

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