Heralding Community Rights – Planning Democracy

By Clare Symonds on Sep 11, 2017 06:35 am

This week’s Sunday Herald came out in strong support of equal rights of appeal. This is a great boost to the campaign, and the first Scottish national newspaper we know to publicly back the idea.

Environment editor Rob Edwards authored an article covering the UN’s plans to reprimand Scotland for ‘failing to give communities the power to fight “David and Goliath” battles against damaging building developments’. This is due to the massive costs people can face when challenging decisions in court, even if deemed to be doing so in the public interest.

The Sunday Herald’s editorial then picked up on the story by commenting on the SNP government’s plans for an expert committee to ensure Scotland “can continue to lead by example” on a range of rights, but pointing out that Scotland is not in fact leading the way on environmental and planning rights. The editorial ends with:

Crucially, communities should be given equal rights of appeal, so that they have the same recourse to as property developers. The system needs to be fairer – so let’s level the playing field.

Marco McGinty gets a mention in both article and editorial. Despite risking massive costs, Marco took the Scottish Government to court for failing to advertise plans for a massive coal-fired power station in his local press. This was an action Planning Democracy supported. Marco’s case itself was lost and has become a regularly cited example in planning literature, but the coal-fired power station was stopped and the Scottish Government has significantly improved its consultations on subsequent national developments.

But no matter how good consultation is there will remain a deep sense of unfairness in a system that favours one side over another. Developers seeking planning consent are often described as the most important ‘users’ of the planning system by politicians, but planning is a public service and it’s most important users are the people whose lives its decisions affect.

As the Sunday Herald, and as it happens our campaign postcard, says – it really is time that the soon-to-land Planning Bill levels the playing field.

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