Monday, 30 June 2014

A New Vision for Planning

The bold Derek Mackay
The bold Derek Mackay

You know, last week when Planning Minister Derek Mackay launched the Scottish Government's 'vision for planning' he set out an agenda that I can identify with. Apart from a passing reference to plaice-making which will please the dreary cliché-ridden mouthpieces of RTPI Scotland, everything is big, upfront and business-like. Many traditional planners will feel uncomfortable with the tone and content of the vision and for some, Derek Mackay has literally stepped up to the plate and opened a can of worms. For me it was the icing on the cake and the cherry on the doughnut that will melt in my mouth for years to come.

I read about this in more detail over my porridge on Sunday morning. It has been hailed as a watershed moment - a chance to unblock the pipelines of enterprise and deliver a geyser of entrepreneurial activity in which clever people with money get a fair chance to defeat the restrictive planning system. Some say it is just another pipe dream but business is already flushed with success after a series of historic victories, some of which I have documented here on my lovely wee blog.

A key part of this tsunami of new planning measures is the introduction of a presumption in favour of development. Of course this is nothing new for the good people of Aberdeen who have seen their city become a hot tub of property development - literally a Jacuzzi of wealth and employment which has delivered a cold shower for those interfering busybodies dressed in shorts and sandals who try to stop things happening. There couldn't be a clearer sign that business and enterprise is more important than quiche-eating communities and the loathsome serpents that represent them. The days of the badly-dressed snake-in-the-grass community activist are over.

Infrastructure is key - we are talking about carbon capture, thermal generation, pumped hydroelectric storage, high-speed rail and airport enhancement. It's a long way from squabbling over a new Subway outlet or protesting over some old city hall that is an impediment to development. All that is from the past. The Bold Derek has set out a Big Vision and it is just fine with me.

House building is another area where change is inevitable. I have documented many circumstances in which local planning authorities have ignored my advice and tried to refuse developments which have subsequently been approved on appeal. In other cases I have drawn attention to land that is ripe for development but where nothing is happening.

You know, I personally can't take on the responsibility of ensuring that Councils meet the housing targets so a presumption in favour of development is a positive move. A Right to Build would be even better! Too much time is spent by Council planners reading the Daily Record in the toilet or going out for bacon rolls every morning at 10 o'clock. The effect on the economy is staggering - in 2013, fewer than 15,000 new houses were built in Scotland - that's 20,000 less than the Scottish Government target. This is all down to planners sitting about doing nothing instead of approving every application they receive.

I'll be back in a wee while with some exciting new updates on planning and property development in Scotland. Cheeriebye for now.

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