Planning and Environmental Appeals Stakeholder Forum meeting: January 2018

Note of meeting of Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) and stakeholders, held on 24 January 2018.

Attendees and Apologies

  • Paul Cackette, Chief Reporter, DPEA
  • Scott Ferrie, Assistant Chief Reporter, DPEA
  • Karen Heywood, Assistant Chief Reporter, DPEA
  • Allison Coard, Principal Reporter, DPEA
  • David Henderson, Head of Performance and Administration, DPEA
  • Jane Robertson, Specialised Case Officer, DPEA
  • Diane Rennie, Planning and Architecture Division, Scottish Government
  • Kevin Holmes, Planning and Architecture Division, Scottish Government
  • Mandy Catterall, Scottish Property Federation
  • Stephanie Conesa, Scottish Renewables
  • Hugh Crawford, Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland
  • Barbara Cummins, Historic Environment Scotland
  • Sue Hamilton, Planning Democracy & Scottish Environment LINK
  • Darren Hemsley, Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Richard Henderson, Edinburgh South West Communities Forum
  • Kate Houghton, RTPI Scotland
  • Graham Lang, Scotland against Spin
  • Suzanne McIntosh, Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland
  • Alison McNab, The Law Society of Scotland
  • David Middleton, Sustainable Communities Scotland
  • Nikola Miller, Homes for Scotland
  • Maurice O’Carroll, Scottish Planning, Local Government and Environmental Law Bar Group
  • Euan Pearson, Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
  • Penny Uprichard, The Royal Burgh of St Andrews Community Council

Apologies received from David Wood (Planning Aid Scotland), Ian Dryden (Heads of Planning Scotland) and Alan Farquhar (SEPA)

1.  Welcome and introductions

Paul welcomed everyone to the meeting.  He confirmed that the scheduling of the meeting was slightly later than normal due to timings with the Planning Bill.  He added that it was a slightly fuller agenda than normal with the main focus on the Planning Bill.

Paul confirmed the purpose of the remit of the SG and that DPEA set great store by the input of the group.  However, it was important to ensure that the group took a strategic view of the work of DPEA and did not get bogged down in specific cases.

2. Matters arising from the last meeting

Paul confirmed that there had been three appeals to the Court of Session since the last meeting, albeit none outstanding at this point.

He confirmed that as part of the outreach work of DPEA he had now met with Edinburgh and Aberdeen Councils and had meetings arranged with Stirling Council and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority.

3. Digital transformation

Diane Rennie from PAD confirmed that there was a huge amount of work being taken forward on the digital transformation of the planning system. 

She explained the background to the digital taskforce and the importance of ensuring that members did not come from solely a planning background.  She confirmed that a copy of the presentation would be forwarded to the Group.  Important to ensure backgrounds not just planning

Following the presentation Paul invited questions from the Group, adding that focussing on using questions of what we want to do and why we want to do it in relation to Digital Technology

Sue Hamilton stated that various different approaches across authorities in Scotland, very frustrating.  She welcomed a more universal approach across Scotland to this issue.

Diane Rennie confirmed this point has come through in engagement from local authorities as well as others.  The core if this is consistency where appropriate.

Darren Hemsley stated that it was important to ensure all who wish to access and use the system can do (rural/urban).

Diane Rennie agreed that this absolutely at the core of what is being discussed.

David Middleton felt that there was a danger in reducing the personal touch and there was a need to incorporate human interaction.

Paul Cackette stated that there was a need to ensure technology does what it can do - which will free up people time to do what they need to do.

David Middleton agreed but felt that if systems were too mechanical it could lead to frustration for those involved

Penny Uprichard added that some years ago 32% of Scotland was not IT literate.  The problem with further development is these people being disenfranchised with regards to the planning system.

Diane Rennie confirmed that they are not losing sight of this issue and that this will not be the only way forward, but rather a choice.

Graham Lang asked what the timescale was for digital planning roll out.

Diane Rennie confirmed that it was hoped that the strategy would be in place by autumn 2018.  It was not envisaged that change would be delivered in a “big bang” approach but rather it would be delivered incrementally.

Suzanne McIntosh felt that it was interesting that there was no mention in the presentation of the LDP position given the front loading aspiration of planning system.

Diane Rennie confirmed that next phase of discovery will look further at different stages of the planning system.

Suzanne McIntosh intimated that it looked a strange approach to be asking re good/bad/ugly assessment of specific proposals.

Diane Rennie confirmed that there is a need for very clear guidance behind this innovation.

Maurice O’Carroll asked whether ultimately decision by a real person as a certain amount of judgement has to be applied.  He asked whether the system would be used as part of the authority decision making process.

Diane Rennie confirmed that the system is designed for the applicant and not part of the decision making process.

Karen Heywood felt that there was value in this innovation at the start of the process.

Diane Rennie added that it would be interesting to see live data and how early results translate to decisions.

Nikola Miller confirmed that in her view digital transformation was key to resourcing issues in the planning system.  She added that it was good to see a wide range of people and backgrounds in task force.

Hugh Crawford felt that there was merit in a system that allows an early assessment of proposals.  He added that this may well head off proposals that are complete non-starters and that it would interesting to see how this develops.

Richard Henderson asked whether, going back to development planning, and helping to make the unmanageable manageable whether focus of digital transformation should be in areas that matter.

Barbara Cummins commented that an easier user journey has to be the end game of potential development.

Mandy Catterall commented that anything done to improve timescales would be supported.  She welcomed the potential for systems freeing up human resources within authorities although she felt there might be some concern that this will be seen as an excuse for lack of human interaction.

Paul Cackette – confirmed earlier point re freeing up human resource to do what they need to do.

Diane Rennie thanked everyone for their input and added that she would welcome any further input from the group.  It was confirmed that contact details will be forwarded along with presentation.

 4.  Planning bill

Paul Cackette intimated that he keen to get views on the planning bill, how DPEA can address changes to our service and also how DPEA should respond to calls for evidence.

In process terms he confirmed that the Bill was introduced to Parliament last month, a call for evidence was issued in December – closing date 2 February.  He added that advice as to how to do submit evidence was on the Scottish Parliament website.

Allison Coard gave the Group a presentation on the proposed gate check in relation to the LDP process.

Sue Hamilton felt that the term gate check was not a good phrase as it was still jargon.

Allison Coard confirmed that gate check is not referred to in the Bill.

Kate Houghton asked whether in respect of timings there was reference across to local place plans and has there been discussion in the order these things happen.

Allison Coard confirmed that it was felt that local place plans would not be subject to examination, although there was likely to be a close link between the elements.

Nikola Miller commented that there was a question whether there should be a duty in the Bill to involve Stakeholders.

Paul Cackette commented that he could not see how the gate check could work without appropriate community/stakeholder engagement.

Nikola Miller added a concern that if this was not in the Bill, it might mean it does not happen.

Euan Pearson commented that there might be a problem perhaps arise in any examination occurring a number of years after the gate check review – positions change.

Allison Coard replied stating that time lag is a big issue e.g. housing numbers change very quickly.  She confirmed that hopefully the period between the gate check and the examination is not lengthy.

Barbara Cummins added that it was important to ensure that the cycle of the plan is maintained.

Mandy Catterall asked whether a gate check review would be required as part of any review within the 10 year cycle, she added that 5 years seems a suitable point to review especially with regard to Housing Land Supply.

Sue Hamilton added that community engagement needs to be more specific and reporters need to ensure appropriate engagement has taken place.

Alison McNab highlighted that key area is community/stakeholder engagement in the planning system.  She felt that the Bill is quite weak in this regard.

Sue Hamilton confirmed that local place plans are likely to involve huge resources – both human and financial.

Richard Henderson commented that it looked like a “power grab” removing Strategic Development Plans and to include in the National Planning Framework.  He felt that material from authorities will be more remote from communities rather than less.

He added that there was a risk in reporters becoming mediators.

Penny Uprichard commented that there was nothing that confirms that the views of the community have been taken into account.  The gate check needs something that sets out how these views have been taken into account

Hugh Crawford voiced particular concern over Local Review Bodies.  He was aware of a clamour of complaint with regard to how these are working across Scotland.  He felt that they were not fit for purpose and that when applicants are spending large sums of money, they desire and should expect a reasonable level of service from the Local Review Body.  He felt that Local Review Bodies should be chaired by a non-elected member.  He queried whether neighbouring authorities could make decisions on reviews.

Paul Cackette acknowledged that work to be done on increasing public confidence in the Local Review Body process.

Maurice O’Carroll expressed a fundamental view that Local Review Bodies should not exist.  Any improvement would be welcome but does not get away from the above view.

Richard Henderson agreed that Local Review Bodies are fundamentally flawed at the outset.

Euan Pearson expressed broad agreement with regard to previous comments made with regard to Local Review Bodies.  He felt that if was a financial issue then charge should be made for appeals.  He added that in some authorities applicants do ask for a review of some decisions because of the political nature of their decisions.

Barbara Cummins added that the importance of the perception of a fair hearing is important to the process.

David Middleton confirmed that success rates of Local Review Bodies across the country tell their own story.  He added that introducing fees does limit access to justice.  He felt that people would think they had a proper role in the planning system if there was some right of TPRA or equal right of appeal.

Sue Hamilton commented that there was a huge amount of support for TPRA.  Front loading was seen as the answer in previous planning reform but it has not been successful.  She considered that there should be room for a more balanced right of appeal.  She felt that it appeared strange that the independent review panel raised an action point not to look further at TPRA.  She added that it could be administered on a “contrary to the plan” basis. She did not think it was a recipe for delay or spurious appeal

Graham Lang added his complete agreement with these remarks.

Penny Uprichard added that the first consultation showed 82% of respondents in favour of TPRA

Euan Pearson questioned, in relation to TPRA, what happens to a decision of Scottish Ministers.  Who would TPRA appeal be to.

David Middleton added that in his view TPRA would improve the quality of the planning system.

Sue Hamilton agreed stating that refusals are properly scrutinised but not consents.

Nikola Miller felt that it was not a simple matter to set a line saying whether a proposal is contrary to the LDP or otherwise and that it could be time consuming resolving even time issue.

Richard Henderson asked whether there is an access to justice argument along Lord Reid decision on Unison court action – fees to tribunals.

5. DPEA performance statistics

Paul Cackette presented an update on DPEA’s performance over the course of the first 6 months of the year.

6. Standardisation and improvement of section 75 agreements (Law Society presentation)

This item had not been progressed as far as hoped and it was agreed to carry forward to the next meeting.

7. Local authority issues

Not taken.

8. Any other business

Graham Lang asked whether community benefit was being considered as a material consideration.  He asked whether this was a change in policy.  He agreed to forward details of specific cases.

DPEA agreed to ensure Court cases were published as part of Annual Review

Penny Uprichard asked whether given number of Further Information Requests on the Fife LDP whether any consideration was given to simply returning the Plan to the council for further work to be done

Karen Heywood confirmed that DPEA are not allowed to do so.

Paul Cackette thanked everyone for attending and their contributions.



Telephone: 0300 244 6668

Scottish Government
Planning and Environmental Appeals Division
4 The Courtyard
Callendar Business Park

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