Publication - Consultation analysis

Local Place Plans - proposals for regulations: consultation analysis

Published: 30 Sep 2021

Independent analysis of responses to the public consultation on proposals for regulations for the preparation, submission and registration of Local Place Plans.

Local Place Plans - proposals for regulations: consultation analysis
6. Taking the views of councillors into account

6. Taking the views of councillors into account

6.1 The consultation paper suggests that there may be value in a community body specifically seeking the views of the ward councillors for the area of the LPP.

Question 8: Do you agree with the proposal that the community body should seek the views of ward councillors when preparing the LPP?

Please comment on your answer - particularly if you do not agree or have a view as to how ward councillors' views should be taken into account or reported.

6.2 Responses at Question 8 by respondent type are set out in Table 6.1 below.

Table 6.1
Question 8: Do you agree with the proposal that the community body should seek the views of ward councillors when preparing the LPP?
Yes No No view Total
Individuals 44 10 7 61
% of individuals answering 72% 16% 11%  
Organisations        
Community Council or Trust 29 7 0 36
Developer 3 12 1 16
Local Authority, Community Planning Partnership or Transport Partnership 29 0 0 29
Other - Private Sector 6 2 0 8
Public Body 1 0 5 6
Representative Body 6 4 0 10
Third Sector or Voluntary Group 17 3 2 22
Total organisations 91 28 8 127
% of organisations answering 72% 22% 6%  
All respondents 135 38 15 188
% of respondents answering 72% 20% 8%

6.3 A majority of respondents – 72% of those answering the question – agreed with the proposal that the community body should seek the views of ward councillors when preparing the LPP. Of the remaining respondents, 20% disagreed and 8% had no view. Those disagreeing included the majority of Developer respondents and a number of Community Councils or Trusts and Representative Bodies.

6.4 Around 150 respondents provided an additional comment.

Views of those agreeing

6.5 Reasons given for agreeing that the views of ward councillors should be sought included that, as representatives of their wider local community, they:

  • Are very often aware of what is happening across a community, and will have significant knowledge about local issues, insight into what the local community wants, and also be aware of possible opportunities.
  • Will be aware of local groups that should be made aware of the LPP and if possible, involved in its development.
  • Can help make sure the wider community is informed about the LPP development.
  • Will be familiar with the LOIP, LDP and NPF and can therefore identify where an LPP could be better aligned with these or help justify a departure.
  • Will have knowledge and experience of existing local planning processes.
  • May be able to identify local contacts who could help with delivery aspects.

6.6 It was also reported that, in any case, some community bodies already have local elected members as part of their membership or liaise with ward councillors.

6.7 One view was that ward councillors should be integral to the whole LPP process, including because they are elected to represent local people. However, it was noted that councillors may represent a significantly larger area than would be covered by an LPP, so can reasonably have views differing from those of one part of their ward. It was also noted that councillors are representatives, not delegates and hence are not obliged to present the views of the community.

6.8 Also with regard to the relationship between the LPP and the ward councillors' body of constituents, it was noted that they are not elected by children and young people under the age of 16, and there was a connected suggestion that other forms of local democracy, which are open to people under the age of 16, should also be prioritised. However, it was also suggested that involving ward councillors could be a good opportunity to link children and young people with local elected officials and provide opportunities for their views to be heard.

6.9 Drawing on another context, it was suggested that it would be sensible to have requirements that are consistent with provisions in the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, for example, those relating to Community Asset Transfer.

6.10 Similarly, it was noted that ward councillors being involved in the LPP would reflect the process followed in the preparation of the LDP. As at Question 5 in reference to wider community engagement, the connection was made to LPPs being adopted into LDPs. It was noted that elected representatives will be responsible for the scrutiny of the LDP and other aspects of the planning process. Given this, it was suggested that it would seem strange not to involve them in a key part of the democratic process which governs the use and development of land. It was also suggested that they could lead and direct on certain aspects, including based on their experience on a Planning Committee or Local Review Body.

6.11 Others considered that while councillors should be involved, it will be important to emphasise that it is the community body that is leading and owning the process. A connected suggestion was that any provisions regarding elected member engagement should be light touch and the regulations do not need to be prescriptive as to how ward councillors should be engaged. One view was that this should be a matter for community bodies to explore when establishing their engagement and consultation strategy at the early stages of the LPP process. Reflecting a point also raised by some of those disagreeing at this question, it was suggested that arrangements do not necessarily need to be set out in regulation.

6.12 It was suggested that the ward councillors' views could be sought but not prioritised or given any weighting or that they could simply take part (if applicable) as a local resident, with their views carrying no greater weight than those of anyone else.

6.13 In terms of when or how ward councillors should be involved, suggestions included that:

  • As a minimum, they should be notified formally of the intention to prepare an LPP.
  • If there is a stated responsibility on the community body to engage with councillors, then there must be a reciprocal responsibility on the councillors to engage with the process.
  • They could be invited to participate and input to the process of LPP preparation during the public engagement periods before and after drafting the LPP. It was suggested that this would achieve the balance of offering ward councillors the opportunity to input their experience of representing people in the area without creating a prescriptive approach which could constrain community bodies.
  • There would be an option for councillors to express a view on any LPP through the committee system. This would allow for consideration of any Council-wide implications and advice from the planning authority. Council Planning Committee's, along with local ward councillors, could be asked to comment on the draft LPP. However, there should be no duty on the community body to take on board any views expressed.

6.14 Other comments included that clear guidance on the role of councillors should be provided to communities and that:

  • In expressing views on LPPs as they are prepared, ward councillors would need to have regard to the Councillors' Code of Conduct and other duties relating to statutory functions, such as their planning roles, and not be placed in a position which might be interpreted as prejudging a planning outcome. It was seen as important to highlight whether ward councillors are members of the Planning Committee to ensure any conflict or declarations of interest are considered.
  • Community bodies should set out their approach to engaging ward councillors as part of the engagement report / description of the consultation process (as discussed at previous questions). Further comments included that councillors should be given an opportunity to express their views on the LPP and the aspects they agree with or oppose. These views should be recorded and publicly available. There was also reference to taking an approach similar to the pre-application consultation requirements in planning; identifying views made and clarifying whether the LPP takes these views on board or not (giving reasons why).

6.15 In addition to commenting on the role of ward councillors, and as at Question 5, a number of primarily Local Authority respondents commented that community bodies should also be expected to make contact with the planning authority. It was suggested that a statutory requirement for community bodies to engage with local authorities in developing their LPP would not only support collaboration but would also avoid any duplication.

6.16 It was also suggested that there could be a requirement to contact relevant MPs and MSPs as one of many parties with an interest in an LPP.

Views of those disagreeing

6.17 A common perspective amongst those disagreeing was that seeking the views of ward councillors should probably be a matter for guidance or good practice rather than a requirement.

6.18 Other issues raised sometimes reflected comments of those who had agreed, including that councillors already have significant input into the planning process, but also having their views sought for the preparation of an LPP would effectively result in 'doubling up'. Ward councillors' powers in relation to development planning and decision-making, were noted, including:

  • Having a role in setting the LDP strategy and vision.
  • Possibly having to make a decision on whether to incorporate an LPP into an LDP. In this respect, it was suggested that any role in that decision should not be compromised by engaging in the LPP process.

6.19 It was seen as important for the LPP process to be apolitical and for an LPP to represent the views of the community, accepting these may differ from that of the ward councillor. There were concerns that, if community bodies were required to seek councillors' views, the impact could be to:

  • Undermine the objective of giving communities a more independent or alternative means of expressing their ambitions.
  • Introduce conscious and unconscious bias towards travelling communities, with the added complication of having to respond to the bias of other members of the local population's bias.

6.20 In addition to the overall suggestion that a guidance led approach could be more appropriate, one perspective was that ward councillors should be involved and buy into the LPP process on an advisory basis. Other alternative options proposed included that:

  • The views of the ward councillor should be taken into account to the same level of emphasis as all local residents. If there is a particular benefit of distinguishing ward councillors' views from others, a statement could be made on their views separately to those of others, but this should not be given additional weight.
  • Their views could be sought, but only after LPP has been drafted.
  • If ward councillors' views have to be taken into account, it would be beneficial for them to undergo specific training, with appropriate checks, balances and tools available, to mitigate any conscious or unconscious biases.
  • The planning authority could provide a 'for-information' notice, to be included on the LPP register, expressing its view on whether the LPP proposals accord with the LDP. It was reported that this would mirror the new requirement for them to include such statements in planning decision notices and that such a requirement would add some clarity on how the LPP might be considered in decision-making.

Contact

Email: Chief.Planner@gov.scot