On the morning of 16 December 2016 community councils across Fife received an email from Fife Council on the subject of Barriers to community engagement in the Scottish planning system:

The Scottish Government are carrying out a survey to investigate what the factors are which inhibit communities, young people and other groups from engaging in the planning system. They are keen to here people’s views – what the barriers are and what the opportunities are for better involvement.

The results will feed into the government’s review of the Scottish planning system.

The link for the survey is: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/7VXLRW5

Please feel able to send on the link to anyone else that you feel would like to take part in the survey.

What the email didn’t say is that the deadline for taking part in the survey is 23 December, and few community councils will be able to discuss or complete the survey in time.

The survey/consultation is part of the Scottish Government’s preparation for its upcoming Community Empowerment Bill, in which community engagement plays a major role.

It was published by the Scottish Government on 12th December with a deadline of 23rd December, giving people barely 10 days to respond in the hectic run-up to the Christmas holiday. LOSW has been told that a private sector contractor is running the consultation for the Scottish Government and he is unwilling to extend the period for responses.

So we have a community consultation on barriers to community engagement which is itself a barrier to community engagement!

LOSW has often reported on planning issues and encouraged residents to take part in the planning process. If you have any experience at all of the planning process, please take a few minutes to complete the survey.

It deals with very important issues, including what it calls a ‘balanced right of appeal’. This is also known as a third party right of appeal or equal rights of appeal. People who call for it want to restore to the Scottish planning system the same right of appeal which developers enjoy when an application is refused to objectors when an application is approved. At the moment if an applicant thinks a planning decision is wrong, he can appeal to the local authority or Scottish Ministers for, but if anyone else thinks the decision is wrong – and this includes people who might be personally affected by the consented development – then they have to lump it. The Scottish planning system used to give residents and communities this right, but in the last decades it has become increasingly weighted in favour of the interests of developers and against those of the communities forced to live with the developments.

Anyone interested in Equal Rights of Appeal can read more about Planning Democracy’s long-running campaign to see them restored here – http://www.planningdemocracy.org.uk/

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