ENGAGING with the planning system can be critical for business growth and success; whether that’s a start-up requiring planning permission for the change of use of an existing building to open their first premises, or a multinational corporation requiring planning permission for a new all-singing all-dancing headquarters. But the specialist skills required to do that are unlikely to be available within most organisations.
A number of changes to the planning system are now to be brought into force under the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, which received Royal Assent in July this year. Importantly, the drivers behind this include making the system more accessible; and fostering better management of skills, resources and performance.
For example, the new Planning Act introduces Local Place Plans (LPPs), which will give communities the opportunity to prepare their own plans for the places they live, and councillors will have to fulfil specified training requirements before they can exercise planning functions.
But what does this mean for your business?
The need for business interests to be taken into account and for them to be able to access the support they need to engage in the system meaningfully is underlined in the purpose of planning introduced in the act. That purpose is to manage the development and use of land in the long-term public interest, with anything that contributes to sustainable development deemed to do that.
Although the term sustainable development is a phrase everyone likes to define to suit their own interests, Scottish planning policy is clear that this requires the planning system to support places that are economically sustainable, as well as environmentally and socially. That can only be achieved if businesses properly understand the planning system and know when and how to engage in this, as well as where to get the appropriate assistance to do so. As things stand however, there are no provisions in the new act to ensure that businesses do have the skills and resources needed to do this.
With much of the detail of how the act will be implemented to be determined through secondary legislation, it remains to be seen whether the new system is in fact more accessible, and what the envisaged better management of skills, resources and performance looks like in practice.
It will though be important for businesses to pay attention to what happens with the secondary legislation and, in particular, to look out for any Local Place Plans being prepared for the areas in which they operate to ensure that opportunities to engage on proposals that could either support or stifle business development aren’t missed.