Reform of the Planning system is a continuous journey. Heads of Planning Scotland (HOPS) is clear about where that journey should take us and who should be travelling with us. We need a Planning system which adds value to the development of our communities, engages people in forward planning and delivers its services in an efficient manner.
So reform is as much about collaboration and behavioural change as it is about legislation. The Scottish Government cannot deliver reform alone and HOPS will continue to offer assistance. Local planning authorities need to work with their communities to apply the new and amended provisions to ensure that they address local priorities. Stakeholders from all parts of the Planning system need to understand their roles in bringing about change, to consider different ways of working and to commit the necessary resources.
In passing a new Planning Bill, the Scottish Parliament has taken us to the next milestone on the journey of reform. HOPS is now turning its focus on to the implementation of new legislation. We enjoy a close working relationship with Scottish Government colleagues which provides a good opportunity for collaborative working.
As the service managers of Scotland’s local, national park and strategic development planning authorities, HOPS members are already engaging and sharing their operational experience. This is important when the Scottish Government starts to prepare regulations, circulars and advice so that the reforms can be put into practice. HOPS will offer advice and guidance on how best to do this in the context of two of our guiding principles for reform – to achieve streamlining and to recognise the limited resources with which planning authorities operate.
Some of the new legislative provisions are discretionary. Planning authorities will have to decide whether such activities will be a beneficial use of local resources. Other provisions are mandatory, and we will need to find ways of minimising the costs by reviewing our processes rather than adding on new tasks. As Planning service managers, we need to collaborate with other services within our councils to find solutions which fit our different service structures and build on existing relationships with community and industry representative organisations.
The debate over the last few years about reform of the Scottish Planning system has raised awareness of what planning can deliver. It has also raised expectations about “radical change”. In some areas these expectations have not been met by the new legislation. All stakeholders in the Planning system need to collaborate to find ways of making the best use of the new legislation to deliver quality outcomes in place making.
HOPS recently devoted its annual conference to the theme of collaboration. We explored the importance of trust between stakeholders, of shared understanding of issues and of a willingness to listen when preparing for effective collaboration. That is good advice as we move forward on the next stage of our journey of Planning reform.