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CBI Scotland director's comments spark planning debate

February 27 2008

The publication of the second draft of the National Planning Framework for Scotland and Planning Performance Statistics 2004-2007 by the Scottish Government last month has sparked further debate in the media as the director of CBI Scotland voiced some concerns about the planning system.

CBI Scotland director Iain McMillan told the The Scotsman newspaper on Monday that the planning process was “shocking” and aired some concerns about the potential for complacency and relying on legislation to enact change. 

The national planning policy sets a target for local authorities to decide 80% of major applications within four months, however according to Government figures the targets for 2006-07 are down 5% on the previous year with less than half decided within that timescale. Almost a fifth of local plans are over 15 years old, and almost 40% are over 10 years old and CBI Scotland estimates that the cost to the planning system in Scotland is around £600 million per annum.

Speaking to this week deputy director David Lonsdale said the CBI’s stance was more positive than implied in The Scotsman, particularly with regard to the progress made following the Planning Bill enacted by the Government over a year ago, and their own activities to keep the momentum for change going.

“It’s a tremendously important piece of legislation” said Lonsdale, “and a very welcome step, as these figures published by the Scottish Government demonstrate. We set up a dedicated CBI Scotland planning group in the last two or three months and we’re working with senior civil servants and ministers to try and help them deliver on the next steps of planning reform.”

While Lonsdale did agree that “legislation is only half of the story” he said that the next step would be to get the secondary legislation right and have the changes come into effect across the country.

“We have a raft of initiatives, consultations and secondary legislation underway at the moment,” commented Lonsdale, “one of which is the National Planning Framework, which is out to consultation at the moment and which we will be responding to in due course.”

He continued: “We’ve met with the chief planner, Jim MacKinnon, on a couple of occasions to get some thoughts and ideas to him… we’ve had meetings with the cabinet secretary and we’ve got some more coming up with one of the director generals of the civil service in Scotland”

According to Lonsdale the CBI sees the current changes as a great opportunity for the Government "to deliver reform, put it into practice and make sure we have a measure of improvement in the planning system, which is what everyone wants to see.”

To see the full Planning Performance Statistics 2004-2007 report published by the Scottish Government, click here.

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