Falkirk Council: Communities will have more say on planning issues

Communities will be invited to have more of an input into development in their area as part of a shake-up of the Scottish planning system.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 24th March 2022, 12:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th March 2022, 12:54 pm

Forthcoming changes include ‘local place plans’ being introduced to the planning system for the first time.

That could mean community groups preparing their own plans to address issues such as green space, active travel, sports provision – anything that identifies a need for land.

However, there are concerns that some communities will not have the skills to take up the invitation while it’s not clear whether the council will get extra resources to support them.

Communities will have more input into planning matters when new guidelines come into force

Ian Dryden, head of planning, told members of Falkirk Council’s most recent executive meeting that some communities were already indicating that they are “willing to take up the baton”.

The local place plans are just one part of the shake-up to Scottish planning and consultation is now ongoing for a new National Planning Framework (NPF4) for Scotland.

Much more emphasis is now being put on creating ’20-minute neighbourhoods’ – where people live and work locally and have easy access to facilities.

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There is also a much greater awareness of the climate emergency – from energy consumption to flood prevention – and all planning will be expected to consider that first and foremost.

The changes will also see more planning being done regionally.

In Falkirk’s case that will mean working closely with neighbours in Stirling and Clackmannanshire to produce a regional strategy.

It’s been nearly 30 years since the three councils were part of Central Region – but recently they have been working together on economic development and transport across Forth Valley, so the hope is that this can be built on.

The localised place plans will be prepared before the council produces its next local development plan (LDP3) and that will be something for new councillors to turn their attention to after May’s elections.

With the most recent local development plan just adopted in August 2020, SNP Councillor David Alexander told members of Falkirk Council’s executive that it was “like painting the Forth Bridge”.

He praised the changes, saying: “This separates the roles of strategic planning, semi-local planning and local planning very well.”

His colleague Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn said she thought the new planning framework would allow a much more strategic approach which would help to create “a sense of place and planning in a more joined and strategic manner”.

The council leader particularly welcomed the chance to work with other local authorities on projects such as Green Ports.

Labour group leader Robert Bissett also welcomed the changes – but he asked if there would be any extra resources coming from the Scottish Government.

Mr Dryden said that it would be important to look at resources carefully but he had been advised that the council will see an increase in planning fees to help deal with the implications of the changes.

Conservative leader James Kerr said that he was glad to hear that people are willing to step forward – something he thought would be difficult because “not everybody wants new builds next to them.”

Councillors were told that this was an update report and much more work would be done following the election, involving local members and local communities.

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