Planning Process (Local Opinion)

Secretary of State for Scotland (Meetings) – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:10 pm on 27th February 2003.

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Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour 3:10 pm, 27th February 2003

To ask the First Minister what steps the Scottish Executive is taking to ensure that the views of local people are properly taken into account during the planning process. (S1F-2540)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

We firmly believe that public involvement in the planning system must be improved. We have carried out a review of existing arrangements for enabling people to become involved in planning issues and we will shortly publish a white paper.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

Is the First Minister aware that my constituents in Morningside in Newmains think that existing regulations fall far short of what is required? In Morningside, a company called HJ Banks is blasting at its opencast site, which has resulted in seven properties sustaining damage. Is it acceptable for the company to insist that such damage is unrelated to its activities? Is it appropriate for the company to hide behind planning regulations, even when its actions are clearly causing damage to properties? Does he agree that HJ Banks should cease all blasting until it is clear that the cause of any damage to the properties is completely unrelated to its activities?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I understood that the company had ceased blasting. If it has not, it certainly should do so, if North Lanarkshire Council tells it to do so. It is right and proper that the council should do what I understand it has agreed to do, which is to investigate claims that the blasting is affecting the quality of life in local communities—it would certainly have my full support in doing so. However, the matter is currently one for the local authority to pursue—it is the planning authority and must use its powers to ensure that the company adheres to the strict planning conditions that it was given.

Photo of Keith Harding Keith Harding Conservative

Does the First Minister believe that the introduction of third-party rights of appeal would help to build public confidence in the planning process?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

There is an important debate about the need for and demands of individuals and local communities to have more say in planning decisions—in particular, whether they should have an equal say with those who currently have the right of appeal. On the other side, those responsible for some of the larger applications do not wish to see the planning system clogged up with too many appeals and delays. That is the fine line on which we must try to travel. I am keen to see improvements in our planning system to give local communities more of a say. The system must also be efficient, quick, effective and well resourced so that businesses, housing developers and individuals can have their planning applications dealt with properly. In due course we will respond to that question in a policy paper.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Is the First Minister aware that the village of Fauldhouse potentially faces 15 applications for opencast, landfill and quarrying? The scale of that per head of population is the equivalent of 1,500 applications surrounding Edinburgh. Given that one of the applications is for opencasting in North Lanarkshire and Fauldhouse is in West Lothian, what does the First Minister anticipate will be in the white paper to cover situations in which local people feel disfranchised and do not achieve the environmental justice that they deserve?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I believe strongly that the views of local people should be taken into account in those circumstances. I also believe that, where it is appropriate, a local decision on those matters is the right way ahead. In those circumstances, where one local authority's decision can impact on the residents of another local authority, I feel that it is appropriate—although I would not wish to tell a local authority exactly how to conduct its business—that local authorities share information, take account of each other's views and at all times have the views of the community uppermost in their minds when they take those balanced decisions.