Section 2 — Development plans

Planning etc (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:15 pm on 15th November 2006.

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Photo of George Reid George Reid None 3:15 pm, 15th November 2006

Group 3 is on the creation of strategic development planning authorities. Amendment 98 is grouped with amendments 99, 47 and 100 to 107.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

The purpose of amendments 98 and 99 is similar to that of amendments that I lodged at stage 2. They seek to change the nature of strategic development planning authorities from creatures that are designated by ministers to bodies that are set up by agreement between the relevant planning authorities.

I have several reasons for lodging amendment 98. I will outline the background as quickly as I can. Perhaps I am unique in the chamber in that I am still concerned about the concept of strategic development planning authorities that are to be based around Scotland's major cities. My concern largely relates to the question of whether they fit with the bill's overall objectives to create a planning system that is based on sustainability and that increases community involvement—[Interruption.]

I do not think that it is my phone that is interfering with the sound, Presiding Officer.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

There must be one close to you. I would be grateful if members could ensure that all devices are turned off and not just switched to mute.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

In many ways, the proposed strategic development planning authorities go against the objectives of sustainability and community involvement.

On sustainability, I am concerned that by basing planning on city regions we will end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy—all economic development will happen around the cities and the hinterlands will become the dormitories for feeding into the cities, which will not be sustainable in the long term. To be sustainable, communities need to have a balance of housing, employment, shopping, and leisure and recreation facilities. If those facilities—particularly employment and shopping—are concentrated in the cities, other communities will not be sustainable in the long term.

On community involvement, there are concerns that because the strategic development planning authorities will be centralised, there will be less democratic control and community involvement than there is even with the existing planning authorities. I am concerned about that.

The history of this subject goes back some way. The review of strategic planning went out to consultation way back in 2001, and submissions were requested to be made by October 2001. The analysis of the consultation responses that was published in February 2002 was interesting because, despite the claim that the establishment of strategic development plans for city regions attracted overwhelming support, the breakdown of the consultation responses shows that the support was extremely marginal. Indeed, excluding the responses from the business community, there was barely any difference in the number of respondents who supported, opposed or had mixed views on the proposal—and that holds true only if one excludes the responses from Fife. Of the 331 responses to the consultation, 151 came from Fife, and almost all of them were opposed to the proposed city regions.

The reasons why people in Fife opposed the proposal were outlined in Fife Council's submission to the Communities Committee at stage 1. With strategic development plans, parts of Fife could end up in either Edinburgh or Dundee city regions while other parts are included in neither. As a result, three different regimes could end up operating in Fife, which would run roughshod over the advantages of having one community plan for Fife and of having coterminous boundaries for various public bodies.

Another concern is that creeping centralisation would be likely to result from the proposals if bodies such as the local enterprise company and the health board eventually became part of the strategic planning authority area instead of maintaining their coterminous boundaries with Fife Council.

Those major concerns in Fife need to be addressed if the bill is to go any further.

When the minister responds to the debate, I ask her to consider whether the bill, which currently provides simply that the Scottish ministers may designate councils as part of a strategic development planning authority, might be amended to allow councils to propose their own scheme before the formal designation is made. We must try to ensure that full community consultation and participation takes place in designating strategic development planning authorities and developing strategic plans thereafter. It is important that we have community involvement and proper democratic accountability.

I move amendment 98.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat

Part of the purpose of amendment 47 is similar to the purpose of Iain Smith's amendment 98. I do not necessarily share his concern about strategic development planning authorities—if they are to be, let them be—but they need to have a democratic basis. It is not clear from the bill what local authorities can do if they do not wish to be included in a city-based strategic development planning authority. Amendment 47 would provide councils with the right to say whether they wish to be involved in such an arrangement.

A number of the councils that adjoin City of Edinburgh Council or Glasgow City Council or that come in-between the two of them might have concerns about whether they should be linked to one or other of the city regions or to neither. We should give the councils freedom to make their decision. Amendment 47 would achieve that by allowing local councils to decide whether they wish to be part of a strategic development planning authority. The Executive would need to pay heed to that wish by not including a council area within a strategic development planning authority area if the council did not wish it.

A bit of local democracy is a good idea. The council might get it wrong, but it has the right to get it wrong, because it represents the local people. We should not merely have diktat from one or two civil servants who confront a map in a Government office. Let us have a bit of democracy and let the councils decide whether they wish to be in or out of strategic development planning authorities.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Speeches should be of two minutes.

Photo of Dave Petrie Dave Petrie Conservative

I appreciate the thrust of Iain Smith's argument that councils should be allowed to set up their own strategic development planning authority but, ironically, his proposal could lead to the exclusion of smaller remote authorities. My vision is that rural authorities, island authorities and urban authorities should be able to form part of a cluster if they have the same aims and objectives.

My concern about amendment 47 is that, unless all councils participate, the proposal just will not work.

We will not support amendments 98, 99 or 47.

Photo of Euan Robson Euan Robson Liberal Democrat

There are some residual issues relating to boundaries—it would be helpful if the minister clarified them. Fife might be divided down the middle, with one part looking towards Dundee and the other towards Edinburgh. One way around that might be to allow Fife to be part of both strategic development plan areas and for geographical coverage to extend in both directions. There is a danger that some authorities may be divided in two. In the Borders, which I represent, what will be the status of those areas that are outside official strategic development plan area boundaries? A whole-authority approach to boundaries is preferable. Strategic development plan areas are difficult to construct on a geographical basis, for the simple reason that transport considerations, for example, may suggest a boundary different from that suggested by natural features. I would be grateful if the minister commented on the value of taking a whole-authority approach.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

This may be a first, but I like both Iain Smith's and Donald Gorrie's amendments. SNP members will support the amendments lodged by both members, although no new coalition should be read into that.

Iain Smith's amendments 98 and 99 are important because they would transfer the power to designate strategic development plan authorities to self-selecting local authorities. The amendments would not only restore local democracy but make it consensual. Ministers should not direct local authorities for a variety of reasons. As has been illustrated, the Scottish Borders may be designated with Edinburgh, although the area might not want that. Fife could be put in with Edinburgh or Dundee, or—as was eloquently described—there could be three strategic development plans, all mixed up together. It is for local authorities to decide which strategic development plans and projects are suitable for them to take part in.

Donald Gorrie offers a softer option, which is none the worse for that. Again, the process would be consensual and local authorities would be able to opt out, which is appropriate.

Photo of Christine May Christine May Labour

As members of the Enterprise and Culture Committee will know, my constituency of Central Fife is on the periphery of two strategic development plan areas—those of Dundee and Edinburgh. On many occasions, I have pressed for parity of treatment of the peripheral parts of those areas with city centres.

Metro regions are the way in which to generate economic development. If planning is about anything at all, it is about good social and economic development. I seek reassurance from the minister that in strategic development plan areas there will be parity of treatment of peripheral areas with urban centres, that there will be a duty on the combined planning authority to ensure that fairness is achieved, and that ministers will put in place some sort of monitoring to ensure that that happens. Subject to the assurances that I receive from the minister, I will not support amendments 98, 99 and 47.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

Iain Smith's proposal that arrangements should be entered into by consent seems entirely reasonable. He expressed wider concerns about the operation of strategic development plans that relate more to how the mechanism is used than to the concept itself. We have an opportunity to set the right tone in the bill—democratic accountability is the key. A decision by a minister is, of course, part of the democratic system, but it is a step removed from the local area to which it relates. People expect local councils to be the bodies that are mainly responsible for making planning decisions. Unless ministers can give reasons why they should be able to compel councils to enter into strategic development planning authorities against their will, Iain Smith's amendments 98 and 99 are reasonable.

Donald Gorrie's approach addresses the same issue, but in shifting the decision making to Parliament he does not localise it as Iain Smith's amendments do, so we will not be supporting amendment 47.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour 3:30 pm, 15th November 2006

I share Patrick Harvie's joy at being here at stage 3—still having a pulse in my body is probably a bonus. I welcome the opportunity to contribute to a discussion that encapsulates, to some extent, clear threads that ran right through stage 2 deliberations on the bill: the balance between local decision making and central decision making, the authority of decisions and the stage at which decisions are made. I recognise the significance of the points that have been made, particularly by Iain Smith.

It was stressed at stages 1 and 2 that the quick establishment of effective joint working arrangements between planning authorities is critical to the success of our proposed strategic development plans. Amendments 98 to 107 are all based on the principle that there should be greater discretion for planning authorities to decide whether to form a strategic development planning authority and when to prepare a plan. Although we accept that co-operation is always better than compulsion, we argue that our approach is appropriate.

Amendment 98 and consequential amendments 100 to 106 would allow authorities to decide whether to form a strategic development planning authority, and they would remove the ability to place a clear and immediate requirement on a group of authorities to work together to prepare a plan and to direct, if necessary, that employees of a particular authority be assigned to manage and prepare the plan. We consider that removal of those provisions would increase the likelihood of disagreement and delay. We want the debate between authorities to focus on where the boundaries will lie and on what key issues face each area, not to falter on deciding who should be involved.

At the other end of the scale, an amendment that was lodged at stage 2 by Jackie Baillie sought to put in place a statutory requirement for the authorities to form a joint committee for strategic development planning. Although that amendment was withdrawn, it signals that there are two very different perspectives on the matter. I strongly believe that our proposals achieve the right balance between prescription and discretion, and I consider that they offer the best opportunity to get plans in place quickly and effectively.

Amendment 99 and consequential amendment 107 seek to remove the provision for ministers to require a group of authorities to prepare a strategic development plan at a specific time. Given the new requirement to prepare strategic development plans on a five-yearly basis, we do not think that the provision will be used often, but it remains a useful backstop should a national issue arise that requires a quick review of the plan. Amendments 99 and 107 are also unhelpful.

I am aware that section 2 of the bill has raised a number of concerns in a number of areas—particularly, but not exclusively, in Fife—about which authorities will be involved in the new strategic development planning authorities, what the boundaries will be and how the joint working arrangements will operate. Some of those concerns are founded on a feeling, which has been expressed in Parliament, that the city-region approach is not the best way to deal with land-use planning or service provision in general. There are also concerns about the impact on outlying areas.

The bill is not about taking away powers from specific authorities or areas: in fact, we believe that the proposals offer some authority areas, such as Fife, significant benefits through their being able to influence planning in the wider regions of which they are part. It cannot be right for decisions that affect Fife to be taken by authorities in Edinburgh or Dundee. What is needed, however, is collaboration to address common problems with the interconnection of areas: areas must engage collaboratively with their neighbours and not be dominated by them.

Our approach is designed to avoid any one authority dominating the situation. It is a matter of ensuring that there is a formal forum for authorities in the wider regions to collaborate on shaping the overall planning strategy through recognition of the critical and supportive relationship in both directions between the cities and the neighbouring towns and countryside. We are aware of the tensions between the power of cities and the feelings of people in what have been described as outlying areas. Those tensions can also be felt in the cities.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party

Is the minister saying that, if members in Fife believe passionately that they should vote against an issue on the strategic authority, and do so, they could not be outvoted on it?

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

We have emphasised that all those involved have to take account of all the points that are made across the board, and that there must be parity and respect, as has been identified.

We acknowledge that the primary relationship on planning matters must be between communities and the council that represents them, so our guidance will require community engagement in preparation of plans and full engagement in, and endorsement of, the plans by the constituent member authorities of each joint board. I therefore believe that the new strategic development planning approach will ensure that the plans look more effectively beyond local authority boundaries and that the new requirements for plans to contribute to sustainable development will require that all issues be examined and all impacts be assessed in order to deliver benefits throughout each area.

The bill does not define what the groups of authorities should be for any strategic development plan—that will be a matter for secondary legislation. I confirm, as I stated at stage 2, that we are fully committed to further detailed discussion with authorities on draft designation orders. I stress that ministers will listen to the range of views before deciding what the groups should be. It is then for those groups to determine the boundaries of the plans. In some cases, authorities may want to be included as a whole, but in others they may consider that only part of the area should be included. That decision will, in the first instance, be for the group of authorities. I stress that the bill does not prevent any of those boundary options from being developed.

I give the assurance that the Planning etc (Scotland) Bill will not be used as an opportunity to drive forward changes to other organisational structures, such as local enterprise companies and health boards, or as an opportunity for wider discussions about public service reform. The bill is about putting in place effective land-use planning arrangements that reflect reality.

I reassure members about the purpose of strategic development plans and our desire to see the establishment of effective working arrangements. In that regard, I see Iain Smith's amendments in particular as important reminders of the care that we must exercise to secure transparency, accountability and the necessary balance. However, I believe, for the reasons that I have outlined, that his amendments, although they were lodged with the best of intentions, are not necessary. I therefore invite Iain Smith to withdraw amendment 98 and not to move the remainder of his amendments.

Amendment 47 is a repeat of Donald Gorrie's amendment at stage 2. It seeks to require ministers to consult authorities before designating the new strategic development planning authorities, and to give Parliament the final say in deciding which authorities are and are not included. As I have said, we shall ensure that authorities and others have every opportunity to make known their views on the draft designation orders for the new strategic development planning authorities. We believe that it is right for Scottish ministers to lead the process and to have the opportunity to listen to all views before they decide on the final groupings. I therefore recommend that members reject amendment 47.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

Some of my concerns about democratic accountability and community involvement in the strategic planning process remain. However, I acknowledge the minister's helpful comments. She assured us that in the process of determining the designation orders and considering the guidance there will be further guidance and opportunities for Parliament to have a say. I give the warning that if I am still a member of Parliament when the designation orders come forward and I am not satisfied that sufficient consultation has been conducted I will oppose their adoption. However, given the minister's assurances to date that there will be proper consultation of the partners involved to ensure a system that will work in the interests of all communities and not only the cities, I am willing to seek to withdraw amendment 98.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Does any member object to Iain Smith withdrawing amendment 98?

Members:

Yes.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The question is, that amendment 98 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 6

For: Adam, Brian, Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, Gibson, Rob, Gorrie, Donald, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Hyslop, Fiona, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Martin, Campbell, Mather, Jim, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, McFee, Mr Bruce, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Robison, Shona, Scott, Eleanor, Smith, Iain, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinburne, John, Swinney, Mr John, Turner, Dr Jean, Watt, Ms Maureen, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra
Against: Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Richard, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Brown, Robert, Brownlee, Derek, Butler, Bill, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Davidson, Mr David, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Fox, Colin, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Godman, Trish, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Johnstone, Alex, Kane, Rosie, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Leckie, Carolyn, Livingstone, Marilyn, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLetchie, David, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peattie, Cathy, Petrie, Dave, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Scott, John, Scott, Tavish, Sheridan, Tommy, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Abstentions: Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 33, Against 82, Abstentions 1.

Amendment 98 disagreed to.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

All my other amendments in the group are consequential on amendment 98, so I will not move them.

Amendment 99 not moved.

Amendment 47 moved—[Donald Gorrie].

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The question is, that amendment 47 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 7

For: Adam, Brian, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, Gibson, Rob, Gorrie, Donald, Grahame, Christine, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Martin, Campbell, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, McFee, Mr Bruce, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Robison, Shona, Sheridan, Tommy, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinburne, John, Swinney, Mr John, Turner, Dr Jean, Watt, Ms Maureen, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra
Against: Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baird, Shiona, Baker, Richard, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Brown, Robert, Brownlee, Derek, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Davidson, Mr David, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Fox, Colin, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Godman, Trish, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Johnstone, Alex, Kane, Rosie, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLetchie, David, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peattie, Cathy, Petrie, Dave, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Scott, Eleanor, Scott, John, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Abstentions: Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Smith, Iain

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 31, Against 85, Abstentions 2.

Amendment 47 disagreed to.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Amendment 100 is in the name of Iain Smith. I take it, Mr Smith, that you are not moving that amendment.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

I wonder whether I can save time by not moving amendments 100 to 104 en bloc.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Unfortunately, I have to call each of the amendments. I ask that you confirm that you are not moving them when I do so.

Amendment 100 not moved.

Amendment 101 not moved.

Amendment 102 not moved.

Amendment 103 not moved.

Amendment 104 not moved.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

That is fine. No one else jumped in to move them.

Group 4 is on general issues with regard to strategic and local development plans. Amendment 20, in the name of the minister, is grouped with amendments 2, 21, 3 to 5 and 160.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

Amendments 20 and 21 seek to require the principal physical, economic, social and environmental factors that affect local and strategic development plans to be monitored regularly and a report on that monitoring to be published from time to time and, in any event, when a main issues report is published. The amendments, which follow from a stage 2 amendment that was lodged by Scott Barrie and which related only to local development plans, seek to set a general monitoring requirement for both tiers of plan and to ensure that the monitoring report is published in order to inform the preparation of the next main issues report. As these helpful amendments will ensure that the effectiveness of plans is regularly assessed and that any necessary changes are fed into the next plan review, I recommend that they be accepted.

Following an amendment that was lodged at stage 2 by Donald Gorrie, we agreed to come back at stage 3 with an amendment that would require strategic development planning authorities to send a copy of the proposed strategic development plan to planning authorities that neighbour the strategic development plan area. That will be the effect of amendment 2. Given that the bill already requires the strategic development planning authority to seek the views of neighbouring authorities in drawing up the main issues report, the amendment represents a logical additional step in the process and I recommend that it be accepted.

Amendment 3 seeks to ensure that notice of a local development plan examination is advertised just in libraries in the local development plan area rather than in the whole planning authority area. It acknowledges that some authorities will continue to be covered by more than one local development plan and that publicity is required only in the plan area. As it follows on from stage 2 amendments 33 and 34, which sought to make the same change at other stages in the plan process, and therefore ensures consistency with the remainder of the provisions, I recommend that amendment 3 be accepted.

Amendment 4, which follows from a stage 2 amendment that was lodged by Scott Barrie and which sought additional publicity for development plan schemes, seeks to require planning authorities to publish, on adoption, their development plan schemes, to send copies to Scottish ministers and to make them available in local libraries. This sensible addition to the bill is consistent with other provisions that are aimed at increasing transparency and engagement in the system and I recommend that it be accepted.

Amendment 5 is a technical amendment that seeks to replace the phrase "development control" with "development management" in order to reflect the new and more positive terminology that has been adopted in the modernisation package. I recommend that it, too, be accepted.

Manuscript amendment 160 seeks to require the regulations that set out the circumstances in which planning authorities can depart from the reporter's recommendations on a local development plan examination to be made first under the affirmative procedure. Concerns have been expressed about the lack of detail in the bill, but it is more effective for such matters to be included in secondary legislation, in order to allow for later amendment.

We accept that there is much interest in the content of the regulations. As was stressed at stage 2, we will work closely with authorities and others to develop the detail. I am therefore happy for the regulations to be subject to the affirmative procedure to ensure proper scrutiny of the circumstances. I recommend that amendment 160 be accepted.

I move amendment 20.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

We will have a quick lap of honour from Sylvia Jackson.

Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour 3:45 pm, 15th November 2006

Thank you. I just wanted to say that, in relation to section 19(10)(a)(i), the members of the Subordinate Legislation Committee are pleased that the minister and the Executive have accepted that the affirmative procedure should be adopted.

Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour

I thank the minister for honouring the commitment that was given at stage 2 to lodge further amendments on these matters. The minister said, rightly, that the amendment that I originally lodged referred only to local plans, and he said that it would be better to lodge another amendment to cover both tiers. I am glad that the Executive has done that today and I thank the minister very much.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

We on the SNP side of the chamber also find this group of amendments helpful in that they will increase transparency and accountability.

My one question for the minister relates to amendment 4 and the use of the expression

"As soon as is reasonably practicable after a development plan scheme has been adopted".

Has the minister a timescale in mind? If so, it would be helpful to have it on the record.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I am afraid that it is a general remark and I cannot be more specific.

Amendment 20 agreed to.

Amendments 105, 106 and 107 not moved.

Amendment 2 moved—[Malcolm Chisholm]—and agreed to.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Amendment 108, in the name of Pauline McNeill, is grouped with amendments 125 and 126.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

Open spaces are the lungs of urban communities; indeed, they are the lungs of all communities. However, the pressure on space has never been greater. As Scotland's economy continues to grow and regeneration policies thrive, the pressure on our open spaces will continue.

A range of Scottish Executive policies rely on green and open spaces. Our policies on fitness among young and old people and our health in general depend on our open spaces. If we do not take steps to preserve those spaces, when we lose them we will lose them for ever. We all know of stories about sports clubs and sports grounds being sold off for development and not being replaced. In my constituency, the vibrant Dowanhill Lawn Tennis Club faces closure, as it is possible for the developers to argue that an equivalent facility can be enhanced to compensate for loss of that space. They propose to build another sports club ground further down the road.

At the moment, the planning rules on green spaces and spaces that host sports clubs are too loose—developers can work their way around them. The presumption against building in open spaces and green spaces, especially where the ground has already been zoned for recreational use, should be a robust presumption that is difficult to overturn.

I responded to the recent Scottish Executive consultation on planning and policy guidance on green spaces, open spaces and sports facilities. I welcome the work that the Executive is doing, and I hope that other members took the opportunity to respond to the consultation. In my response, I made it clear that we must ensure that the rules on equivalent spaces that can be found elsewhere do not result in an overall reduction of spaces.

I welcome the Executive's plans to ask local authorities to audit their spaces; that is a very good and important development that I support whole-heartedly. However, I want a debate on whether that would best be done through guidance or the bill. I am looking for an assurance from ministers that any such guidance will be robust. I want local authorities to be reassured that, if they reject planning applications for developments on open spaces, their decisions will not be overturned. Developers will seek to use the rules to do that and, as we know, they have the right to appeal whereas communities do not. That debate is for another day, however.

I am looking for assurances that, at the end of the consultation on green spaces, the action that the Executive takes will be robust enough to offer genuine protection to all Scotland's open spaces.

I move amendment 108.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

I will be quick. Amendment 108 is important and I congratulate Pauline McNeill on lodging it. If she seeks leave to withdraw it, the SNP will oppose that request and move the amendment.

Open space is equally important to people in rural and urban areas. The misconception is that, because people have fields all about them, they have open space. Fields are not open spaces; they are places of work. Green space is as relevant to people in rural Scotland as it is to those in urban Scotland.

One example from my area is that of a school that is being built on open space, on common-good land. The ministers called in the application, because the land was not even designated in the local development plan for those purposes, but it is proceeding. If the presumption in planning law had been for open spaces to be protected, the development would not have been approved. Amendment 108 is terribly important. As I said, if Pauline McNeill seeks leave to withdraw it, the SNP will move it.

Photo of Dave Petrie Dave Petrie Conservative

As a sports fanatic and extra-curricular supporter, I agree with Pauline McNeill about protection of recreational areas. I am delighted to see that Glasgow City Council is converting all its blaes pitches to all-weather facilities.

However, I have a slight concern about the inflexibility of the proposal. If, for any reason, an authority wanted to cover a sports facility or have an indoor sports centre built on a recreational area, it might be prohibited from doing so. I support the principle and spirit of amendment 108, but the Conservatives will vote against it because we think that it would be far better to set something more flexibly in regulation and guidance.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

Pauline McNeill began by describing open spaces as the "lungs of all communities". I am sure that all members recognise the importance of such spaces in respect of a range of issues, including—as Pauline McNeill said—health.

Community cohesion is another reason for having green and open spaces. I am thinking in particular of the informal spaces that do not necessarily get the same protection as formal parks. Those informal spaces are often the first places where people meet their neighbours after moving into a new area, when they are walking their dogs or taking their children out to play. Such spaces are not only part of the physical fabric of the environment—they help to make real communities.

Pauline McNeill spoke about shocking examples in her constituency, but examples of the loss of green and open spaces are to be found throughout Glasgow and the whole of Scotland. Although the Executive's idea of audits is good and will give us more information about how much open space exists and how much has been lost, it seems that such audits are going to be in the pipeline for rather a long time. We are making insufficient progress in completing them.

I am happy to support Pauline McNeill's amendment 108 and I am pleased to hear that another member will move it if she does not.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I call Malcolm Chisholm to respond to the debate. I would be grateful if you could do so in four minutes, minister.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

Amendment 108 seeks to require the spatial strategies of local development plans to identify areas of important open space and to introduce a presumption against development of such areas. Since the introduction of the bill, a review of the national policy on open space has commenced. Pauline McNeill reminded us of that. Earlier this year, we published draft Scottish planning policy 11 on physical activity and open space. I believe that draft SPP 11 is a robust policy document.

The draft policy seeks to strengthen protection of open space significantly; for example, it will require local councils to audit their open space and introduces a new requirement for them to notify ministers of a much wider range of developments on open space, including those that involve smaller community sports facilities such as tennis courts and bowling greens.

The consultation on draft SPP 11 closed on 3 November and received 130 responses from a wide range of interests. I thank Pauline McNeill for her comments in that regard and I agree whole-heartedly with the general thrust of her remarks about the importance of open space. However, given the review of SPP 11 and its aim of strengthening the provision and protection of open space, the legal requirements that are proposed in amendment 108 are not appropriate.

Amendment 108 would create a presumption against the development of open space, but draft SPP 11 promotes such a presumption. That is the right policy route for dealing with that important issue. The draft SPP acknowledges that development plans are the proper vehicle for deciding where development should occur and will require plans to identify open spaces that are to be protected and enhanced. Although I support the aim of amendment 108, I do not support the legal requirement that it would introduce. Draft SPP 11 offers a more appropriate and effective opportunity to strengthen protection of open space. We will take on board the concerns that have been expressed in this debate when we finalise the policy, so I recommend that amendment 108 be rejected.

Amendments 125 and 126 would oblige the Scottish ministers to call in every planning application on an area of designated open space unless the planning authority refused permission.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

First, will the minister clarify the status of guidance to local authorities? Secondly, if a local authority rejected a planning application on the basis of the guidance, would the Scottish ministers use the same guidance and support the authority's refusal to grant the application?

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

The guidance would be a material consideration. SPP 11 will be important in determinations by local authorities and ministers on such issues. SPP 11 will be a robust document but, as I said, we are finalising it and will make it more robust if we can. We will take on board the comments that have been made in the debate.

On amendments 125 and 126, I understand the desire to protect good-quality open space, but I do not agree that ministerial scrutiny and centralised decision making are necessary in all circumstances. Amendments 125 and 126 would undermine the principle of local democracy in planning matters by requiring that minor or non-contentious developments be taken out of the hands of local authorities. For example, ministers would have no choice but to call in and ultimately decide on a planning application for a sports pavilion that was needed to replace a dilapidated facility on a playing field. Not all developments on open space are offensive or require intervention at national level.

As I said, we seek to widen notification requirements through SPP 11 and to back up our approach with an option for ministers to intervene if necessary to ensure that we strengthen protection of open space. We all share that important objective. We are acting on the matter, so I ask members to reject amendments 125 and 126.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

I listened to the minister's comments and I agree that the guidance is important. I want the guidance to be fully used by local authorities.

The issue is difficult for me. I accept Dave Petrie's point that the approach that I propose has not been tested and has not been consulted on, although I think that it would attract widespread support. When back benchers lodge amendments, there are always drafting issues. I plead with the Executive to monitor the effectiveness of the guidance. If it is designed to protect open spaces it should do so. If it fails, I expect ministers to introduce tougher legislation. On that basis, I seek members' leave to withdraw amendment 108.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Does any member object to the withdrawal of amendment 108?

Members:

Yes.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The question is, that amendment 108 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 8

For: Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Frances, Fabiani, Linda, Fox, Colin, Gibson, Rob, Gorrie, Donald, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Kane, Rosie, Leckie, Carolyn, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Martin, Campbell, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, McFee, Mr Bruce, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Robison, Shona, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Sheridan, Tommy, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinburne, John, Swinney, Mr John, Turner, Dr Jean, Watt, Ms Maureen, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra
Against: Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Richard, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Brown, Robert, Brownlee, Derek, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Davidson, Mr David, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Godman, Trish, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Johnstone, Alex, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLetchie, David, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peattie, Cathy, Petrie, Dave, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Scott, John, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Abstentions: Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 40, Against 79, Abstentions 1.

Amendment 108 disagreed to.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 4:00 pm, 15th November 2006

Group 6 is on houses in multiple occupation. Amendment 109, in the name of Pauline McNeill, is grouped with amendments 113, 112, 141 and 140.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

I know a wee bit about houses in multiple occupation, having lived in two streets in Glasgow Hillhead—Kersland Street and Cecil Street—that are well known for many reasons and which have a high concentration of HMOs. The members who have lived in Cecil Street will know what I am talking about. [ Laughter. ] Perhaps the Presiding Officer will add a few seconds to my time because of that distraction.

During the passage of the Housing (Scotland) Bill, I consistently raised the issue of HMOs and was advised that the passage of the Planning etc (Scotland) Bill would be the appropriate time at which to raise the matter. So, contrary to some of the briefings that have been issued in the past couple of days, the issue is certainly not new—it is not new to me and I am sure that it is not new to other members.

I welcome the discussions that took place at a meeting on 12 April that was initiated by Scottish Executive officials and included local authorities. Under amendment 109, making a property an HMO would be regarded as a material change of use, which would mean that the change would be brought within the planning system. Under amendment 113, a subdivision of rooms, when designed for a change of use, would be covered by the planning system, too. Amendment 140 would end the use of certificates of lawful use in relation to HMOs. Amendment 141 would allow authorities to revoke HMO licences, if they so wished.

There have been some misleading briefings about the amendments. In some parts of the country, issues arise as a result of the overprovision of HMOs. In Glasgow, landlords are required to obtain planning permission when there are three or more tenants—the figure is four or more in the west end. I acknowledge that local policies exist, but I want to ensure that they are enforced. My amendments are about achieving a sustainable housing mix to ensure provision for students, migrant workers, young professionals and others who rely on sharing their accommodation, as well as for the families that live in areas permanently. We need to ensure that local authorities have mechanisms to strike such a balance. I have argued consistently that we should ensure that we have mixed affordable housing. I argued that in relation to private development and I will argue it in relation to John Home Robertson's amendment 22, which I support.

My amendments would not reduce the existing number of HMOs, as they are neither about changing the status of existing HMOs nor about renewals. The amendments would apply to proposals for new HMOs, which would be dealt with in line with the local authority's policy, whatever it might be. If a local authority had no limit on HMOs, the legislation would not apply and the matter would be for the local authority to decide.

In some streets in my constituency, in excess of 50 per cent of properties are HMOs. One reason for that is that planning permission is not always sought and that, even when it is required, the 10-year lawful use certificate means that a council is unable to decline planning permission if the property has been used in that way for 10 years, even illegally. Students, too, have concerns about living where there are large concentrations of HMOs. This is about spreading HMOs around cities rather than concentrating them or reducing their number.

The subdivision of rooms is an important issue, as it brings multiple people into areas designed for smaller numbers. There are elderly people who have had four or five people move into a flat above them because there has been a change in the use of a room, so that everyone is trying to live on top of one another in a house that was designed for much smaller numbers. Bringing that issue into the planning system would allow conditions to be set. Bedrooms below bedrooms in tenement property are a real problem because they are not well insulated.

I have raised the issue of HMOs many times and I would like to hear what the Executive proposes to do. I want the Executive to recognise that the issue is a real one and to consider whether the legislation could contain anything that would ensure that a balance is struck and that we have mixed communities.

I move amendment 109.

Photo of Mr Andrew Arbuckle Mr Andrew Arbuckle Liberal Democrat

HMO provision is necessary, especially for young people but, as Pauline McNeill said, problems occur when there is a concentration of HMOs in towns and cities. For example, in St Andrews, 90 per cent of some streets and blocks consist of HMO properties. In other towns, enclaves of migrant workers are being created. As has been seen in other parts of the country, if the number of young, transient and short-term residents increases beyond a certain level, the nature of the community changes and the balance and sustainability of a locality can be placed in jeopardy. Family-oriented shops become non-viable and are replaced with fast-food outlets, which makes the area less desirable for families. In areas in which that happens, another downside is the closure of primary schools so that, instead of being mixed, vibrant and sustainable, a community becomes a monoculture of single, young people, with all the potential difficulties that that can bring.

Amendment 112 recognises that HMOs are commercial operations. Financially, they can be very profitable operations, but HMOs should also be required to sit comfortably alongside family homes. They do not just cater for students, but where there are concentrations of students, areas can become ghost towns during the long holidays. Amendment 112 is intended to protect the very principle of having mixed, viable and sustainable communities, which, incidentally, is a primary aim of the bill. The amendment, like Pauline McNeill's amendments, would not in any way affect existing HMO provision. It would simply allow local authorities to develop sensitive local plans. Again, in line with the thrust of the bill, all stakeholders and interested parties would be consulted on those plans. The present situation, in which some HMOs require planning consent and others do not, leads to great confusion for the public and for providers of HMOs. Sadly, that results in frequent disregard of existing laws.

In similar fashion to Pauline McNeill, I have received e-mails from people who wish to retain the status quo, many of which have been based on a misapprehension of the intention of amendment 112. It is not anti any group, and no person would be made homeless as a result of its implementation. Young people should have the benefit of living in a mixed, sustainable community rather than in a monoculture of young people.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I have an impossible task here, because I have far too many names on my screen, so there will be time only for bullet points.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

Unlike Pauline McNeill, I never lived in Cecil Street or Vinnicombe Street in my younger days, but I did go to some good parties there, which probably highlights her point, which is that HMOs can be a problematic form of tenure. However, the fact is that there are now so many single households that it is a necessary form of tenure. We would have had a lot more sympathy with the issues involved if they had come before the chamber, been remitted to the committee and then come back, with a study of their impact on the rented sector and, indeed, the owner-occupied sector. Unfortunately, that has not happened, so the Conservatives are unable to support Pauline McNeill's and Andrew Arbuckle's amendments.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party

I have a great deal of sympathy with the amendments in Pauline McNeill's name. On a number of occasions, Pauline McNeill has tried, as have other members, to get the Executive to deal with the issues around houses in multiple occupation. During the passage of the Housing (Scotland) Bill, the Executive's response was that they were a planning matter. When we came to the Planning etc (Scotland) Bill, the minister said that the issues might have something to do with planning, that the Executive was in dialogue with local authorities and that it would report back on the matter at a later stage. Of course, the minister failed to do so, despite the undertaking to the Communities Committee to report back to us by stage 2. We did not get that report.

According to the Executive neither the Planning etc (Scotland) Bill nor the Housing (Scotland) Bill was the appropriate mechanism. Ministers must now tell us what they intend to do about HMOs. My regret about Pauline McNeill's amendments—I am not blaming her for this—is that we have had no opportunity to scrutinise them, nor did the Communities Committee take any evidence on the matter, and I am not convinced that the amendments would do as Pauline McNeill hopes.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party

I understand the frustrations that have led to Pauline McNeill's amendments. We look to the minister

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party

We look to the minister to respond and say how he intends to take the issue forward. It is simply not acceptable to go no further than where we are now. If the minister is saying that legislation is not required, does he intend to issue guidelines to local authorities, which currently all have different policies for their areas? We are looking for a timescale for action on the matter.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party

The Executive has dragged its feet for long enough on the matter. Communities are crying out for action, and it is simply unacceptable that the Scottish Executive has so far taken none.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

When I ask for "bullet points", I am really saying that I want speeches of about a minute. I am sorry that there is no more time to give people. I will not be able to call everyone.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

I have considerable sympathy with Pauline McNeill's amendments in the group. She has raised the issue of HMOs consistently at the Communities Committee and in the Parliament. Although the existing HMO licensing arrangements can deal with problems with the behaviour of tenants and with the operation of landlords, my concern is that they cannot deal with the issue that Pauline McNeill has raised in relation to maintaining an appropriate balance of residential use in an area. We need to address that issue.

It is my understanding that planning authorities can develop planning policies to control HMOs through their local development plans, but that is not happening. It would be helpful if the Executive could outline how it will work with local authorities to address the serious problem that manifests itself in some of our more urban communities.

Photo of Euan Robson Euan Robson Liberal Democrat

This is an important issue, which was discussed during consideration of the Housing (Scotland) Bill and the Planning etc (Scotland) Bill. There are anxieties among local communities but, equally, there are anxieties among students about ensuring that there is an adequate supply of accommodation. The problem with agreeing to the amendments in the group is that it could mean passing piecemeal legislation, with potential unintended consequences. There is an overwhelming case for proper consultation on HMOs and for the production of a standalone bill to cover the outstanding issues in this complicated area.

Photo of Mark Ballard Mark Ballard Green

HMOs are an essential form of housing for migrant workers from within or outwith Scotland and for young professionals, not just for students. According to Shelter Scotland, only about 25 per cent of people who live in HMOs in Edinburgh are students. That is not surprising, given the changes in the housing market and the lack of affordable housing in the city.

The areas where local authorities are most likely to implement limits on HMOs are close to the centre of cities, but it is important that workers and young people have the opportunity to live in those areas. Limiting the supply of HMOs increases their price, thus limiting the availability of low-cost housing. HMO licensing is not designed for that; it is there to ensure the safety of tenants, not to ensure quotas for different kinds of people or to determine the social mix. We should keep the HMO licensing arrangements and ensure that houses in multiple occupation have decent standards for fire safety, but we should not use them as an experiment in social engineering. They were not designed for that. We should reject the amendments.

Photo of Cathie Craigie Cathie Craigie Labour 4:15 pm, 15th November 2006

I appreciate Pauline McNeill's long interest in this matter. By creating the HMO arrangements, the Parliament and the Scottish Executive have gone a long way towards licensing the private sector. I can understand that people in certain areas of Glasgow, Dundee and other university cities might feel that there is overprovision, but they have to remember what that brings to the economies of their areas.

I would like to hear the minister say that she will encourage local authorities to use the powers that are available to them so that we can find a solution to this quite difficult issue, especially for people who happen to live up a close in which a landlord is not taking responsibility. However, we need HMO accommodation and I would not support any move that put that in danger.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I express my regrets to the four members whom I am unable to call.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I will deal with the broad issues before dealing with as many of the critical points around the amendments as I have time to cover.

I recognise that, in parts of Scotland, there are concerns about the increased concentration of HMOs and the effect on the environment, amenity and neighbourhoods. Our view, which has been formed through discussions with local authorities and others, is that the tools that are necessary to deal with the issues are, for the most part, already available to planning authorities and we do not need amendments to the bill. However, I acknowledge that there are issues for the planning system and we are extremely aware of those. Indeed, we convened a meeting of interested MSPs, local authorities and officials to talk about the way forward. Perhaps the reason why the amendments do not fit the bill and why we have not yet come up with a solution is because the issue is complex and involves balancing a range of factors including amenity, mixed communities, students' needs, affordable accommodation and HMO licensing.

Pauline McNeill has been concerned about this matter for a long time and she is right to say that she attempted to deal with it in amendments to the Housing (Scotland) Bill and was told that the forthcoming planning legislation was the appropriate place to deal with it. The amendments that she and Andrew Arbuckle have lodged have provoked concerns. Indeed, as I was coming into the chamber this afternoon, Sylvia Jackson handed me a petition that expressed her constituents' concerns about the availability of affordable accommodation for students.

We know that the problem is difficult, but I contend that the individual amendments do not address the problem in the correct way. It is inappropriate to set out in primary legislation the specific topics that are to be covered in development plans. That is a matter for individual planning authorities to consider in the light of, for example, local circumstances and the Executive's planning guidance. It would not make sense to require planning authorities across Scotland to put resources into preparing policies on issues that do not arise in their area. From talking to MSPs, I know that this is a big and concerning issue in some areas but not in others. Therefore, we need flexibility and balance.

As I said, there are issues about the ability of certain of the amendments to deliver the policy aims that have been identified. I do not have time to go through all of them.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

Does the minister accept that the issue involves not just having good guidance on HMOs from the Executive but landlords taking responsibility, acting as good landlords and ensuring that their tenants do not undertake antisocial behaviour and ensuring that the powers in the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004 are used to take decisive action?

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

The member will know that I am something of an advocate of the registration of private landlords and believe in the importance of them taking their responsibility seriously. HMO licensing, the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004 and, in particular, private landlord registration play a critical role. I know that the City of Edinburgh Council has been proactive in ensuring that landlords have appropriate information about what they can do. The information that is provided by landlord registration allows us not only to develop further our guidance in this area but to make contact with landlords and work with them on a broad range of issues.

We know that this issue is of concern to people and I recognise the concerns that lie behind the amendments. However, I do not accept the scaremongering and hostility that have motivated some people. Planning has a role to play in dealing with a number of the issues around increasing concentrations of HMOs in certain areas, but we must also acknowledge its role in ensuring that there is adequate provision to meet the full range of housing needs, which includes HMOs. We must also recognise the importance of getting the various bits of the system—licensing, registration and the planning system—to work together in a joint endeavour to deliver appropriate accommodation that does not impact inappropriately on local communities.

The planning guidance that we intend to publish on HMOs will cover local development plan policies, the interface with the HMO licensing regime, development management and planning enforcement. However, I do not believe that we should require every planning authority to produce a policy on an issue that might not be relevant in their area. We should not require planning permission for every HMO regardless of the circumstances, extend planning controls to the internal arrangements of flats or houses, or extend planning enforcement powers to revoke licences that were granted under other legislation.

I assure everyone in the chamber that, in publishing the planning guidance, we will address the points that have been raised and the concerns that prompted them. There will be further opportunities for MSPs and those who have lobbied them to ensure that the guidance meets both the needs of people who live in HMOs and the need for mixed, sustainable communities.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

A number of members have a long-standing interest in this matter and it has been useful to have a debate on it.

I acknowledge the minister's point that a policy on HMOs is not needed in every area, but in some parts of the country there is a problem that definitely needs to be addressed. It is important to note the nature of HMOs. They are not necessarily more troublesome than any other type of housing; the issue is the volume of people that they bring to an area that was perhaps designed for a smaller number. We must recognise that that has an impact on others.

I do not accept Mark Ballard's assertion that my proposal involves social engineering. There is some evidence that my constituency is losing families, who feel that 60 per cent of the homes in their close are now HMOs and that the local authority's planning policies are not dealing with the volume of people who live there. As Sarah Boyack said, there are other solutions. We should all agree that, although there is a place for HMOs, they cannot be the solution to affordable housing for migrant workers and students. We need other solutions—solutions that, I hope, we will debate later today. I am a strong supporter of those.

I am trying to get some movement from the Executive. There is a recognition that there is a problem that needs to be addressed, even though it varies around the country, and I welcome the minister's commitment to publish guidance, but if I am to seek agreement to withdraw amendment 109 and not move my other amendments in the group, it would be helpful to know that there will be consultation. It would be wrong for me to pursue my amendments, because I realise that a number of interests are involved that have not been talked through, but I want to ensure that the Executive has the right policies on the matter. Perhaps guidance is the way forward.

I wonder whether the minister wants to intervene on me to reassure me that there will be consultation—

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I think the minister has already indicated that there will be consultation.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I just did not say what the quality of it would be.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

There will be high-quality consultation. [ Laughter. ]

Amendment 109, by agreement, withdrawn.

Amendment 21 moved—[Malcolm Chisholm]—and agreed to.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Group 7 is on local development plans and community needs and involvement. Amendment 50, in the name of Donald Gorrie, is grouped with amendments 51 and 52.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat

It is legitimate for members, if they so desire, to support one or two of my amendments rather than all three, but they all focus on the same questions. How do we involve communities as equal partners in planning in their area? How do we make planning more positive, especially in relation to the performance of local communities? Hitherto, for most people, planning has been about preventing some people from doing what they want to do. That is one issue, but planning should be a positive thing that creates a better society. It should be a utopian activity and not a blocking activity. We are a long way from utopia, but we can, at least, move in that direction and start thinking about how to be positive.

The first amendment in the group—amendment 50—would ensure that the general proposals that are included in the main issues report cover three important aspects for the local community. They are

"affordable housing for sale or let ... facilities for recreation, sport and community activities"— those could be indoor or outdoor activities that are sporting or intellectual, such as gardening—

"and ... open space".

In dealing with a different part of the bill, Pauline McNeill vigorously expounded the importance of open space, so I need not repeat that. I think that everyone in the Parliament feels that affordable housing for let is important, so it should be included to ensure that the planning authority shows in the main issues report how it will provide enough affordable housing, recreation facilities and open space to create

"a vigorous and balanced community."

The amendment takes a positive approach, focusing on improving a community.

The second amendment in the group—amendment 51—would ensure that the planning authority seeks the views of

"local communities and their representatives".

The bill instructs the planning authority

"to seek the views of ... key agencies", whoever they may be—I am sure that they are very important—but says nothing about finding out what the community wants. I suggest that, in addition to seeking key agencies' views, the planning authority should talk to communities and their representatives and reflect their views in the general proposals.

The third amendment in the group—amendment 52—is to a different provision from the other amendments. It relates to participation statements and would ensure that the planning authority worked in partnership with communities. A big contrast exists between working in partnership with somebody and consulting them. A person works in partnership with their husband or wife and does not just consult him or her. A husband and wife are equal partners; they may disagree, but they negotiate and something is done that is satisfactory to both. However, we all have experience of bad consulting—I am sure and I hope that the minister will do good consulting. Consulting is more often done in an insulting way. We need partnership, not just consultation.

I revert to the positive aspect. Instead of just saying what they do not want, organisations such as community councils and other community groups should be told, "Right—you don't want this, that and the next thing. What do you want?" They should be invited to produce a positive view of their communities and how they should be developed, which should be fed into the system.

All those suggestions are useful and constructive and I hope that members will find them worthy of support.

I move amendment 50.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I exercise my discretion under rule 9.8.4A(c) to extend the time limit for group 7 by seven minutes. That time will need to be made up from the time that is allocated to groups 8 and 9.

I call Karen Whitefield, to be followed by Dave Petrie. Each member has one minute.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

I will restrict my comments on amendments 51 and 52 to saying simply that they are similar to amendments that the Communities Committee rejected at stage 2 because we accepted the assurance from the Deputy Minister for Communities that such issues would be covered in guidance. That still stands.

Amendment 50 would require local development plans to reflect the importance to the community of providing affordable housing, recreational facilities and open space. Who could object to any of that?

Communities with such amenities are exactly what we want. However, the amendment says that we must reflect that in a way that delivers

"a vigorous and balanced community", which the amendment does not define. I fear that we would spend considerable time debating the issues and that we would not deliver affordable housing, recreational facilities or open space. That would be to communities' detriment.

Photo of Dave Petrie Dave Petrie Conservative

I will restrict my comments mainly to amendment 51. Amendment 50 is somewhat prescriptive and amendment 52 is excessive. As for amendment 51, I seek the Executive's assurance that the "key agencies" will include people such as local communities and their representatives. I realise that that could be specified in regulations, but it is important for the Executive to give such assurances today.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green 4:30 pm, 15th November 2006

I return to the theme that Johann Lamont correctly identified earlier and which dominated the discussion at stage 2—the theme of democratic accountability in the system. The negative perceptions that many people have of politicians at all levels are reinforced by the fact that, collectively, we have not quite recognised that the mandate that any democratically elected politician—local or national—has is weaker now than it was when election turnouts were higher and when public involvement and engagement with politics and the political process were stronger.

Donald Gorrie's amendments 51 and 52 are by no means trivial. They address the tone with which we should operate systems such as the one we are discussing. They are about saying that local authorities are not masters of the planning system but should use it in collaboration with, and with the co-operation of, their local communities. When we are elected to the position of councillor, MSP, minister or anything else, we should seek to use the planning system not to meet our own ends, but to co-operate and collaborate. Donald Gorrie's amendments set the correct tone.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I will be brief so that we do not lose time from the debate on affordable housing.

Of course, I support the provision of the facilities that are mentioned in amendment 50, but I do not agree that the requirement for them should be included in primary legislation, especially as the amendment highlights only a small number of objectives rather than the full range of sometimes competing issues that must be addressed. That is more appropriately a matter for policy. We have discussed SPP 11 on physical activity and open space and, in a moment, we will discuss SPP 3 on planning for housing. Also, as Karen Whitefield reminded us, it is not clear how a vigorous and balanced community would be defined, which could result in lengthy debates about whether a particular strategy would achieve that.

Members should remember what we are proposing. Authorities will be under a duty to prepare a participation statement in their development plan schemes that will set out the steps that they will take to involve the public at large in plan preparation and review. Those statements will be updated annually and assessed at the examination to ensure that the planning authority has done what it said it would do. Therefore, amendment 51 is unnecessary.

On amendment 52, we should remember that the thrust of our package of modernisation is to involve local communities more effectively in the planning process, especially in drawing up development plans. A range of other provisions in the bill support that—for example, the preparation of participation statements; neighbour notification of key proposals; and the requirement to involve the public at large at various stages of the plan process. I do not believe that further legal prescription is necessary or appropriate, as it could reduce the flexibility to find effective local solutions based on the nature of the community and the issues that it faces.

I would not expressly encourage community groups to prepare their own versions of the plan, as is proposed in the second part of amendment 52, because of the complex legal and policy requirements that must be taken into account. We are encouraging the public at large to be fully involved in the formative stages of plan preparation, and we are encouraging planning authorities to be transparent with their information and to use a range of techniques to allow communities to help to shape the strategy and decisions on the location of new developments. Therefore, like the other two amendments, amendment 52 is neither necessary nor appropriate.

I recommend that all three amendments be rejected.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Mr Gorrie, there is no time for you to wind up the debate. I ask you to press or withdraw amendment 50.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The question is, that amendment 50 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 8, Against 74, Abstentions 1.

Amendment 50 disagreed to.

Amendment 51 moved—[Donald Gorrie].

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The question is, that amendment 51 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 10

For: Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Curran, Frances, Fox, Colin, Gorrie, Donald, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Kane, Rosie, Leckie, Carolyn, Martin, Campbell, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Swinburne, John
Against: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Richard, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Brown, Robert, Brownlee, Derek, Butler, Bill, Craigie, Cathie, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Ms Margaret, Davidson, Mr David, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Rob, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Grahame, Christine, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Johnstone, Alex, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lochhead, Richard, Lyon, George, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McFee, Mr Bruce, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Neil, Alex, Oldfather, Irene, Peattie, Cathy, Petrie, Dave, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robison, Shona, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Scott, John, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stevenson, Stewart, Stone, Mr Jamie, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Tosh, Murray, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watt, Ms Maureen, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Abstentions: Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

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The result of the division is: For 16, Against 100, Abstentions 1.

Amendment 51 disagreed to.

Amendments 3 and 4 moved—[Malcolm Chisholm]—and agreed to.

Amendment 52 moved—[Donald Gorrie].

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The question is, that amendment 52 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 11

For: Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Curran, Frances, Fox, Colin, Gorrie, Donald, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Kane, Rosie, Leckie, Carolyn, Martin, Campbell, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Swinburne, John, Turner, Dr Jean
Against: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Richard, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Brown, Robert, Brownlee, Derek, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Ms Margaret, Davidson, Mr David, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Rob, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Grahame, Christine, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Johnstone, Alex, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lochhead, Richard, Lyon, George, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McFee, Mr Bruce, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Neil, Alex, Oldfather, Irene, Peattie, Cathy, Petrie, Dave, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robison, Shona, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Scott, John, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stevenson, Stewart, Stone, Mr Jamie, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Tosh, Murray, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watt, Ms Maureen, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Abstentions: Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

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The result of the division is: For 17, Against 102, Abstentions 1.

Amendment 52 disagreed to.

Amendment 5 moved—[Malcolm Chisholm]—and agreed to.