Section 3 — Meaning of "development"

Planning etc (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:30 pm on 15th November 2006.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 4:30 pm, 15th November 2006

We move to group 8, on fish farms. Amendment 53, in the name of the minister, is grouped with amendments 54 to 68, 70 and 91.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

Amendments 54 to 66 ensure that a material change in the use of equipment that has been placed or assembled for the purposes of fish farming will be treated as development under the second part of section 26(1) of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997. That will be irrespective of whether the change includes any new or modified equipment. The primary aim of the amendments is therefore to ensure that where there might be the potential for significant impact on the environment, the planning authority may require a new application for planning permission, and an environmental assessment can be undertaken if necessary.

Amendments 53, 67, 68, 70 and 91 will provide for the extension of the statutory planning system to existing marine fish farms. The meaning of the term "development" under section 26(1) of the 1997 act will be amended by amendment 53 to include the operation of an existing fish farm. Amendment 68 provides the mechanism to set the date when planning law will apply to existing farms. It also provides that the principal matter to be taken into account when granting planning permission is whether there will be any impact on European sites and the environment generally. It provides for a power to grant planning permission for a single development or by order for a class of development with provision to attach planning conditions to such permissions.

Scottish ministers will also be able to make regulations to seek an application and to determine its form, the documents that must accompany it, the consultation arrangements that should be in place for it and any other matters concerning the procedure for such an application. The regulations would be subject to the negative resolution procedure.

Bringing fish farming under planning control is, as all members will be aware, a long-standing commitment. As statutory planning control does not currently extend into the sea, primary legislation is required. The Parliament provided for certain powers in the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003. The provisions in that act are sufficient to extend planning control to future marine fish farms and to extend modifications to existing fish farms to the 3-mile limit. The bill as it stands will extend planning controls for future fish farms to the 12-mile limit and amendments in this group will bring existing fish farms into the planning system. The review of all existing farms will consider primarily any impact that they have on European sites and the environmental impact of each farm.

Under the current scheme, fish farmers are generally granted permission for 15 years, after which they need to seek a renewal of the permission. Ministers support the growth of an aquaculture industry in salmon, other fin fish and shellfish. We want an industry that is sustainable, diverse, competitive and economically viable and of which its people can be justifiably proud. Therefore, if planning permission is granted to new or existing fin fish or shellfish farms, the permission will be permanent. The provision of permanent permissions will help with long-term investor confidence and support a fragile industry.

We have been working towards a workable and robust planning system for fish farming that provides long-term certainty for developers while ensuring that environmental concerns and enforcement issues are given appropriate weight. The provisions in the WEWS act and the bill—as amended by amendments 53 and 68 and consequential amendments 67, 70 and 91—will enable us to achieve those objectives. I ask members to support all the amendments in this group.

I move amendment 53.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I can give members a very tight two minutes.

Photo of Eleanor Scott Eleanor Scott Green

The concerns that I will express about amendment 68 are those of Highland Council, which has a large number of fish farms in its area.

If the review of existing fish farms is to be carried out by ministers rather than by local authorities, such sites will be removed from any sort of local control. The worst cases involve some of the earliest sites. People who were affected by such developments back then had no opportunity to appeal but, under the regime that is proposed in amendment 68, they will still have no opportunity to do so next time round.

I share Highland Council's concerns and unease about the granting of permanent consent for developments in the marine environment, which is a highly dynamic environment about which we are learning more every day. Quarries and wind farms have shorter planning consents. There is no reason why a similar length of consent should not apply to fish farms. The 15-year consents that pertained under the previous regime seem to be about right.

A further issue concerns sites for which planning permission has been granted but has not been used and sites that have subsequently fallen derelict. In those circumstances, Highland Council would like local authorities to be given the power to withdraw permission for such sites or to restore them.

With some reservations, I will vote for the amendments in this group because I want the granting of planning permission for fish farms to be moved from the Crown Estate to councils. That has been a long-term Executive commitment, which I have shared. However, I would like the Executive to address the concerns that I have highlighted.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

The Scottish National Party is glad that, after the statement that was made in 1997, the Parliament will finally in 2006 manage to take back planning powers from the unelected and unwanted Crown Estate. However, that prompts questions about what powers the Crown Estate still has and whether the Parliament will have to return to the issue.

On amendment 68, we are glad that the planning legislation will be for local authorities to manage. We welcome the fact that a non-statutory panel will review and audit the existing consents, but we are concerned that, of the 252 salmon fish farm leases that the Crown Estate has granted, more than half have not been used in the past four years. Therefore, a considerable amount of work will need to be done to ensure that the proposed planning arrangements work. The SNP believes that the minister must ensure that the tightest possible scrutiny is given to that issue. In light of the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Bill, we also need to ensure that rigorous assessments are made of the environmental quality of the water in those areas. The proposed planning powers need to tie up with those.

We support amendment 68 and we believe that it is necessary, but we have basic questions that remain unanswered about the way in which the powers will be brought into force.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour 4:45 pm, 15th November 2006

I welcome the bill's provisions for marine planning as it pertains to fish farms. As the minister mentioned, those provisions were sought by the Transport and the Environment Committee in the previous session, when Robin Harper and I were reporters on agriculture. We were able to get provisions inserted in the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Bill that were intended to be underpinned by provisions in the Planning etc (Scotland) Bill.

I note the concerns that have been expressed by Highland Council. However, because stringent conditions will be attached to planning consents, I am content that the 15-year rule should be changed to allow for permanent consents. As is the case with other planning consents, if conditions are broken, consents can be withdrawn. I underline the point that Rob Gibson made about sites that are lying empty and are not being used. I hope that either the planning system or the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department will enable those sites to be used by shellfish farmers, for example, who wish to use them for the benefit of the local economy.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I invite the minister to wind up briefly.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I will do my best. For someone who represents Glasgow Pollok, I probably know more than is healthy about marine fish farming—I certainly know more than I did before the bill was introduced.

I recognise the important issues that have been flagged up and the concerns that have been identified. We must be clear about the issues that we are addressing. We are striking a balance. Everyone agreed that fish farms should come into the planning system. At one stage there was an assumption that those fish farms that were already in the system and had been granted consent would have deemed consent and would move into the planning system en bloc. That has proved not to be the case, because of our European responsibilities and other anxieties. The review body will deal not with every planning application for a fish farm but with those fish farms that would otherwise have been assumed to have deemed consent. New fish farms will, of course, be subject to local authority accountability and responsibility.

We know that over time there have been huge changes in marine fish farming. The regulatory framework that existed pre-1999 generated some anxieties, but I understand that the industry has moved forward and that regulation is more rigorous.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I want to finish making my point first. As in all such matters, it is critical that we strike a balance. Not only must fish farms be subject to a regulatory framework, that framework must be proportionate. There is pressure—not just from the industry but from local communities that want it to thrive—for us to ensure that the right balance is struck. We are bringing fish farming into planning authorities' area of responsibility. However, those fish farms that would have been deemed to have consent must be reviewed, because of our European responsibilities. That is what the review body is about—it is not about watering down local authorities' responsibility.

I urge members to recognise that the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Bill and the broader responsibilities of the Environmental and Rural Affairs Department will ensure that the regulatory framework is appropriate and responsive to the needs of local communities and to the industry. We do not wish having fish farmers seek planning permission to sterilise any part of our communities, wherever they may be; we want a thriving industry that meets the needs of the local economy, however that economy is expressed.

I will now give way to Richard Lochhead.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I am sorry, minister, there is no time for you to take interventions. Please finish.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I have finished.

Amendment 53 agreed to.

Amendments 113 and 112 not moved.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Group 9 is on affordable housing etc. Amendment 22, in the name of John Home Robertson, is grouped with amendment 69.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour

It may come as a surprise to members that I, of all people, am rising to speak about rented accommodation, but I will leave it to others to judge whether I am really as bad a person as certain newspapers are suggesting. I take this opportunity to express sincere thanks for the understanding and friendship that parliamentary colleagues in all parties have shown.

Amendment 22 would make provision for affordable housing to be designated as a land use class under the bill. I make no apologies for returning to the subject, because the acute shortage of council houses and housing association stock is the most serious social problem facing towns and villages in my constituency of East Lothian. I will not go over all the points that I made in the members' business debate on 28 September last year, and again in the committee, because we all understand the problem well enough.

The critical shortage of affordable rented housing means that some councils are struggling to fulfil their obligations to house homeless people, which means that people who are stuck on housing waiting lists are being left in a desperate predicament. East Lothian Council has had to spend millions of pounds buying back former council houses that were sold at a discount under the right to buy and which have to be bought back at the full market value. That is what the council has had to do to try to comply with the homelessness regulations.

Meanwhile, people who are still going backwards on the housing waiting lists are getting angry, and understandably so. It is not fair to leave elderly people in upstairs flats for ever, it is not fair to compel young families to stay in their parents' increasingly overcrowded homes indefinitely, and it is certainly not fair to compel people to pay unaffordable rents or mortgages in the private sector.

Councils that have been prudent with their housing finances could be in a position to build to meet the need, if only they could acquire the land to build on. However, in housing hot spots such as East Lothian, virtually all the potential housing land is in the sticky hands of property developers, who expect exorbitant prices for house sites. We cannot build affordable houses on unaffordable sites.

Planning advice note 74 should make it possible to secure a percentage of homes for rent or for sale at affordable prices on land that will be released for housing in future. I welcome that. Incidentally, I think that we still need to set proper criteria for affordability. Tenants should not be entirely dependent on eligibility for benefits; I suggest that there should be a formula linked to the national minimum wage. However, PAN 74 is for future allocation of land and the crisis is immediate. It is not good enough to hope for more affordable rented houses in five years' time; I am looking for powers to designate land for affordable housing now, so that sites can be acquired at sensible prices, to meet the urgent and immediate needs of people who are stuck on waiting lists.

Amendment 22 may or may not be the best way to achieve that objective, but I am looking for practical initiatives from the minister to address this urgent issue now. We have been talking about the crisis for several years and, while we have been talking, the situation has been getting much worse. It is not good enough to legislate for the consequences of homelessness alone. Surely we have a duty to address the cause of homelessness, which is obviously the acute shortage of affordable rented housing—council houses and housing association houses. Councils need the land to get those houses built.

I move amendment 22.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat

I am happy to support amendment 22 as well as the amendment in my name.

Amendment 69 is an endeavour to tackle one aspect of the need for affordable housing in those areas where there is a great concentration of second homes. As that will be the case only in local areas in certain parts of the country, the amendment gives local authorities power, if they so wish, to do certain things, but it does not compel them to do anything. They decide what to do. If a local authority decides that the excessive number of second homes in a particular part of its area is a problem, it can designate that area. It can then say that anyone wishing to change a permanent residence into a second home needs to apply for permission for a change of use under the planning laws.

The best definition that various experts could give me of what constitutes a permanent home and what constitutes a second home was that a permanent home is one where the resident lives for more than 26 weeks in the year, and a second home is one where they live for less than 26 weeks. We can obviously quarrel over that, but it seems a reasonable attempt at designating a second home.

If the local authority has decided that there is a problem and designates an area, and somebody then applies for permission to change the use of a house from permanent residence to second home, the planning authority will then decide whether that change of use exacerbates the lack of affordable housing in a serious way. If the council decides that it does, it can refuse permission for the change of use. That is a method of using the planning laws to help to deal with the second home issue, which in turn impinges on the lack of affordable housing. It is all at the discretion of the local authority. I hope that members will think that the proposal is a reasonable way of dealing with a genuine problem and will support amendment 69.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I am again exercising my discretion under rule 9.8.4A(c) to extend the time limit for groups 8 to 9 by six minutes to 5.07 pm. The time will have to be made up from the time allocated to the other groups. A considerable number of members wish to speak, so speeches will be limited to a minute and a half.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party

The SNP will not support amendment 69, in the name of Donald Gorrie. It is not that we do not have sympathy with amendment—we do. However, there is a problem with proposed new subsection (3C) of section 26 of the 1997 act, in which Donald Gorrie defines a temporary place of residence as a place that is

"occupied for less than 26 weeks in a year."

The problem with that definition is that if somebody is taken into hospital or goes abroad to work, it is possible that their house might be designated as a second home. That is an example of the law of unintended consequences. The proposal has not been thought out, so the SNP will not support amendment 69.

We also have great sympathy with amendment 22. I know about the work on affordable housing that John Home Robertson and other members of the Communities Committee have done. We have an acute housing shortage because of a lack of affordable accommodation. There must be strategic use of land. We must ensure that any land that is available is available first of all to local authorities. Another issue that we must address is the compulsion on local authorities to sell off land to the highest bidder. We must ensure that, when local authorities draw up their housing plans, they are allowed to keep back some land for their own use or for the use of others who are building affordable accommodation. We must ensure that PAN 74 is implemented as quickly as possible to allow developments to take place.

Photo of Dave Petrie Dave Petrie Conservative

I do not think that any member of the Parliament would object to what John Home Robertson said. There are massive problems throughout all our constituencies in relation to affordable housing. However, amendment 22 offers a somewhat rigid solution. As he perhaps hinted, it might be more appropriate to deal with the matter through regulation. I have fears about leaving the matter to the discretion of the local authority. We do not want to run into the ghetto situation, in which certain sites are affordable and others are not. I can see problems with the proposal. Although I agree with the spirit of amendment 22, I do not think that we would support the proposal in this form.

The aims of amendment 69 are also honourable but, regrettably, I do not think that it has been fully thought out. If someone wants to let out a second property to help us to get over our major housing problem, they should be encouraged to do so, but I do not think that the proposal in the amendment is the route to take.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I have sympathy with amendments 22 and 69. John Home Robertson made some valid points. I am sure that he would agree that the causes of homelessness are many and complex and that they go beyond the availability of affordable housing, but clearly it is a central issue. Tricia Marwick also made some valid points.

There is perhaps a case for saying that the issues are not best addressed by the mechanisms that are proposed in the amendments. Both issues have links to local government finance. The single-person discount for council tax gives people incentives for the inefficient use of housing stock. We should consider how we could give people incentives through local government finance for the efficient use of our existing housing stock.

We retain the view that the proposals on land value tax would help to ensure that land is available for purposes of social value, but that is a debate for another time. On this occasion, I have sympathy with the amendments.

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party 5:00 pm, 15th November 2006

I support amendment 22 because I believe that it will reinforce the need for sustainability in our communities, which was an issue that arose in our earlier discussion of HMOs. We need more affordable housing—after all, young people, in particular, simply cannot get on the property ladder—and more rented accommodation, and amendment 22 will help us to achieve that. Affirmative action must be taken on this matter. We cannot keep on talking about it, because people out there are suffering and need this accommodation. I certainly hope that the amendment will find support.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I have much sympathy with what John Home Robertson is trying to do in amendment 22. Although I agree that such issues are usually covered by regulation, the current regulations are not yielding enough land for affordable housing.

Local authorities are overwhelmingly dependent on the policy of taking 25 per cent of private sector developments for affordable housing purposes. However, that is not yielding enough land in every local authority area. Indeed, in local authority areas such as East Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire, in which market sector housing is restricted, the 25 per cent quota policy is not nearly enough to meet local needs.

The question is where we can find the land and how we will achieve this aim. I know that introducing a use class order raises great difficulties, but if we are not prepared to modernise our laws on compulsory purchase and to find an effective way of making that mechanism deliver land—which is clearly not happening at the moment—we must try something else. John Home Robertson has suggested something else and I am very interested in hearing whether the minister has another viable policy alternative. If he does not, there might be something to be said for supporting amendment 22.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I acknowledge and share concerns about the availability of land for affordable housing. Indeed, that is why I have been chairing a working group on the issue and why, earlier this week, I announced a review of SPP 3 on planning and housing to address the matter as effectively as possible and in every way we can.

Amendment 22, in the name of John Home Robertson, seeks the introduction of a separate use class for affordable housing in order to allocate land specifically for such housing, either for rent or for sale, and to keep that stock affordable over the longer term. We took the issue very seriously; indeed, we went to the extent of commissioning independent research on the use class issue, which was published earlier this week and emphatically concluded that introducing a separate use class for affordable housing would not offer any significant advantages over planning authorities' current powers. In fact, the research also concluded that such a move would have some major disadvantages. For example, it would do nothing to encourage landowners to release land for the development of affordable homes and would not ensure that affordable housing provision would be retained for affordable use in the long term.

As members have pointed out, last year we published PAN 74 on affordable housing, which outlined ways in which the planning system could support the delivery of affordable housing. The research found that the quota approach introduced by PAN 74 will deliver significant provision of land for affordable housing in mixed communities.

The research also suggested that separate allocations of land can contribute to new affordable housing provision. SPP 3 and PAN 74 already provide for planning authorities to designate sites or parts of sites specifically for affordable housing. The issue will be examined further in the review of SPP 3.

The research also found more effective ways of retaining the affordability of homes. For example, our homestake shared equity scheme operates a golden share mechanism that gives a housing association the first option to purchase a low-cost home when it is sold on. Of course, the pressured area mechanism can also be used to retain social rented stock that might otherwise be lost under the right to buy.

The review of SPP 3 will consider, among other issues, how to secure a more generous allocation of land for housing in development plans and how to release that land more quickly through the planning system.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I doubt that I have any time to give way; I think that I have to finish by 17:07.

Central to the review will be the need to ensure that development plans identify sufficient land for housing where a need has been properly established. We will consider how guidance can more closely integrate housing needs assessments and development plans and look at the role of ministers in intervening in situations in which a development plan does not reflect housing needs.

It is vital that development plans are up to date. Part 7 of the bill, on assessing planning authority performance, will greatly improve ministers' powers to raise performance across the whole planning service, including development planning, and ensure that specific steps are taken to make improvements if failures occur. The review will also consider issues surrounding housing quality and density that have an impact on overall housing provision, and I am pleased that the affordable housing working group has endorsed it.

More immediately, I announced on Monday that a further £48 million is to be allocated to Communities Scotland to speed up the delivery of much-needed local projects and specifically to help housing associations to purchase strategic sites for the provision of affordable housing. I am pleased that £1 million of that will go Housing Associations in East Lothian, in part to purchase a site at Tranent to provide 48 new affordable homes.

Our reforms to the planning system will improve the land supply for housing, but we are also taking action to make better use of public sector land. For example, we are working with Defence Estates to secure a national agreement similar to the one that we already have with the Forestry Commission. That will enable further transfers.

I totally agree with John Home Robertson's objectives but I do not think that amendment 22 is the way to proceed. To give him time to sum up on amendment 22, I will not spend any time on amendment 69. Several members have re-emphasised the point that was made in committee—that amendment 69 is not practical. I recommend that amendment 69 be rejected.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour

I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this matter and I am grateful for the comments and support from colleagues in all parties and, indeed, from the minister.

Everybody acknowledges that this is a serious problem, but a number of people have expressed doubt over whether amendment 22 is the best way to deal with it. I accept their points. I have no doubt that PAN 74 will help in future, but my point is that houses cannot come soon enough for people in all our constituencies who are stuck on housing waiting lists and have been for a very long time.

The matter is far too serious for any kind of political gimmicks or stunts. I am grateful to the minister for what he has said and the additional money will clearly be useful as far as it goes. The trouble is that it will go only to housing associations and not to local authorities. Housing associations do not do all that much in East Lothian and people there need council housing. I hope that we will be able to discuss that matter further.

I am encouraged that Des McNulty, who is now taking over responsibility in this field, spoke very strongly in favour of what I was proposing during my members' business debate on 28 September last year. I am therefore prepared to trust him and to seek to withdraw amendment 22.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Mr Home Robertson seeks to withdraw amendment 22. Does anyone object?

Members:

Yes.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

In that case, the question is, that amendment 22 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 12

For: Adam, Brian, Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Frances, Fabiani, Linda, Fox, Colin, Gibson, Rob, 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, Stevenson, Stewart, Swinburne, John, Watt, Ms Maureen, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra
Against: Aitken, Bill, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Richard, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Brown, Robert, 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, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Henry, Hugh, 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, 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, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Abstentions: Brownlee, Derek, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Gorrie, Donald, Home Robertson, John, Scott, John, Tosh, Murray, Turner, Dr Jean

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 35, Against 73, Abstentions 8.

Amendment 22 disagreed to.

Amendments 54 to 67 moved—[Malcolm Chisholm]—and agreed to.