As I said in my statement, we want to see more communication and co-operation at the beginning of the process. Pauline McNeill has heard me speak previously about linking community planning with spatial planning. We have the ability to use local plans and to join them up with local outcome improvement plans to create better places. In some parts of the country, communities are already putting together their own local plans. That happened recently in Linlithgow. I have not seen that plan myself but I understand that it is a good example of a community coming together to come up with a positive local plan. Many communities will be able to do that kind of thing without much help, and I encourage such communities to do so and local authorities to co-operate with them.
Pauline McNeill is right to point out that some other communities might have a bit more difficulty putting plans together. I expect local authorities to give more help to socially-excluded communities that might face such difficulties. I do not think that that resource will be a huge amount, to be honest, because community planning should already be taking place in those places and that intertwining should bring those services together.
On the point about faster decision making, we will look closely at what is required in that regard. We know that, in many parts of the country, the decision-making process is slow. I continue to keep a close eye on statistics, including this morning’s statistics. It is not just about timescale; it is also about quality. Beyond that, we have to reach a point in the system itself where planners become enablers and deliverers rather than people who are just going to say yes or no. If the answer is no, there have to be reasons for that and maybe there should be an opportunity to say, “If you change this, it might make your plan much more viable.”
We need much more co-operation and much more communication. I agree that the early engagement that was set out in the 2006 act has not worked as well as folk hoped that it would but we have a huge opportunity to get folk much more involved in planning through new technology. That is why, alongside the work on the bill, I continue to work with the digital task force that I put in place to make sure that we can use technology to engage people at an early stage.