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Planning (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 (Day 2)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 19th June 2019.

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Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

The aim of amendment 199 is to require renewable energy infrastructure to be included in commercial and domestic new-builds over a certain scale, as is highlighted in the amendment, after a certain date. I have used the Town and Country Planning (Hierarchy of Developments) (Scotland) Regulations 2009 definition of “major development”, which refers to housing, business and general industry.

Amendment 199 builds on the one that I was delighted to have passed at stage 2, which obliges local authorities to consider renewable energy in the formulation of local development plans. I am clear that in this climate emergency, it is imperative that the Scottish Government sets clear guidelines about what is acceptable in relation to how our dwellings and commercial properties are heated and lit. However, I have not gone as far as to lodge an amendment to say that every newly built house and commercial building must have only renewable energy installed, tempting as that was. That would be the obvious and logical next step, and nothing in amendment 199 prevents that from happening in the near future.

In relation to larger developments, Scottish ministers would, by regulations, require an application for planning permission for a major development to include renewable energy infrastructure. Regulations to meet the aims of amendment 199 would have to be drafted and laid before Parliament two years after royal assent. That would give the construction industry time to plan for the deadline, and sends a clear signal to manufacturers about where they should be going in the climate emergency.

The shift could be part of the just transition with appropriate strategic planning and relevant training strategies developed.

There is also a consequential amendment to make the regulations subject to the affirmative procedure.

The amendment is supported by Scottish Renewables, which agrees that it would give important support to small-scale renewable energy projects, such as solar photovoltaic and hydro, and Scotland’s renewable heat industry.

Amendment 203 would remove the requirement for planning permission for small-scale renewables. Certain small-scale renewable developments would automatically be permitted development and so would not need planning permission. For the purposes of the provision, “small-scale renewables” would mean renewable sources of energy

“including ... anaerobic digestion, biomass ... solar, wind or water with a total power output of 20 megawatts or less.”

I stress that the amendment says “including”. The crucial element is that it is an accurate description of what constitutes “small-scale renewables” from the Renewables Obligation (Scotland) Order 2009.

Ministers would by regulations be able to set appropriate exemptions, for a listed building or a property in a conservation area, for example.

The permitted development system is under the development orders that ministers can make under section 30 of the 1997 act. In terms of precedent, some amendments at stage 2 sought to piggyback on that system as a way to say that planning permission should be granted automatically or could not be classed as permitted development in certain circumstances. An example is John Finnie’s amendment 164 on Gypsy Traveller sites.

I have included regulation-making powers for Scottish ministers to adjust exemptions and circumstances as they see fit, and the whole amendment is subject to the affirmative procedure through consequential amendment 221.

Amendment 203 is also supported by Scottish Renewables, which notes that the small-scale renewables sector urgently needs attention in response to the closure of the feed-in tariff and the limited utility of the smart export guarantee.

I hope that the Scottish Government can lend a hand in this area. In this climate emergency, I hope that all members will accept the necessity of supporting this straightforward amendment, which would enable a speedy, reasonable and proportionate way for residents to transfer to ways of heating and lighting their homes that contribute to the transformational change that we all need to act on as we shift to net zero emissions.

I move amendment 199.