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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 Andy Wightman Andy Wightman Green

M asterplan consent areas are an area of the bill that has been broadly welcomed, although the exact impact remains to be seen.

I will first address my amendment 13. Section 10(3) introduces a new schedule 5A to the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997. Part 1 of the schedule is concerned with general rules about the content of any masterplan consent area. Section 3 of part 1 lists those areas that may not be included in any such scheme, such as world heritage sites and marine protected areas. Agreement to include such a list followed scrutiny of the bill at stage 1.

Included in the list of areas in which one cannot have a masterplan consent area are national scenic areas, which my amendment proposes to remove. I do not agree that national scenic areas should be excluded by law from such schemes and my amendment 13 would delete NSAs from that list. It is the only designation that should be excluded—I am perfectly happy with the rest—and I will explain why.

National scenic areas, which cover large areas of Scotland, include settlements where there is a need for more affordable housing. Those areas include large parts of Wester Ross, Assynt, Sutherland, the whole of Harris, south Lewis, Kintail, Loch Shiel and a quarter of the Cairngorms national park. As the minister is aware, Scottish Natural Heritage has a consultative role when a development of more than five houses is proposed in a national scenic area, but it does not have a consultative role when any such proposal is specifically provided for in the local development plan.

The minister is probably aware of the recent controversy over affordable housing in north Skye; he will also be aware that circular 9/1987 contains the relevant rules in that regard. In our view, masterplan consent areas could play an important role in providing rural housing. To exclude MCAs by law from being available in national scenic areas is illogical when development can already take place under existing planning provisions. In many areas, masterplan consent areas have the potential to provide a more effective means of providing rural housing—I have been told that by rural housing providers. For those reasons, I urge members to support amendment 13.

Amendments 125 and 126 reinsert notification, call-in and direction-making powers that were removed at stage 2. Amendment 125 reinstates provisions that allow ministers to direct planning authorities to notify them, which were removed at stage 2. Amendment 126 reinstates ministerial powers to call in proposals for masterplan consent areas and to modify them; again, my amendment 95 at stage 2 removed those powers. I will vote against amendments 125 and 126. I understand that ministers see those powers as a parallel to those that are in place for ordinary planning applications. However, given that we wish to see call-in powers curtailed and, in general, the power of ministers over planning authorities limited, we will oppose those two amendments.

I move amendment 13.