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The Scottish Government absolutely supports the principle of disabled people being involved in shaping the places where they stay, and I have introduced an amendment to require planning authorities to engage with disabled people early on their development plans.
However, I cannot support amendment 168 as it stands for a number of reasons. As I noted at stage 2, access panels are not statutory bodies, and not all authorities have access panels that cover the whole of their area. Mr Balfour’s amendment would require consultation after the application for a major development had been received by the planning authority, at which point it would be difficult to make any significant changes. Applications for major development include engineering works and energy projects, to which access panels might feel that they have little to add.
I consider that engaging disabled people at the pre-application stage on the right kind of developments will provide a better opportunity for access issues to be considered before finalised proposals are brought forward. We will bring forward proposals for changes to development management procedures, including pre-application consultation, following the completion of the scrutiny of the bill.
I am happy to commit that engaging with disabled people will be part of those proposals and that the Scottish Government will certainly highlight the role of access panels, where they exist, in that process. I ask Mr Balfour not to press amendment 168.