Shetlanders could lose their right to appeal coastal and marine planning decisions under the new planning bill, with little to compensate for the loss of opportunity to influence decisions, as revealed by a minister when he was quizzed in Parliament by a Green MSP. (1, 2) Eleanor Scott, Green MSP for Highlands & Islands says the right of appeal has worked well in Shetland and should be held up as an example of good practice, rather than abolished.
Dr Scott’s Green colleague Mark Ruskell MSP challenged the communities minister Malcolm Chisholm, pointing out that the right, granted under the Zetland County Council Act 1974, has led to the very successful development of the aquaculture industry in the Shetland islands. Appeals have been few and far between and development of Shetland’s aquaculture industry has not been hampered.
Dr Scott said, “It seems that the Executive’s attitude is to ignore a system that operates well and allows the public to influence decisions, whereas the common sense approach would be to highlight this as an example of best practice and extend it to grant communities across Scotland a right of appeal in all areas of development.
“Ministers see something working well, then move to abolish it. It simply does not make sense, and it indicates the degree to which ministers are bending over backwards to appease big business who are more concerned with pushing through developments with profit-making as the only priority. A third party right appeal would actually lead to a much more efficient system because developers would be encouraged to lodge applications that have taken on board the views of communities. Instead, the planning bill is going to do little to tackle the imbalance of power between communities and developers. Shetlanders could lose their valued right of appeal, despite proving what a success it can be.”
(1) For more on Greens’ response to the planning bill visit www.scottishgreens.org.uk and search under “planning”.
Planning (Rights of Appeal)
Mr Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green): To ask the Scottish Executive whether it intends to reduce community rights of appeal through its proposed reform of the planning system. (S2O-8832)
The Minister for Communities (Malcolm Chisholm): The Planning etc (Scotland) Bill contains a range of measures that will enhance community participation in the planning system. Current planning law does not include community rights of appeal, and that will not change.
Mr Ruskell: Is the minister aware that, under section 13 of the Zetland County Council Act 1974, a right of appeal has operated in Shetland for more than 30 years? Will he ensure that the planning proposals that he is bringing forward will not reduce that community right of appeal? Does he agree that that right of appeal has operated well, that appeals have been few and far between and reasonable and that, far from hampering Shetland’s aquaculture industry, that system has led to the very successful development of that industry in the Shetland islands?
Malcolm Chisholm: Mark Ruskell is quite right. Last year, there were three appeals under the Zetland County Council Act 1974 in relation to marine fish farming, which does not come under planning legislation at the moment, although it will be brought under it. In that sense, therefore, the same rights would not have applied in the three cases in question. However, given the scale of all the other reforms that we are introducing to enhance community participation, that system, with all due respect to Orkney and Shetland, pales into insignificance.