Row over Scottish Government’s role in planning decisions

Graham Simpson
. Scottish Conservative local government spokesman. Picture: Submitted.
Graham Simpson . Scottish Conservative local government spokesman. Picture: Submitted.
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The Scottish Government overrules councils on planning appeals just as often as they back them, research by the Scottish Conservatives suggests.

According to the Tories, in the last year the Scottish Government overturned 209 planning applications, previously rejected by local authorities.

Over the same period an identical number of appeals (209) from developers were thrown out between January and November.

Over the equivalent period in 2015, there were 214 appeals dismissed by the Scottish Government, with just 169 allowed.
The applications considered by the government range from significant windfarm projects to individual building 
applications.

The Conservatives claimed the figures suggested the government was interfering in too many planning decisions and accused ministers of control freakery.

The Scottish Conservative local government spokesman Graham Simpson said: “It’s right that there is an appeals route for planning decisions, and of course there will be occasions where applications have to be looked at again.

“But these figures show SNP ministers have become control freaks, and care little about local democracy. The message here to developers is don’t worry if your planning application is unpopular locally and rejected by the council, because you have a Scottish Government in Edinburgh just as likely to vote the other way.

“The SNP never stops talking about more powers, but it seems to want to take them from both directions. If anything, local authorities should be given more control, not have ministers breathing down their neck on any planning application which goes to appeal.”

The Scottish Government, however, dismissed the Conservative criticism, saying that in most cases decisions were made by independent 
reporters.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “These figures are entirely erroneous. The right to appeal to Scottish ministers against certain decisions made by planning authorities is contained in legislation.

“Independent reporters decide the vast majority of these appeals and are required, as is the case for all planning applications and appeals, to make the decision in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.”