Planning changes in Aberdeenshire

Oh dear.

The Scottish Government is introducing new rules for how local authorities handle planning applications. There is lots of detail but if I can pick up a few issues

1. Applications are divided into National (determined by the Scottish Government), Major (50 + houses or over 2 ha of development) which is outside the Local Development Plan must be decided by Full Council, and Local (everything else).

2. More powers will be delegated to officers to grant/refuse applications (and Aberdeenshire proposes this continues to be in consultation with councillors). Appeals against those decisions will no longer be to the Scottish Government's Reporters but to Local Review Bodies (LRB). It's for each council to decide how many of these there are and Aberdeenshire is currently proposing just one. I think that is a mistake for such a large geographic area. And with a predicted workload of 50 or more cases a year, and each case potentially entailing a site visit, possibly a hearing and then the actual determination, I don't think this will be enough. I've yet to get a proper answer on why the Local Review Boards can't echo Area Committees - Scotland's Cheif Planner, Jim McKinnon certainly indicated that there was no bar for 6 LRBs in Aberdeenshire.

3. On the back of these changes, in Aberdeenshire, it is now proposed that objections must be lodged within 21 days of the application being submitted in order to be valid. Now I've always praised Aberdeenshire for being willing to accept objections so long as an application was undetermined. This does present problems - what reasonably can we do with a letter lodged a day or two before committee meets to determine an application? But I don't see the need to cut off objections so early. And applicants can and will add extra information about their application - and objectors should have an opportunity to respond.

It's worrying - we seem to be throwing babies out with bathwater.

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