Scotland’s finance secretary John Swinney will today unveil a series of measures designed to make Scotland’s planning system and aid rather than a barrier to increased sustainable economic growth.

At a summit in Edinburgh today he will say that the Scottish executive plans to promote a ‘leaner planning system which can provide crucial support for economic development – particularly in the face of challenging global conditions’.

Key changes include:

  • a more proportionate approach by the government to notification and call-in of planning applications, recognising the important role of local authorities in planning decision-making;
  • Electronic planning will be formally launched on-line by the Scottish Government in spring 2009, enabling applicants to apply on-line, speeding up the applications process;
  • Local authorities will be required to produce development plans every five years to provide applicants with greater certainty as to which types of development are suitable.

Swinney said: ‘Scotland’s planning system should help, not hinder, all our efforts to increase sustainable economic growth, something which is especially important in the current climate. The Scottish Government’s six-point plan makes clear that all government activity, including work on planning and regulation, supports economic development.

‘By introducing reforms to the planning system, we are delivering on that commitment. Scotland’s businesses are the primary drivers of economic growth, both locally and nationally, and they rightly want to see a planning and development regime which is joined up, combining greater certainty and speed of decision making.

'That is why we are taking action now to cut red tape and deliver important changes to Scotland’s planning system.'

He said that the executive had been working with various partners during the past months including the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and other agencies, to introduce reforms in as in-depth and inclusive a way as possible.

‘It is important that the planning system enables high-quality developments, but not development anywhere or at any price. These new measures will speed up planning and help us develop a dynamic and growing economy, which means a better quality of life for us all,’ said Swinney.

David Thorburn, chairman of CBI Scotland, said: ‘Planning reform has been one of our top priorities for some time and I am greatly encouraged by both the speed and depth of the Scottish Government’s response. In the current economic conditions now, more than ever, we need business, government and public bodies to do all that they possibly can to invest in Scotland’s infrastructure and economy.

The new measures have been developed in partnership with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Water, Architecture and Design Scotland, Historic Scotland, Transport Scotland, Homes for Scotland and the Scottish Property Federation.

The package has also been endorsed by the Scottish Society for Directors of Planning and the Royal Town Planning Institute.