Scottish Review Recommends Shift to a Zoning based System

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Collectively, the evidence suggests to us that planning authorities at all scales are mired in the process of producing plans on time, but many cannot work proactively to deliver development. The focus on fitting complex and overly comprehensive work into the preparation timescale obscures much fuller consideration of the long term vision for a place. Frustratingly, despite the considerable efforts that go into preparing the plan, there appears to be little faith that it will form the basis of subsequent development management decisions. As a result, there are calls for plans to have greater certainty, with allocated sites being afforded planning permission in principle and key agencies being required to commit to supporting delivery of the action programme….

The certainty provided by the development plan in development management should be strengthened.
To incentivise this, allocated sites should be afforded planning permission in principle, could be exempted from pre-application consultation requirements and could benefit from fast-tracked appeals. Conversely, where non allocated sites are being proposed for development a charrette or similar fuller consultation or mediation exercise could be required….

The SPZ concept should be rebranded and evolved into a more flexible and widely applicable zoning mechanism which identifies and prepares areas to make them ‘investment ready.’

e have considered the role of a more ‘zoned’ approach to housing land to reduce the focus of the debate on the effectiveness of individual sites, and looked in more detail at the Simplified Planning Zones (SPZs) in Hillington and Renfrew Town Centre. We were also struck by the potential of SPZs to help to reintroduce residential use in town centres. Establishing a SPZ requires frontloaded site assessments and design work, and this can be costly. The evidence shows that the low level of uptake may be partly explained by the more limited scope for SPZs in Scotland – specifically that they cannot be deployed for schemes requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Our view is that this type of approach need not undermine the environment or quality of place. Frontloaded assessments, site briefs and masterplanning can support placemaking in a holistic way and embed in an infrastructure first approach to area-based development…
The written evidence highlighted the scope for delivery of quality places to be driven by development briefs and master plans, and the use of charrettes for housing sites. The need for multi-disciplinary teams to drive forward development is clear. Affordable housing needs are a key concern and a confirmed priority. Meeting these needs can support the prevention agenda by reducing housing benefit costs and contributing to wider wellbeing and equality.
We were inspired by the flexibility provided by Simplified Planning Zones and propose that their principles could inform an adaptable approach to zoning areas of land for development including housing. These areas would be identified to incentivise development by creating greater certainty as well as flexibility and should be rolled out across Scotland. This approach could help to kick start high quality housing development at a large scale in the immediate future,
but their impact would be much greater if pump priming of funding was made available to help establish them. We recommend that the new approach would relax current restrictions on SPZs in Scotland to allow for greater flexibility in their timescales, reduce procedure and enable them to come forward for schemes which fall under the EIA Regulations….

 

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