Climate change: Huge public demand for eco-friendly homes means council planning departments need proper funding – Joanna Mowat

You wouldn’t think the Scottish Government document ‘Draft Onshore Wind Policy Refresh: Analysis of Responses to Consultation’ would have much relevance to a city centre councillor for Edinburgh like me, given there haven’t been any onshore windfarm applications for the ward.

By Joanna Mowat
Thursday, 28th July 2022, 12:30 pm
Solar panels on the roof of the War Memorial Building in Edinburgh Castle (Picture: Santiago Arribas Pena/Historic Environment Scotland)
Solar panels on the roof of the War Memorial Building in Edinburgh Castle (Picture: Santiago Arribas Pena/Historic Environment Scotland)

However, it highlights something that is a problem here just as much as in rural Scotland.

Planning is in a pickle. Across Scotland communities feel disenfranchised, applicants frustrated and planners – both in local authorities and private practice – equally so.

In much of Edinburgh, with its many conservation areas and listed buildings, planning permission or listed building consent will be required to make any changes.

From street associations wanting to install communal electric chargers at the edge of shared gardens in the New Town to improving double glazing, installing solar panels and ground or air-source pumps, there is a huge demand to adapt these buildings which will keep them in use for the next 200 years.

This is what we are asked to do by the UK and Scottish governments and is what the city wants us to do because finding the best ways to sensitively adapt our historic housing stock has a huge part to play in reducing emissions from housing.

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If we want to preserve and adapt the city to climate change, we need to find capacity in the planning service to advise and support innovation to find best practice.

We cannot do that when local government funding is being cut to the bone by the Scottish Government. It is short-sighted to reduce local government planning and building services to a fee-raising, tick-box exercise.

Just as many of those responding to the Onshore Wind Policy Refresh emphasise that the role of planning is significant but under pressure, we can see the same problem in Edinburgh.

There is a huge appetite from individuals to do the right thing but they really want support on what that is and the best way to do it.

When rural and urban Scotland are in accord, the Scottish Government needs to sit up and listen and direct funding to where it can really unleash potential.

Supporting planning services can unleash private money to make adaptations which support jobs and local economies more effectively than large-scale government interventions which have been poor return on investments.