Edinburgh planning: Figures show almost half of appeals to Scottish Government end in victory for developers
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The data shows that out of 17 applications to the city council which ended up going to government planning reporters for decision following an appeal by developers, eight were approved while nine were rejected. Across Scotland as a whole, there were 151 planning appeal decisions in 2022-23, of which 80 went in favour of the developers, and 71 went against them.
The Scottish Conservatives, who obtained the figures, accused the government of “riding roughshod” over local communities. And Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs revealed he planned to bring forward a Bill in the Scottish Parliament to curb ministers’ ability to overturn council planning decisions.
He said: “In Edinburgh we are seeing almost half of all planning appeals overturned by SNP and Green Ministers, reflecting what is happening in the rest of the country. It is unacceptable that we are seeing such a high number of planning decisions being overruled by this government. The Scottish Conservatives believe in local decisions being taken locally, opposed to the centralisation of power by this SNP-Green Government.
“This is why I am proposing to bring forward a bill which will make the overturning of local planning decisions the exception rather than the norm. SNP Ministers have been trying to gather as much power as possible over the last 16 years and it is clear what a monumental mess they have made in that time.”
Last December, plans to demolish buildings in the Canongate, in the heart of Edinburgh's historic Old Town, and build student flats were given the green light just months after being refused by the council. And just last week, luxury glamping pods were given the go-ahead in Edinburgh's Pentland Hills despite a council decision to refuse permission because they would "detract from the special character of the area".
Edinburgh planning convener James Dalgleish said it was “frustrating” that decisions made carefully by the council, with all the facts taken into consideration, were so often overturned by the government. He said: “We’re a big city and we’re attracting a lot of development, which is a good thing, but it is up to the council’s local development management committee to make the decision on these applications, based on their merit.
“We have to be thorough and we have to make the right choice – and in some cases, the right choice is rejecting them. We rigorously and thoroughly look at these applications and base our decision on their merits, with all the evidence in front of us and listening to both sides of the argument – both developers and community groups who might be objecting. So to have the Scottish Government come and reject what we genuinely believe to be the right decision, with no party politics interfering with it, it is frustrating.”
He said Edinburgh’s planning department had so many applications and so much work to do that the time needed to scrutinise proposals properly sometimes took them over the formal deadline for a decision, which meant the developer could appeal to the government on grounds of non-determination.
“I hope in the future we can have a better relationship with the Scottish Government and the reporters when it comes to dealing with applications because the system isn’t perfect at the moment." He said he supported giving communities the right to appeal against decisions to grant applications, just as developers have the right to appeal against rejections. But he said: “We’ve been really let down by the Scottish Government, who have not been willing to come to the table to discuss this with us.”
“We want to get planning right, we need the trust of the public to do it, but there are some fundamental issues the Scottish Government need to sit round a table and discuss with us."