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Letters / Planning system unfit for purpose

I totally agree with all Allen Fraser says in his letter A council without empathy (SN, 21 August 2020)but for one key comment: “Those who oversee Shetland’s planning processes, which is supposed to protect our environment and wellbeing etc”.

A council without empathy

As an environmental campaigner who has fought bad developments all over Scotland, brought on and encouraged by the utterly unfit for purpose planning system for 30 odd years now, I can categorically state that neither the Scottish planning system nor the Shetland Islands Council’s planning departments interpretations, have anything to do with protecting the environment or people’s wellbeing.

The whole rotten system is entirely designed against the local community, or those most affected by a development and is utterly skewed in favour of the developer.

It’s been like this since planning was invented and will continue until the people rise up across the country and demand reforms; reforms that place those most affected by a development as an equal to the developer, within the system and with the same rights of appeal that the developer has.

I have been involved in a number of past government white paper drafts and pointless consultations on planning reviews/reforms going back 30 years, where third party right of appeal (TPRA) were demanded by Friends Of The Earth, the Association Of Scottish Community Councils and many other groups representing various community aspects and housing associations.

No political party operating in Scotland over this time has ever supported fair and equal community involvement in the planning system, and all opposed the introduction of TPRA.

I represented a grouping within those calling for reforms that didn’t think TPRA was good enough on the grounds that, whilst it would give individuals or communities a more equal say in applications in their area, it still saw them as a Third Party.

We believed then as many now do, that this was wrong as the folk most affected by a proposed development should in law, be seen as the primary or co-primary party with the developer, and the planning system is there to listen to both sides without favour but recognising the rights of the community to live safely and as happily as possible within the lifetime of the development.

We also called for stronger conditions on the end of any development/decommissioning etc and if no new or further applications came forward, to return the site to its original or improved condition.

Had we seen more support for this much needed planning reform, we certainly would not be where we are now, facing the utter destruction of Shetland’s hills for nothing but greed as its environmental credentials are a total fabrication.

Vic Thomas
Former Friends of the Earth Scotland planning activist