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Call for more flexible planning system in rural Scotland

Scotland’s planning system needs to take better account of the needs of land-based businesses and communities, Scottish Land & Estates has said.

The organisation, which represents landowners and rural businesses across Scotland, has published its response to the Scottish government’s consultation on the future of the Scottish planning system.

In Scottish Land & Estates’ written submission, the organisation said it would like to see increased permitted development rights for agricultural businesses to reflect modern business practices, a greater understanding of the needs of land-based businesses within the planning system, greater consistency of decision-making and policies which deliver much needed housing in rural areas.

Gavin Mowat, Policy Officer (Communities & Rural Development) at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “The planning consultation is a worthwhile exercise in establishing which aspects of the current system are working well and where there are other features that need to improve. That said, we are slightly concerned that a lack of detail regarding the overall future of Scottish planning may lead to a situation where we are left with more questions than solutions following the review process.

“We believe that greater importance needs to be placed on rural development and we have called for greater flexibility for the countryside. The Scottish government has a target to build 50,000 affordable homes over the term of this parliament and the planning process can support delivery of rural housing and self-build homes by creating more flexible rural housing policies.

“One issue in particular that we would like see progress on is non-residential developments in rural areas. All too often our members tell us that they experience issues with a planning system that is unresponsive to the needs of land-based businesses and does not have sufficient expertise, especially where the council is more urban-focused.

“We have proposed several mechanisms by which developments in rural areas could be enhanced. We would like to see extended permitted development rights to cover conversion of vernacular buildings such as farm steadings for both housing and business units. In addition to this, we would like to see the permitted development right size for agricultural sheds increased from 465sq/m to 1,000sq/m, reflecting the changes in modern agriculture practices which involve much larger vehicles and machinery than in previous years.

“More can be achieved in our rural areas with a more agile system and we hope that the Scottish government will take full account of the needs of a working countryside as it moves forward with its planning review.”