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Report calls for devolution of planning – Herald Scotland

COMMUNITY councils should be allowed to take control over local planning decisions, according to a think-tank.

Reform Scotland argue that failings of the current over-centralised system led directly to the house price boom up to 2009, and decisions would be better made at the most local level, allowing community councils to take over.

They said: “Combined with an appropriate system of finance, this would help to achieve the right balance between local economic development and the preservation of the local environment.

“With well over a thousand community councils in Scotland, competition would also mean that if any developer felt they were being held to ransom they could just go elsewhere.

“Such an evolutionary approach recognises that the current network of community councils in Scotland is patchy with some working better than others. Until areas have a properly-constituted community council in place, decisions would be taken by representative committees of local councillors.”

Planning Power, by Ben Thomson, Geoff Mawdsley and Alison Payne, blames lack of local accountability for nimbyism – the not-in-my-backyard approach – and says financial disincentives lead to poor decisions by local authorities.

They said: “Under the current system of financing local government, councils find they do not gain sufficient financial benefit from allowing new development to make it worth their while. There is often a disincentive because new developments usually mean they have to finance additional services such as new roads and schools.”

Local communities would receive funding associated with the powers devolved to them, taking into account increases in households and businesses resulting from developments.

They said that instead of costing money, new developments would bring extra revenue to local authorities outweighing the cost of providing extra services.