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Planning system “skewed” in favour of developers

This news post is about 9 years old

​Scotland's planning system needs reworked to make it easier for communities to challenge developers

Developers still have the upper hand in planning applications - and communities are on the back foot when challenging controversial developments in their neighbourhood, a leading charity has claimed.

The planning system is "skewed in favour of developers" who can successfully challenge refused planning applications while the communities that object have no such right of appeal, the John Muir Trust (JMT) has claimed.

It has joined the Planning Democracy campaign to call on Holyrood to introduce "equal rights of appeal" to create "a level playing field" between developers and local communities.

Helen McDade, head of policy for the JMT, said: "As things stand, the odds are stacked in favour of developers.

"They have an automatic right of appeal when a decision goes against them, while local people are left powerless to challenge the verdict of a planning authority or a government minister."

She pointed to the example of the 103-turbine Viking Wind Farm, a joint project between SSE and Shetland Council, which was opposed by thousands of residents and Scottish Natural Heritage.

"The Scottish Government approved this application - and the community had no right to appeal," she said.

"Consequently, the biggest wind farm north of the central belt was approved with zero public scrutiny."

The campaign group, Sustainable Shetland, has taken out a judicial review.

"The huge expense of taking legal advice is unaffordable for most communities," Ms McDade said.

"It is also inadequate as the decision on whether to proceed is further skewed in favour of developers by the fact that the expense incurred is only to challenge the legality of the process, and not the rights or wrongs of the decision itself.

"The John Muir Trust believes that there can be no social or environmental justice until communities and environmental charities have the same rights as developers."