Leaked document reveals 'draconian' planning powers

Leaked cabinet papers show Scottish Ministers intend to give themselves unprecedented powers making it virtually impossible for the public to object to major developments, according to Friends of the Earth (FoE).

The confidential papers reveal plans to centralise power in the planning system that would mean the public would have no say over new motorways, airports, nuclear power stations or waste sites.

This proposal goes against the fundamental principles of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive (see related story) and comes as the EU Environmental Council is in the final phase of negotiating amendments to the Aarhus Treaty (see related story), which aims to give European citizens more power to influence key environmental legislation and policy making.

"This is nothing less than a naked power grab by Minister which will reduce public involvement and allow the imposition of unpopular and environmentally damaging projects," chief executive of FoE Scotland Duncan McLaren commented.

He accused the Scottish Executive of giving in to self-interested lobbying and business demands by putting economic growth before justice and the environment.

"These misguided proposals amount to a developer's charter, with no balancing rights of appeal for affected communities and no scope for opponents to challenge the need for major developments, regardless of the environmental or social impacts," Mr McLaren continued.

"Should these draconian and arrogant proposals ever come before Parliament, MSPs of all parties should stand up for social and environmental justice and throw them out."

However, Scottish Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm said the objectives of the new planning reform were not set in stone.

"No decisions have yet been made, and we are working on a set of proposals designed to improve and streamline the planning process," Mr Chisholm explained to edie. "We are determined to balance the rights of communities with the need for a more efficient planning process."

News of the Executive's plans come a month after another leaked cabinet document revealed a recommendation that Ministers rejected community pleas to make Scotland's planning system fairer through the introduction of a third party right of appeal (TPRA).

A spokesman for the Scottish Executive told edie it was not possible to comment on allegedly leaked documents, but that a White Paper was due to be published soon, and that a new Planning Bill would be introduced during the current session of Parliament.

By Jane Kettle



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