MSP says new Planning Bill sells communities short

West of Scotland list MSP Ross Greer described the vote as an SNP-Tory 'stitch -up'
West of Scotland list MSP Ross Greer described the vote as an SNP-Tory 'stitch -up'

West of Scotland list MSP Ross Greer claims the SNP has sold communities in East Dunbartonshire short after relying on Conservative votes to pass a new Planning Bill.

Following three days of debate in the Scottish Parliament, Green MSPs voted to oppose the Bill after the SNP and Conservatives joined forces on dozens of amendments, stripping out changes made at an earlier stage and voting down an amendment which would see communities gain the right currently only given to developers to appeal planning decisions which go against them.

Currently, if a planning application is turned down, the developer can appeal to the Scottish Government, even if elected councillors reject their plans unanimously.

This scenario played out in Bishopbriggs last year, where 569 residents’ letters and the vote of every single councillor in East Dunbartonshire was overturned by a government official, after the developer appealed.

If the application had been approved in the first place, the community would not have had the same right as the developer to appeal.

Community groups from all over Scotland came together to campaign for an “equal right of appeal” in the new Planning Bill.

Despite securing wins on air pollution, forestry, public toilets and water refill points, the Greens said that overall the ‘weak’ Bill would hand too much power to Ministers, keep local communities frozen out, and continue serving the interests of large developers, property speculators and wealthy landowners.

Green amendments for consistent control of short term lets and to require planning consent for damaging hunting tracks were also voted down by SNP and Conservative MSPs.

Mr Greer said: “This SNP-Tory stitch-up is a real blow for local communities in East Dunbartonshire who will be left almost powerless against a planning system that’s more centralised than ever and which continues to put property speculators, landowners and big business first.

“This Planning Bill should have been a chance for change, making sure that developments which are clearly against the interests of communities, like in Bishopbriggs could be properly challenged. Instead, due to SNP and Tory collaboration, the deck is still stacked in favour of developers.

“The SNP had a clear choice. They could have held to the spirit of cross-party working which we were all committed to at earlier stages, but instead they decided to stitch the whole thing up with Tory votes.

While the Greens pushed hard and secured some positives, it’s deeply disappointing that the final outcome is a new era of SNP centralisation, leaving communities well and truly frozen out. Our communities and all those who care about their local environments deserved so much better.”