Councillors should be allowed more control over planning applications

26 Apr 2012

The Scottish Conservatives have today outlined how they would allow local authorities more control when dealing with planning applications.

All 32 councils in Scotland would be able to bring forward their own code of conduct for applications, addressing the particular needs of their communities.

Under these proposals, rules could be less restrictive, allowing elected members more freedom to comment on planning applications such as major housing developments and windfarms.

If successful, it would bring an end to councillors being bound by rules preventing them from representing the views of the very people who elected them.

The plan was revealed as part of today’s Scottish Conservative debate on localism in the Scottish Parliament, and comes amid fears the SNP are taking too much control over planning applications across Scotland.

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said:

“Councillors should not feel disbarred from any community involvement, or even expression of opinion, on key planning applications, the nature of which is consuming the interest and passions of those by whom they were elected.

“It is both ridiculous and insidious that councillors elected within relatively small communities cannot express their opinion or campaign in respect of a planning application without finding they have forfeited the right to vote on that application.

“So the Scottish Conservatives would abolish the central Councillors’ Code of Conduct and allow local authorities to bring forward their own codes.

“We believe that being elected to office is in itself a commitment to act in the public interest and that forced objectivity in planning decisions is unnecessary.

“The overturning of local decisions by central government to fulfil their evangelist faith in their central objectives is an obvious and demonstrable expression of the devolution of decision making up from local communities, to a centralising government here at Holyrood.”

Scottish Conservative local government spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said: “We are fierce advocates of local government and local decision making.

“Not only do we believe this adds value to quality of life and allows local solutions for local problems in our communities, but also because it is fundamentally right in principle.”