The Scottish Executive's Legislative Programme for the next 19 months was announced to the Scottish Parliament by First Minister Jack McConnell earlier this month.
In a wide-ranging package of proposals, there are several of particular relevance to property concerns. This month Open Door provides an overview of the legislative proposals, which will be considered in more detail when they are introduced.
The Planning (Scotland) Bill
The Scottish Executive set out its vision for Scotland's planning system in the 21st century, in the White Paper: Modernising the Planning System, published in June this year. A summary of the proposals in the White Paper is also provided in this month's Open Door. This is the culmination of an extensive process of consultation on every element of the planning system.
The White Paper includes details of the measures to be brought forward in a Planning Bill which will have a crucial role to play in the Executive's agenda for planning modernisation, although there are also a number of non-legislative reforms in the pipeline which will start to give effect to the changes in the system sought as part of the modernisation procedure. These will include making a start on the development of, and consultation on the next National Planning Framework, and on renewable energy policy; improving the procedures for scrutiny where proposals conflict significantly with the development plan; publicising local people's rights in the planning process; and taking steps to improve the way local authorities carry out development management.
The legislative proposals to be incorporated in the Bill will include significant changes to development planning at both national and local level, and in the system of development management, providing improvements in the way applications are processed. Public involvement in the planning process will be improved, and changes will be made to the procedures for planning agreements, enforcement and enquiry and appeals.
In particular the Bill is expected to include the following provisions:
- The National Planning Framework will have new status as the method of delivering national policies and programmes;
- The current two tier system of Structure and Local Plans will be abolished, to be replaced with a single tier of Local Development Plans for all of Scotland, with Strategic Development Plans for the Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow regions;
- Planning authorities will have a statutory duty to update plans every 5 years, and Ministers will have powers to instruct certain development plans to be updated;
- Planning authorities will be required to publish details of land in their ownership affected by development proposals in the local development plan;
- There will be compulsory public examination of strategic development plans and a duty on planning authorities to publish a Development Plan Scheme and Action Programmes;
- Agencies such as Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Water and SEPA will be expected to be involved in the development planning process and have regard to the terms of the relevant development plans when formulating policy and making decisions;
- There will be a new structure for examination of development plans, with proposals to reduce delays by using a variety of methods, and for defining the extent to which planning authorities can depart from the reporter's recommendations.
- Planning applications will be classified either as national developments, major developments, local developments or minor developments;
- Arrangements for the handling of appeals and other appeal procedures will be changed, with early determination of appeals and a proposed reduced time period allowed for appeal from six to three months;
- Standard application forms for planning permission will be introduced and the use of e-planning and other online services will be encouraged;
- The way in which Section 75 planning agreements are used will be improved, and this will include allowing the submission of unilateral planning obligations as part of the appeal process;
- Full records are to be kept of the reasons for decisions and the full text of planning decisions and Ministers can direct that an inquiry be conducted where there are frequent departures from the development plan or decisions taken against professional advice;
- There will be new procedure including direct notification to neighbours of appeals against enforcement notices and for notifying local people of intended developments;
- Hearings to discuss views of developments are to be used more and certain types of proposals will require developers to carry out pre-application consultations.
Enforcement and other matters
- There will be a number of measures designed to improve enforcement system, including the introduction of new offences and notification procedures and temporary stop notices;
- Provisions for Tree Preservation Orders are to be revised;
- Listed building legislation will be updated;
- Planning fees and charges will be reviewed and updated.
The Crofting Reform Bill
A draft Bill was published for consultation in March 2005, with the aim of updating and simplifying current crofting legislation.
It will help to reverse the trend away from crofting by enabling the creation of new crofts, and owner occupiers will be able to let their croft lands without creating a crofting tenancy. Croft land will be able to be used for broader variety of uses, so for example it will be easier for renewable energy development on croft land to be allowed, and a greater use of common grazings will be possible. Neglect of croft land will be addressed.
The constitution of the Crofters Commission will be brought up to date and crofting regulation will be simplified with modern consultation and appeals procedures being introduced. Information about crofts will be made more accessible and it will be possible to reverse changes in designation of croft land.
Grants to crofters should no longer have to be connected with agricultural production and rights of succession and assignation are to be redefined, and new rights extended to unmarried partners of crofters.
Bankruptcy and Diligence etc (Scotland) Bill
Reform of the laws of personal bankruptcy and diligence have been the subject of detailed consideration by the Scottish Law Commission and the Executive for some time, culminating in the consultation document "Modernising Bankruptcy and Diligence in Scotland" published by the Executive last Summer. The consultation paper contained a draft Bill which Open Door reviewed in the 17 September 2004 issue. The principal aim of the Bill is to modernise the laws of personal bankruptcy and diligence by achieving a fairer balance between the rights of creditors and debtors.
New forms of debt recovery are proposed, involving:
- land attachment – which will apply to land and buildings;
- residual attachment – which will apply to such things as intellectual property (e.g. copyrights);
- money attachment applicable to cash and cheques; and
- interim attachment which will relate to moveable goods.
Diligences that are perceived as unfair such as sequestration for rent and adjudication will be abolished, whereas the more accepted and widely used diligences, which include inhibition, bank arrestment and earnings arrestment, will be modernised.
The discharge period for bankrupts is to be reduced from 3 years to 1 year and a new bankruptcy restriction regime applying for up to 15 years is to be introduced.
A new regulatory body, the Scottish Civil Enforcement Commission is to be introduced. It will be responsible for the new court messenger profession which will replace sheriff officers and messengers-at-arms.
Debtors will be given assistance with handling debt problems, including how to get help through the Debt Arrangement Scheme. Benefits for creditors will include access to more information about a debtor's assets with proposals for a scheme for disclosure of relevant details held by Government bodies and others.
Transport and Works (Scotland) Bill
The main purpose of this Bill will be to simplify the legislative procedures for dealing with applications for transport infrastructure, removing the necessity for Private Bill committees to be set up for transport related proposals. It will deal with arrangements for notification of information and raising of objections, and allow reporters to be appointed to carry out a public hearing or inquiry.
Tourism (Scotland) Bill
A new tourism framework was set up in April 2005 merging the fourteen previous Area Tourist Boards and VisitScotland. This Bill will formally wind up the ATBs and provide the legislative footing for the single entity of VisitScotland as successor to the Scottish Tourism Board.
The Scottish Executive is consulting on these changes in a consultation document entitled "Tourism is everyone's business" which also includes the proposal to increase the limit on the size of the VisitScotland Board from 7 members to a maximum of 12 members. The consultation will run until 3 December 2005.
The full text of First Minister Jack McConnell's speech is available from the Scottish Executive website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/News-Extras/legprog2005.
The consultation on the Tourism (Scotland) Bill can also be accessed from the Scottish Executive website at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/934/0017107.pdf.