I must firstly commend the committee and its members on their hard work producing this report. It provides a good overview of the benefits and problems of the draft planning framework.
This framework is going to set the stage for Scotland’s development in the coming years – as a nation committed to sustainability, biodiversity and tackling the climate crisis, and the committee clearly recognises the importance of getting this right.
This is a part of why I and my colleagues on these benches find the lack of detail in the framework to be particularly concerning.
Planning authorities across Scotland must have clarity, both in terms of their priorities and the definitions of the areas they are to prioritise, if the NPF4 is to be successful.
This clarity is particularly important because of the emphasis the Scottish Government is putting on the climate emergency. We of course welcome this emphasis.
But the authorities who will be operating under this framework must have confidence that they are following it as it was intended.
Any lack of clarity defeats the point of having a national planning framework in the first place and invites piecemeal implementation across local authorities.
We must also ensure that people have confidence in the planning system and in the role of local development plans.
I have heard from within the Lothian region that the Scottish Government have not provided robust interim guidance on the issue of effective land supply.
Reporters have also been given requirements which have led to them approving speculative sites that do not fit with local development plans.
How, in these circumstances, are local populations and local authorities to be brought along with the planning and development process?
Any national framework must be a collaborative process that brings local populations and local authorities along rather than alienating them.
Also, if we are to ensure a truly national planning framework, we must also have a commitment from the Scottish Government to properly funded planning departments.
After years of real terms cuts to local authorities we have a situation where planning departments have been cut back to their bare minimum.
How do we expect this framework to work at a national level when its implementation will depend on how – or indeed if – local authorities across Scotland have been able to shield their planning departments from nearly a decade of cuts?
It is crucial that we get these questions right now, rather than chasing solutions to them years down the line and risking yet more waste of time and resources pursuing goals that are not clearly set out.
I therefore join with my colleagues in calling for a pause to the process so that these points can be addressed.