Planning for culture

Jan 25 2016 | By More

Online forum on planning law opens

Future planning law in Scotland has been opened up for public debate, with the launch of an online forum by the independent review of planning in Scotland.

The review is being conducted by an independent panel, appointed in September 2015 by Alex Neil MSP. It is due to report back in May 2016.

The Agent of change concept was one of the concerns of the Desire Lines report in desire line #2: adopt an enabling culture for licensing of events and venues all year round

The Agent of change concept was one of the concerns of the Desire Lines report.

The online forum gives organisations and individuals involved in the cultural sector the opportunity to express their opinions on the importance that culture should have in the planning process.

Launched on Monday 18 January, the forum will be open for three weeks, until Monday 8 February, 2016. It allows participants to make proposals and to comment on existing proposals.

There are several notable concerns about planning law for theatres, and venues.

Most significant among them is the way that planning law fails to take into account existing issues such as noise and late-night use when new houses are built nearby.

Currently, if new housing is built next door to an existing theatre, it is the responsibility of the theatre to make sure that its activities don’t disturb the new residents.

agent of change

A different way of looking at planning would be to say that the person who caused the change in circumstances should be the one to ensure that a disturbance does not take place.

This “agent of change” principle means that when a builder puts housing next to an existing cultural venue, it is the builder and not the venue which is responsible for ensuring that the new residents are not disturbed by the previously existing activities of the venue.

The Review has already taken written evidence from over 390 individuals and organisations, including the Theatres Trust, which is a statutory consultee in all planning applications for development in Scotland “involving any land on which there is a theatre”.

Besides talking up the agent of change principle, the Trust makes a clear case for ensuring that culture is a central part of the planning process.

It points out that local authorities, through Cosla, already have a clear policy statement recognising culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development, balanced with economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection.

make explicit reference to culture

In its submission the Trust says: “We believe there is a need to strengthen the Scottish Planning Policy (and other planning legislation and guidance) to make explicit reference to culture and ensure cultural considerations are at the heart of decision and place making and are part of a properly balanced presumption in favour of sustainable development.”

The Theatres Trust makes eight headline recommendations to the planning review:

  • Create a planning system that plans for people and cultural well-being, and has culture at the heart of decision and place making.
  • Provide a more balanced view of sustainable development and recognise culture as the essential fourth pillar, along with economic, social and environmental considerations.
  • Include culture as a principal planning policy.
  • Guide local plans to support, promote and safeguard social and cultural infrastructure and opportunities.
  • Include agent of change principles.
  • Consider streamlining local development plans so they can be prepared and updated more quickly.
  • Ensure planning authorities have the correct skills and expertise.
  • Update The Theatres Trust’s statutory remit to enable the better protection of theatres for the benefit of the nation.
key themes

The Independent Review of Planning was set up the the Scottish Government to look into what it sees as six key themes of planning regulations in Scotland.

The panel is chaired by Crawford Beveridge, and also includes Petra Biberbach and John Hamilton. It is charged with providing a strategic perspective of the planning system and is open to ‘game changing’ views and ideas about how it could be improved.

The six themes set out by the panel are:

  • Development planning;
  • Housing delivery;
  • Planning for infrastructure;
  • Further improvements to development management;
  • Leadership, resourcing and skills; and
  • Community engagement

The panel says that comments are welcomed on the six key themes, or on the wider planning system. It has asked a series of questions under the six themes to help stimulate and shape the debate.


The online forum:

The Independent Review of Planning home page:

Documents relating to the Review:

The questions asked by the panel around the six themes they set out:

The Theatres Trust response to the review:


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