The changing landscape of planning: Scottish Planning & Environmental Law Conference 2015

spel conference image 2By Morwen Johnson

This year’s SPEL Conference is on Thursday 17 September in Edinburgh, and we’re finalising an insightful programme. In a fast moving economic and political environment, the last 12 months has witnessed many developments which impact on the planning system. This year’s conference will provide a space for the planning and environmental law community to discuss and debate these.

Key topics

Key issues to be explored include planning issues around unconventional gas. Public controversy in the UK over fracking has received considerable news coverage in the last few months. Just two weeks ago, the shale gas firm Cuadrilla announced it was to appeal against the decision by Lancashire County Council to refuse permission to drill and frack at two sites in the county (Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood on the Fylde Coast). The Scottish Government also announced in January a moratorium on granting planning consents for unconventional oil and gas developments, including fracking, while further research and a public consultation are carried out. We’re bringing together representatives from the legal and business viewpoints at the conference to explore the implications.

Another hot topic is how the planning system can ensure the delivery of housing land. Neil Collar from Brodies LLP wrote in the last issue of Scottish Planning and Environmental Law Journal about how planning authorities and developers both have a role to play. From a practitioner point of view, he highlighted that local planning authorities need to address development promotion – not just identifying sites in in plans but taking a proactive approach to delivery, for example addressing issues such as multiple ownership or infrastructure requirements at an early stage. The SPEL Conference will explore this in more depth.

As usual we’ll also be reflecting on national planning policy, and the programme of planning modernisation. We’ve been running the SPEL conference for nearly 20 years and in this time it has gained a reputation for being a forum for open and critical debate about the operation of the planning system in Scotland.

Conference programme

The programme features a broad range of speakers, bringing perspectives from the private sector, local government planning, academia and central government to bear on the issues.

Confirmed key speakers include:

  • Professor David Adams, Ian Mactaggart Chair of Property and Urban Studies, University of Glasgow
  • David Leslie, Acting Head of Planning and Building Standards, The City of Edinburgh Council
  • Nick Wright, Nick Wright Planning and due to be Convenor, RTPI Scotland in 2016
  • Maurice O’Carroll, Advocate, Terra Firma Chambers
  • Alasdair Sutherland, Advocate, Terra Firma Chambers

We’re also delighted that Gordon Steele, QC, will be chairing the conference for us.

If you’re interested in planning or environmental law in Scotland then SPEL Conference 2015 is the perfect chance to hear about the latest developments and network with others.


The 2015 Scottish Planning and Environmental Law Conference is on 17 September at the COSLA Conference Centre, Edinburgh.

The full conference programme and booking form are available here.

Morwen Johnson is the Managing Editor of Scottish Planning and Environmental Law Journal.

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