Pursuing inclusive growth … will the Planning (Scotland) Bill be enough?

After months of anticipation, the Scottish Government has finally introduced the Scottish Planning Bill into Parliament this week. The need for reform was originally explored in 2015’s independent review (resulting in the report ‘Empowering planning to deliver great places‘) so progress has been relatively slow, with multiple workstreams and consultations working towards fulfilling the aims and aspirations of the review.

Ministers have insisted the Planning (Scotland) Bill will “improve the system of development planning, give people a greater say in the future of their places and support delivery of planned development”. The complexity of reform in this area is exemplified, however (if any evidence is needed), by the announcement at the end of November that the Draft Planning Delivery Advice on Housing and Infrastructure was to be withdrawn as (in the words of the Chief Planner) “there remain a number of areas of continuing disagreement”.

Enabling inclusive growth

The Bill proposes a number of measures including bolstering the status of the National Planning Framework, removing the requirement to produce strategic development plans and simplifying the processes for producing local development plans. The Minister for Local Government and Housing, Kevin Stewart, explained that “We should be focused on delivery rather than a continuous cycle of plan making”.

In a wide-ranging series of reforms, the Bill makes provision for simplified development zones. These are described as being “similar to, but will improve on, existing provisions for simplified planning zones. These will support more effective delivery of development through zoning of land, frontloading of scrutiny and aligning of consents.”

As expected, there is also a strong focus on empowering people and local communities and enabling them to have real influence on future development. The Bill includes a new right for communities to produce their own plans for their places. These ‘local place plans’ and their relationship to local development plans, has the potential to be complex.

At the time of the consultation on the Planning Bill, SPEL Journal highlighted concerns that community planning and land-use planning “speak to very different agendas” and the desire to reconcile the two presents difficult challenges.

As well as a number of changes to development management processes, the Bill also includes provision to strengthen enforcement powers, widen the scope of planning fees and introduce an infrastructure levy.

There is also a new requirement for members of planning authorities to undertake training.

Watch this space

Immediate responses to the Planning Bill seemed cautious.

The RTPI Scotland called for a “bold approach”. The Bill had “the right direction of travel and will fix some of the issues faced in planning our cities, towns and villages” However they questioned if it would be enough “to make the step change required for a world leading planning system.”

The Chair of the Scottish Alliance for People and Places, the Rt Hon. Henry McLeish commended  the significant consultation process that had led to this point, but said “there is space to build on its ambition” if Scotland is to achieve “a move to a much more inclusive, holistic and innovative system of planning”. This requires “articulating a compelling and positive vision for planning, rather than simply making technical changes”. Planning Aid Scotland chief executive Petra Biberbach said the Bill in its current form doesn’t go far enough on engagement and inclusivity and should be revised.

Concerns were also raised by the John Muir Trust over protection for Scotland’s landscape and environment. The JMT said it was disappointed by the Bill and that it risked introducing more centralising of control, in particular in relation to the balance between communities’ views and developers. “All this risks adding up to further, unaccountable ministerial decisions on issues better decided at a more local level.” As reported in SPEL Journal this year, the Trust has been involved in a number of planning appeals in the area of wind farm permissions and is a strong supporter, along with other organisations, of an Equal Right of Appeal for communities.

Completion of the Bill is subject to the Scottish Parliament’s timetable, but the Chief Planner has indicated that the Scottish Government expects it to be passed by the end of June 2018.


SPEL Journal (Scottish Planning & Environmental Law) is one of the leading resources on land use planning and environmental legislation across the country. During 2018, it will follow developments with the Planning Bill and provide expert commentary and analysis.

An annual subscription to SPEL Journal is £145. For further details or a sample copy, please contact Christine Eccleson, SPEL Journal’s Subscription Manager, on 0141 574 1905 or email christine.eccleson@idoxgroup.com.

October 2017 issue of SPEL Journal (Scottish Planning & Environmental Law) out now

As the recent Scottish Planning and Environmental Law conference showed, there are a number of external pressures affecting the planning system at the moment. These include the uncertainty around Brexit, the drive to achieve energy targets, and demographic changes impacting on housing supply and demand. Understanding how economic and social factors affect policy and decision-making is important, especially as we await the Planning Bill from the Scottish Government.

A key resource for planners and planning lawyers at this time is the Scottish Planning and Environmental Law Journal. Filled with commentary and analysis from leading professionals, lawyers and academics, the journal explores current developments and case law, and is published every two months.

October 2017 issue

The October 2017 issue has just been published and includes articles focusing on:

  • Community engagement with the planning system
  • Planning policy in relation to battlefields
  • Review of old mineral planning permissions

It discusses the Scottish Government’s programme for 17-18 and potential matters of interest within it of interest to planning and environmental lawyers. The latest statistics on planning authorities’ performance and the annual review of the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division of the Scottish Government are also examined.

Key court cases examined in the October 2017 edition include:

  • Trustees of the Grange Trust v City of Edinbrugh Council – Discussion of two pertinent issues in roads law
  • Wildland Ltd and The Welbeck Estates v the Scottish Ministers – Wind farm consent and impact on Wild Land Area

There is also discussion of differences in Scottish and English planning policy in relation to when presumption in favour of sustainable development applies.

A long tradition of supporting the professions

SPEL Journal (Scottish Planning & Environmental Law) launched over 30 years ago and is one of the leading information sources on land use planning and environmental legislation across the country.

Written by a wide range of subject experts, SPEL Journal includes accessible commentary on topical subjects and current issues; details of new legislation and significant court cases; expert comment on key planning appeal decisions, government circulars and guidance; as well as notes about ombudsman cases and book reviews.

SPEL Journal is read by decision makers in Scottish planning authorities, planning law practices, planning consultancies, architects, surveyors, civil engineers, environmental managers and developers across Scotland. It is also valued by many practitioners outside of Scotland who need to keep abreast of developments.


An annual subscription to SPEL Journal is £145. For further details or a sample copy, please contact Christine Eccleson on 0141 574 1905 or email christine.eccleson@Idoxgroup.com.

SPEL Conference 2017 open for bookings

We’re pleased to announce that this year’s Scottish Planning and Environmental Law Conference is on Thursday 21 September in Edinburgh, and we already have a great lineup of speakers confirmed.

This conference remains the flagship conference in this field, reflecting our commitment to supporting knowledge sharing and excellence within the built environment professions.

The last year has witnessed many developments which impact on the planning system and the conference will provide a space for the planning and environmental law community to discuss and debate these.

Key topics

Moves to reform the planning system continue, with a Planning Bill now expected to come before Parliament in Winter 2017. The publication in June of a Position Statement from the Scottish Government indicates their future priorities for the planning system in Scotland.

Planning Minister Kevin Stewart recently said that “I firmly believe Scotland’s planners can lead the delivery of great places, empower communities and provide a stable environment for investment through the uncertain times we live in.” However new skills, knowledge and behaviours will be required to make the ‘new planning system’ successful.

Added to this the uncertainties around Brexit, especially the possible impact on environmental legislation, and it is clear that significant changes are likely to affect the sector.

The SPEL Conference will be addressing key issues of infrastructure development, housing supply and energy strategy, as well as planning and environmental legislation.

As usual we’ll also be reflecting on recent case law and considering how it relates to daily practice. The conference is an excellent opportunity for solicitors and planners to refresh their knowledge of recent changes in planning and environmental law, as well as providing time for quality networking.

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 & Urban Studies, University of Glasgow
  • Dr John Boyle, Director Research & Strategy, Rettie & Co
  • Fraser Carlin, Head of Planning and Housing, Renfrewshire Council
  • Greg Lloyd, Emeritus Professor of Urban Planning, Ulster University
  • Ross Martin, former Chief Executive, Scottish Council for Development and Industry
  • Pauline Mills, Land & Planning Director, Taylor Wimpey
  • Mark Mohammed, Terra Firma Chambers
  • Alasdair Sutherland, Terra Firma Chambers
  • Robert Sutherland, Terra Firma Chambers
  • Laura Tainsh, Partner, Davidson Chalmers
  • Ian Turner, Community Empowerment Team Leader, Scottish Government
  • Rt. Hon. Brian Wilson, former UK Energy Minister, Chairman Harris Tweeds Hebrides

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

If you’re interested in planning or environmental law in Scotland then SPEL Conference 2017 is the perfect chance to hear about the latest developments and network with others.


The 2017 Scottish Planning and Environmental Law Conference is on 21 September at the COSLA Conference Centre, Edinburgh.

The full conference programme and booking form are available here.

The conference is supported by Terra Firma Chambers.

Latest developments in Scottish Planning and Environmental Law

spel-179Moves to transform the Scottish planning system continue to progress slowly, with a new consultation published on 10 January 2017 by the Scottish Government focused on 20 proposals for improving the system. This follows in the wake of May 2016’s independent report ‘Empowering planning to deliver great places’, and despite the fact that a number of the “immediate actions” identified by the Government in its response to the review, are still to be completed.

The latest issue of Scottish Planning and Environmental Law Journal contains reaction to the consultation paper from stakeholders and also considers how the main proposals in the consultation align with the provisions of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997. The consultation closes 4 April 2017.

Case law update and commentary

The February 2017 issue also includes articles focusing on:

  • The reduced recognition of planning within the Scottish economic policy environment, as reflected in the outputs of the Council of Economic Advisers
  • Freedom of Information and Registered Social Landlords
  • Scottish Government proposals to raise planning fees
  • The UK Government’s new Industrial Strategy and land-use planning
  • Amendments to the CAR Regulations – Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011/209
  • Prematurity and a ‘plan-led’ system, as seen in the appeal decision for Taylor Wimpey UK Ltd v The Scottish Ministers

There is also discussion of recent case law and environmental law.

Valued for over 30 years

SPEL Journal (Scottish Planning & Environmental Law) launched over 30 years ago and is one of the leading information sources on land use planning and environmental legislation across the country. The bi-monthly journal is written by a wide range of subject experts.

Every issue includes accessible commentary on topical subjects and current issues; details of new legislation and significant court cases; expert comment on key planning appeal decisions, government circulars and guidance; as well as notes about ombudsman cases and book reviews.


An annual subscription to SPEL Journal is £145. For further details or a sample copy, please contact Christine Eccleson, SPEL Journal’s Advertising Manager, on 0141 574 1920 or email christine.eccleson@Idoxgroup.com.

Latest developments in Scottish planning and environmental law

spel-177The next year is going to be a busy one for planning in Scotland, judging by the Scottish Government’s Programme for Scotland 2016-17.  The dual priorities of modernisation and increasing housing delivery are shaping policy direction, but it is in the courts that real-world issues affecting implementation and delivery of policy are addressed.

The Knowledge Exchange publishes a bi-monthly journal covering all aspects of planning and environmental law in Scotland. SPEL Journal (Scottish Planning & Environmental Law) launched over 30 years ago and is one of the leading information sources on land use planning and environmental legislation across the country.

A key part of our remit is to provide commentary on significant case law. We also provide a forum for consideration of issues affecting the planning system, from the point of view of solicitors, planners and academics.

Reflecting on recent case law

Key court cases examined in the October 2016 edition include that perennially thorny topic of wind farm consents.

Firstly, the quashing of Stronelairg wind farm consent was overturned by the Inner House. This decision, which included the comment that ‘Creating images from different angles on the surrounding landscape does not provide the public with any information not already readily known and understood,’ may prompt discussions among planning authorities, statutory consultees and applicants about how visualisations and photomontages should be treated.

Secondly, the successful challenge of four offshore windfarm approvals by the RSPB highlights the difficulty for the Government and environmental stakeholders of achieving a balance between a commitment to realising the full potential of renewable energy in Scotland (including off-shore) at the same time as appropriately protecting the marine environment. Finding that necessary balance appears to be proving hard even in relation to projects where the appropriate environmental impact assessment has been carried out.

Other cases covered in October’s SPEL include:

  • Public sector equality duty as a relevant planning consideration [LDRA Ltd & Others v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Others] – This decision is a reminder that protected characteristics have a wide scope and points to an onus being placed on decision-makers to demonstrate that the requirements of s149 of the 2010 Act have been considered.
  • ‘Community focused’ renewables planning permission quashed [R (on the application of Peter Wright) v Forest of Dean District Council and Resilient Energy Severndale Ltd]. This case focused on whether a financial contribution in the context of a wind turbine development may be taken into account in granting planning permission. The decision is in line with previous case law but as Karen Hamilton of Brodies LLP notes “If policy ‘encouragement’ of community schemes is to persist then a clearer path should be laid out to enable participating developers to be credited for their efforts“.
  • Liability of roads authority for injuries to cyclist [Robinson v Scottish Borders Council]. Whereas English courts have been reluctant to impose liability on highway authorities, this judgment found that the hazard would have been apparent to a roads authority of ordinary competence, using reasonable care.

The journal also includes commentary and articles on topical issues and policy developments.


Written by a wide range of subject experts, SPEL Journal includes accessible commentary on topical subjects and current issues.

An annual subscription to SPEL Journal is £145. For further details or a sample copy, please contact Christine Eccleson, SPEL Journal’s Advertising Manager, on 0141 574 1905 or email christine.eccleson@Idoxgroup.com.

Scottish planning … on the long road to modernisation

Rural_Urban Landscape_iStock_000004526499MediumPlanning, and more specifically ensuring the delivery of new housing, has probably never had a higher profile on the political agenda in recent years. The focus on the performance of planning authorities is, of course, happening within a context of ongoing resource constraints and the wider Brexit-related uncertainties.

Within Scotland, there also appears to be a renewed debate and potential conflict between the plan-led system versus ‘planning by appeal’. And so its timely to look at some key recent developments which suggest the priorities in 2017.

Moving forward on the recommendations of the Independent Review

Work to take forward the reform of the Scottish planning system is ongoing, and six themed working groups are now in place in order to inform the preparation of a White Paper expected to be published for consultation at the end of 2016.

The themes covered by the working groups are:

  • Strong and flexible development plans
  • The delivery of more high quality homes
  • An infrastructure first approach to planning and development
  • Efficient and transparent development management
  • Stronger leadership, smarter resourcing and sharing of skills
  • Collaboration rather than conflict – inclusion and empowerment

Our August issue of SPEL Journal contained a number of articles commenting on the Planning Review.

Scottish Government plans for the year ahead

In addition to this, the Programme for Government published on 7 September included announcements in a number of areas of interest to planning and environmental law.

Legislation which will be promoted during 2016-2017 include a Forestry Bill which will complete the devolution of forestry to the Scottish Government. Early 2017 should see proposals for a new Climate Change Bill which will sit alongside a Climate Change Plan and accompanying Energy Strategy expected to be published this winter. These will outline the Scottish Government’s intention to reduce Scottish emissions by 80% between 1990 and 2050 and “represents a bold statement of Government’s priorities for the coming decades”. The Programme for Government also reiterates the continuing commitment to the target of supplying 100% per cent of electricity demand by renewables by 2020.

There is mention of a Circular Economy and Zero Waste Bill. This is due to be introduced in the second half of the parliamentary session. This Bill sits under the 2016 Circular Economy Strategy, Making Things Last, which, among other things, establishes Europe’s first food waste prevention target. No detail is given as to what this Bill will contain but it is mentioned alongside a commitment to continue working with local authorities on improving recycling rates and to consider the role of deposit return schemes, which perhaps gives some clues.

The key planning-related news in the Programme is that a Planning Bill is to be brought forward early in the parliamentary session (this was subsequently clarified to mean autumn 2017). This follows the recent independent review of planning.

The recommendation for Simplified Planning Zones, which came out of this review, is also to be implemented. This will be done ahead of the proposals for legislative change in the Bill. The purpose of these Simplified Planning Zones is to encourage housing development, and ties in with a commitment to deliver 50,000 new affordable homes over the next five years with 35,000 of them being available for social rent.

Indeed, on 13 October, the Scottish Government published further details of the SPZ pilots – Scottish Ministers have committed £150,000 to support 3 or 4 SPZ housing pilots and are inviting authorities to apply. They suggest that SPZ could be used to support housing in a variety of contexts, for example to:

  • support town centre living
  • support urban regeneration
  • promote diversification of housing types and supply, and innovative housing delivery.

The Programme for Government also suggests that we should see interim measures to modernise compulsory purchase orders so that vacant and derelict land can be brought back into use in communities. The Scottish Law Commission submitted a report at the end of  September to the Scottish Government on proposals for an overhaul of compulsory purchase, following consultation.

Finally, moves continue to be made in the controversial area of land reform following the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016. During this programme, the Scottish Government will be taking steps to implement the 2016 Act, including recruitment of the new Scottish Land Commissioners and consulting, in the autumn, on a Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement. There is also an ongoing consultation about proposals for a register of controlling interests in Scotland’s land to improve transparency in the ownership of land, with regulations to go before the Scottish Parliament in 2017.

Environmental Impact Assessment reform

In August the Scottish Government began a consultation about implementing reforms to the environmental impact assessment (‘EIA’) procedure. This relates to how Scottish Ministers propose to bring the requirements of European Directive 2014/52/EU (known as the ‘EIA’ Directive) into Scottish legislation, which must be done by 16 May 2017.

The consultation paper is accompanied by draft regulations in relation to town and country planning and electricity works, with parallel adjustments to be made to the other regimes where EIA applies, including forestry, trunk roads and marine licensing. A separate consultation will be held on ports and flood management. The consultation closes at the end of October 2016.

As Professor Colin Reid of the University of Dundee notes in the most recent issue of SPEL Journal “The overall goal of EIA remains that of ensuring that projects likely to have significant adverse environmental effects are identified and approved only after undergoing a thorough and open assessment procedure. The precise procedural formalities can go much of the way to ensuring that this is done effectively and efficiently, but ultimately it is how well the developers, authorities and public engage with the process that will determine how far it succeeds.”

Conclusion

As can be seen, the next year looks like it could bring some significant changes to the planning system in Scotland. The Scottish Planning and Environmental Law Conference, and SPEL Journal, provide much-needed channels for the planning community in Scotland to consider these challenges, and stay up-to-date.

Further reading

A Plan for Scotland: The Government’s Programme for Scotland 2016-2017. S King, Scottish Planning and Environmental Law Journal, Issue 177 Oct 2016, p102

Environmental Impact Assessment reform. C Reid, Scottish Planning and Environmental Law Journal, Issue 177 Oct 2016, pp102-103


An annual subscription to SPEL Journal is £145. For further details or a sample copy, please contact Christine Eccleson, SPEL Journal’s Advertising Manager, on 0141 574 1905 or email christine.eccleson@Idoxgroup.com

Scottish planning reform: new opportunities or more of the same?

spel conf banner

We’re pleased to announce that this year’s Scottish Planning and Environmental Law Conference is on Thursday 29 September in Edinburgh, and we already have a great lineup of speakers confirmed.

This event marks 25 years since the first SPEL conference and Idox is proud that it remains the flagship conference in this area, reflecting our commitment to supporting knowledge sharing and excellence within the built environment professions.

The last 12 months have witnessed many developments which impact on the planning system and the conference will provide a space for the planning and environmental law community to discuss and debate these.

Key topics

The major policy development is that we are currently awaiting a White Paper later this year from the Scottish Government in response to the Independent Planning Review report. The Government has already set out some immediate actions and longer-term work plans to be undertaken to create an “ambitious but practical programme of planning reform”.

However this agenda develops, it’s clear that the challenges facing the economy and communities remain – in the words of Kevin Stewart, Minister for Local Government and Housing, this means “supporting economic growth and house-building, whilst protecting and enhancing the quality of life of all our communities.” The SPEL Conference will be addressing these key issues of infrastructure development and housing supply.

Meanwhile the recent confusing messages from the UK Government on the new Hinkley Point nuclear power station have underlined the importance (and controversy) of energy security. The conference will include a discussion of the environmental, economic and moral consequences of Scotland’s energy choices.

The need for continued modernisation and efficiencies will be addressed in a session looking at leadership and smart resourcing. Research from the RTPI at the end of last year found that there’s been nearly a 20% reduction in planning department staff in Scotland since 2010. Gross expenditure in planning authorities has also dropped by £40 million between 2010/11 and 2015/16. Despite these pressures, councils have continued to deliver quality services but there is a very real risk around loss of skills.

As usual we’ll also be reflecting on recent case law and considering how it relates to daily practice. The conference is an excellent opportunity for solicitors and planners to refresh their knowledge of recent changes in planning and environmental law, as well as providing time for quality networking.

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:

  • Tammy Adams, Head of Planning, Homes for Scotland
  • Denis Garrity, Advocate, Terra Firma Chambers
  • John Hamilton, CEO, Winchburgh Developments Ltd
  • Greg Lloyd, Emeritus Professor of Urban  Planning, Ulster University
  • Rebecca Lunn, Professor and Head of CGEEG, University of Strathclyde
  • Ross Martin, Chief Executive, Scottish Council for Development and Industry
  • Craig McLaren, Director of Scotland and Ireland, RTPI
  • John McNairney, Chief Planner, Scottish Government
  • Stephen O’Rourke, Advocate, Terra Firma Chambers
  • Sara Thiam, Director, Institution of Civil Engineers

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

If you’re interested in planning or environmental law in Scotland then SPEL Conference 2016 is the perfect chance to hear about the latest developments and network with others.


The 2016 Scottish Planning and Environmental Law Conference is on 29 September at the COSLA Conference Centre, Edinburgh.

The full conference programme and booking form are available here.

The conference is supported by Terra Firma Chambers.

Latest news in Scottish planning and environmental law

spel 175 imageWith a new SNP minority government and the publication of an independent review of the Scottish planning system, 2016 looks like it could herald significant change for the planning profession north of the border.

The review found that there needs to be “a strong commitment to change existing practices and culture, and to re-focus the profession’s improvement agenda”. Whether there is the political will or the capability to take forward some of the more “game changing” proposals remains to be seen. What is certain is that we will see a large amount of soul-searching as to why previous calls for culture change have failed to be realised in practice.

Reflecting on case law

The Knowledge Exchange publishes a bi-monthly journal covering all aspects of planning and environmental law in Scotland. SPEL Journal (Scottish Planning & Environmental Law) launched over 30 years ago and is one of the leading information sources on land use planning and environmental legislation across the country.

A key part of our remit is to provide commentary on significant case law. We also provide a forum for consideration of issues affecting the planning system, from the point of view of solicitors, planners and academics.

Key court cases examined in the June edition include:

  • Quashing of the Aberdeen City and Shire Strategic Development Planning Authority’s ‘Supplementary Guidance – Strategic Transport Fund’
  • Interpretation of performance guarantee bonds, in relation to restoration obligations (South Lanarkshire Council v Coface SA)
  • The Forth Crossing Act 2011: compensation for the temporary possession of land and Certificates of Appropriate Alternative Development
  • Quashing of green belt school permission (St Andrews Environmental Protection Association Ltd v Fife Council)
  • Two cases clarifying protective expensive orders
  • Interpretation of ‘for public use’ and the concept of public benefit (Hunt v Moray Council)
  • The meaning of ‘waste’ and the proper interpretation of ‘recovery’ in the Waste Framework Directive.

There are also articles focusing on:

  • The role of planning in addressing demographic change as seen in the need for retirement housing Greg Lloyd, Ulster University & Wageningen University
  • New guidance on the valuation of land for affordable housing Andrew McCafferty, Andrew McCafferty Associates
  • Commentary on new guidance on improving energy performance and emissions in existing non-domestic buildings Laura L Tainsh, Davidson Chalmers LLP
  • Commentary on recent planning obligation appeals John Watchman, Watchman & Co

Written by a wide range of subject experts, SPEL Journal includes accessible commentary on topical subjects and current issues. Given the Planning Review, there is still much to consider and debate, both within the framework of existing legislation, policy and guidance and in the context of an anticipated programme of further reform in Scotland.


An annual subscription to SPEL Journal is £145. For further details or a sample copy, please contact Christine Eccleson, SPEL Journal’s Advertising Manager, on 0141 574 1905 or email christine.eccleson@Idoxgroup.com.

SPEL Journal is read by decision makers in Scottish planning authorities, planning law practices, planning consultancies, surveyors, civil engineers, environmental managers and developers across Scotland. It is also valued by many practitioners outside of Scotland who need to keep abreast of developments.

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.

February issue of SPEL Journal (Scottish Planning & Environmental Law)

spel feb 2015The Knowledge Exchange publishes a bi-monthly journal covering all aspects of planning and environmental law in Scotland. SPEL Journal (Scottish Planning & Environmental Law) launched over 30 years ago and is one of the leading information sources on land use planning and environmental legislation across the country.

The latest edition of SPEL includes articles focusing on:

Key court cases examined in the February edition include:

  • Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government v Venn – Aarhus and Protective Costs Orders
  • The John Muir Trust v The Scottish Ministers  – Protective Expenses Order
  • South Lanarkshire Council v Coface SA  – Liability for restoration payment
  • Hallam Land Management Ltd v The Scottish Ministers  – Housing supply and education infrastructure

SPEL was launched in 1980 as ‘Scottish Planning Law & Practice’, to be a journal of record of Scottish planning. When it became apparent that the emerging field of environmental law was strongly linked to land use planning, the name of our journal changed to reflect this.

Written by a wide range of subject experts, SPEL Journal includes accessible commentary on topical subjects and current issues; details of new legislation and significant court cases; expert comment on key planning appeal decisions, government circulars and guidance; as well as notes about ombudsman cases and book reviews.

SPEL Journal is read by decision makers in Scottish planning authorities, planning law practices, planning consultancies, architects, surveyors, civil engineers, environmental managers and developers across Scotland. It is also valued by many practitioners outside of Scotland who need to keep abreast of developments.

An annual subscription to SPEL Journal is £145. For further details or a sample copy, please contact Christine Eccleson, SPEL Journal’s Advertising Manager, on 0141 574 1905 or email christine.eccleson@Idoxgroup.com.