Serious changes are needed to the Planning Bill if it is to avoid defeat, warns Wightman

Serious changes are needed to the government's proposed Planning Bill if it is to avoid defeat, according to Scottish Greens housing spokesperson Andy Wightman MSP.
Speaking in this afternoon's Stage One debate on the Bill at Holyrood, in which all opposition parties expressed concerns, Andy said:
"Over the past few decades, the private developer has become the prime mover in the planning system rather than the public authority. As a result, public trust has been eroded and powerful private interests and money have corrupted the public interest. This Bill is an opportunity to turn things around.
"So long as applicants can appeal decisions they don't like, confidence in a plan-led system is undermined. The Bill must be amended to reform the current appeals system. As the architect Malcolm Fraser noted in oral evidence, 'the simple solution is to allow nobody to appeal'. The continued resistance of Ministers to acknowledge this question is dispiriting to say the least.
"Many people submitted evidence to Parliament arguing that the Bill should be bold and should be transformative. The Planning Review Group themselves talk about root and branch reform. This Bill fails to deliver any of these aspirations. It concentrates further power in the hands of Ministers, pays lip-service to genuine public engagement and removes valuable strategic planning powers.
"Greens believe that planning can and must be a force for good, for delivering high quality environments, reducing inequalities and promoting the public interest in the use of land. To achieve that, substantial amendment will be required. 
"If this was the final Bill, we would be voting against it tonight. It can be improved however and we will therefore be voting to keep it in play."