SNP accused of ‘control freakery’ over central belt reversals of council decisions

© Supplied
An overview of the Almond Valley project, as rejected by Perth & Kinross Council

Government officials in Edinburgh have been accused of meddling in local democracy by over-turning rejected planning applications.

Planning mandarins appointed by the Scottish Government have overruled council decisions on developments as many times as they have sided with them, new figures show.

There were 209 planning appeals from developers allowed by central decision-makers between January and November 2016, compared with 209 that were dismissed.

The Scottish Conservatives accused the SNP administration of being “control freaks”.

Tory MSP Graham Simpson said there needs to be an appeals system, but the figures, which were gleaned from Scottish Government’s planning appeal portal, show that local democracy is being undermined.

“The message here to developers is don’t worry if your planning application is unpopular locally and rejected by the council, because you have a Scottish Government in Edinburgh just as likely to vote the other way,” he said.

“The SNP never stops talking about more powers, but it seems to want to take them from both directions.”

There have been several examples of decisions by councillors in Tayside and Fife being over-turned on appeal.

The Almond Valley development to the north-west of Perth was rejected down by Perth and Kinross Council, only to be over-ruled centrally in November.

The ruling paves the way for the building of up to 1,300 new homes, a primary school and community facilities.

In October, bosses at Fife Central Retail Park won an appeal to allow them to convert the former Homebase site into five individual stores.

The Scottish Government was accused of putting the vitality of high streets in Kirkcaldy, Glenrothes and Leven at risk by reversing Fife Council’s decision.

Most appeals are considered and decided by Scottish Government reporters.

They are appointed by ministers and make the decisions on their behalf.

Major bids can be called in by ministers, who will make the final decision.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the figures produced by the Scottish Conservatives are “entirely erroneous”.

“The right to appeal to Scottish ministers against certain decisions made by planning authorities is contained in legislation,” he said.

“Independent reporters decide the vast majority of these appeals and are required, as is the case for all planning applications and appeals, to make the decision in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.”