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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 August 2006, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Shake-up to protect open spaces
Brownfield site - generic
The shake-up is designed to utilise and protect Scotland's open spaces
A draft policy shake-up of planning laws to protect open spaces has been published by the Scottish Executive.

Under the plans, local authorities would have to carry out an audit and prepare a strategy for open spaces.

The draft Scottish Planning Policy SPPII Physical Activity and Open Space replaces guidance from 10 years ago.

Speaking during a visit to the Adler Village Trust in Dundee, Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm said land assets must be protected.

The draft policy would see a presumption against development on existing valued open space.

It also includes a new requirement to consult sportscotland on any development which would lead to the loss of smaller sports facilities such as bowling greens and tennis courts.

Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm
This is the first major revision of planning policy in this area in a decade
Malcolm Chisholm
Communities Minister

Mr Chisholm welcomed the policy, which he said would go out for public consultation.

"Open spaces are the green lungs for our towns, cities and villages," the minister said.

"Improving Scotland's appalling health record is a key priority for the executive. It's vital that people have every opportunity to get out in the fresh air and take healthy exercise."

Local objections

The minister said good planning was "key" to retaining community assets including parks, playing fields, pitches and allotments.

"It's essential that local communities are engaged throughout this process which will feed into the overall development plans for the area," Mr Chisholm added.

Ministers must be notified if a local authority seeks to grant consent for development of open space identified in local plans, or open space which the authority owns and there are substantial local objections.

Mr Chisholm said: "This is the first major revision of planning policy in this area in a decade.

"It's part of a wider modernisation to create a more efficient planning system which actively engages with local people from the outset in shaping the plans for their areas."

'Too weak'

The Scottish Green Party welcomed the proposals but said compulsory audits by councils must continue so that any loss was assessed over time.

It also called for the definition of "valued open space" to include informal and underdeveloped areas used by communities.

Green MSP Robin Harper said: "Research suggests few councils make an effort to preserve such spaces and many have been eaten up by developments, especially PPP new build schools.

"Finally ministers have heeded what Greens and community organisations have been arguing - that the guidance to councils on protecting green spaces is currently too weak."

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