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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 May, 2005, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
Fears build over planning reform
Dounreay nuclear power stations
There are fears the plans could cover new nuclear power stations
Environmental groups have described as a "betrayal of policy" the prospect of curbs being placed on the right to object to major developments.

A leaked document suggests the executive may be given powers to designate plans as being of "national strategic importance".

This would mean objections could only be made on detail or location.

Scottish Environment LINK, which represents 36 bodies, said the move undermined government policy.

The Scottish Executive said it would not comment on leaked documents. A spokesperson stressed that ministers were still involved in discussions about planning reforms.

Radical reform

The Herald newspaper said it had seen a paper presented to the cabinet by Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm, which could form the basis of a white paper.

It described a "once-in-a-lifetime" chance to bring in radical reform of Scotland's planning system.

The proposals would allow developments - which could include motorways, airport extensions, large windfarms and even nuclear power stations - to be designated as part of a National Planning Framework (NFP).

The solution is not an assault on the democratic rights of stakeholders in the process
Anne McCall
Scottish Environment LINK

Any public inquiry into such a project would not be able to look at the basic requirement for the scheme. The inquiry would be simplified "by limiting the issues to those such as location and detailed consideration of associated environmental effects".

LINK spokeswoman Anne McCall said the proposals represented a betrayal of the policy agreed by the Labour/Lib Dem Scottish Executive partnership agreement.

"There are obvious problems with the current framework for approving proposals of national significance and the delays and costs of inquiries," she said.

'Absolutely wrong'

"However, the solution is not an assault on the democratic rights of stakeholders in the process.

"Similar proposals were brought forward in England and during the passage of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act and were rejected by both the government and the public.

"Scotland's environmental organisations will be campaigning to ensure they are not resurrected here."

Friends of the Earth Scotland described the proposals as "absolutely wrong and possibly even unlawful".

Brownfield site - generic
The executive said ministers were examining planning laws

Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme that he was "gravely concerned" by what he had seen in the document.

"It takes away one of the fundamentals of sound environmental policy," he said.

"We must be able to assess the need for schemes like the M74 extension. Without that there is no way to get development that is going to deliver for society, environment and the economy at the same time.

"This is really some sort of developer's charter in the way it has been set out here."

He said the executive had promised to give communities more involvement as part of the review.

Public opinion

But he claimed: "This is nothing less than a naked power-grab by ministers which will centralise planning, reduce public involvement and allow the imposition of unpopular and environmentally-damaging projects.

"In the hands of this executive that means things like the M74 motorway. In the future, even new nuclear power stations could be driven through this proposed system with almost no regard to public opinion.

"Virtually all that would remain for the public to influence would be what colour to paint them."

Scottish Green Party spokesman George Baxter said: "This document exposes the truth - that Scottish Executive ministers, both Labour and Liberal Democrat, are held in a big business stranglehold."

Scottish National Party deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon also condemned the plans.

Ms Sturgeon said: "This power grab by Labour and the Liberals is a desperate attempt to circumvent due process and impose unpopular and unneeded developments in Scotland.

"The executive should release full details of this secret plan now."

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01 Apr 04 |  Scotland

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