Here’s my Foreword to Planning Aid for Scotland’s Annual Review, written in my role as chairman…
Scottish planning has had a busy year. We have new planning legislation which contains the promise of a new more efficient planning system with greater levels of community engagement than have ever been achieved before.
Planning Aid for Scotland has had a busy year too. Most of our efforts have, as ever, focussed on the business of empowering people to shape their future. We have extended our training programmes for local communities, offering a broader range of options in addition to our tried and tested format – the quality of which was underlined by winning the 2006 Scottish Quality in Planning Award for Community Involvement. Our volunteers continue to provide free, professional assistance in response to requests by community groups and individuals. Our website has been completely revamped as a comprehensive resource for information and advice on Scottish planning. Our action research programmes are starting to uncover valuable pointers on engaging with groups traditionally less involved in planning, such as young people and gypsy travellers. Our Planning to Act programme is a genuinely innovative use of theatre to enable local communities to explore the relevance of planning to their communities.
You can find more about these and other aspects of our work in the pages of this Annual Review.
We have also strengthened our staff, and welcome Robert Pickles and Polly Sommerville to strengthen the volunteer and office support functions provided by our existing team of Petra Biberbach, Jenny Pendreigh, Debbie Robertson, Karol Swanson and Mark Armstrong. We now have a base for delivering excellent services across Scotland. I would like to to record my appreciation of everyone’s hard work and positive spirit on behalf of the Board.
I believe Planning Aid for Scotland has a critical role to play as the new planning system is implemented over the coming years – a role that has already been recognised by our involvement in different aspects of the reforms, such as helping the Scottish Executive to prepare their recent Planning Advice Note on Community Engagement. As community engagement deepens and different stakeholders in the planning system seek to respond positively to the government’s culture change agenda, the need for an impartial standard-bearer for community engagement will become ever more important. We in Planning Aid for Scotland will need to guard our independence, experience and expertise as jealously as ever so that we can continue to offer that impartiality.
Please take a look through the rest of the Annual Review to find out more about what we’ve achieved over the last year. None of this would have happened without the ongoing commitment of our volunteers, staff and our funders. On behalf of communities the length and breadth of Scotland, a big thank you to all of you.