Malcolm urges the Scottish Government to work with City of Edinburgh Council
The National Planning Framework Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
I support the Labour amendment, but I want to speak to two other aspects: the position of Edinburgh in the national planning framework and the extent to which public participation was satisfactory.

I believe that the national planning framework ought to be modified to take account of Edinburgh's position as capital city and its significant role as an engine of economic growth for Scotland. It is the only city in Scotland whose population is going to expand considerably over the next few years, and the national planning framework must reflect the resulting pressure on infrastructure such as housing and transport. I therefore support the City of Edinburgh Council's proposed additions after paragraph 185 of NPF 2, which include reference to the tram as a key element of transport infrastructure. There should also be an addition at the end of paragraph 74 to emphasise that the housing investment programme must reflect the geography of affordable housing need that is described in that paragraph and the surrounding paragraphs.

It is not just Edinburgh in general that is not given proper recognition in the national planning framework, but the waterfront in particular, much of which is in my constituency. The waterfront should be included in the list in paragraph 57 of key locations that offer substantial strategic growth potential.

Stewart Stevenson (The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change) :
Bearing in mind the fact that we are talking about a spatial planning document, can the member tell me whether he has in mind any planning issues associated with Edinburgh's waterfront? If so, I hope that I will be able to respond.

Malcolm Chisholm:
There will be lots of planning issues. The whole point of the national planning framework is to identify sites of national strategic importance. I believe that the list in paragraph 57 does that and that the waterfront should be added to it. I also believe that it should be in the list in paragraph 184 of areas where co-ordinated action is needed in the national interest.

It is astonishing that, in the assessment matrix document, we are told that the waterfront is not an infrastructure project. The fact of the matter is that the waterfront requires a substantial infrastructure package, and national planning framework documents should reflect the infrastructure that is needed. That will involve road networks, drainage, public rail and the tram—which I have already mentioned—as well as new lock gates at Leith for smaller vessels and the renewal of coastal defences. I could go on.

The council has been in discussions with the Scottish Government about the matter and has estimated that public infrastructure investment of just under £500 million is required for the waterfront to realise its full potential. It also estimates that that public sector spending would unlock private sector investment of £6 billion. Tax increment financing has been proposed by the council as a way of financing that infrastructure. I hope that the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth will sympathetically consider the council's proposals. The main point at issue is the fact that the framework should recognise the waterfront as a key location for which infrastructure development is crucial.

Finally, the following words should be added to the fifth sentence of paragraph 186:

"and help to regenerate adjacent communities."

In describing the waterfront—albeit inadequately—NPF 2 does not recognise the waterfront's important role in regenerating the existing communities in Pilton, Granton and Leith.

The cabinet secretary referred to participation in his recent speech and invoked Planning Aid for Scotland in defence of the consultation process. All that we can say in response to that is that there are different views, which are reflected in the committee's report. For example, although Veronica Burbridge of the Royal Town Planning Institute believed that the early stages of the consultation were satisfactory, she pointed out that the consultation was completely unsatisfactory in relation to the national developments. Those developments are crucial, because their need will be established by the framework, and there will be no other opportunity for communities to involve themselves in the discussion of need.

There are, of course, stronger critiques of the participation work. The Buckingham, Hamilton and Ruskin Association is quoted on page 17 of the committee's report. Most significantly, my constituent Clare Symonds undertook a comprehensive analysis and critique of the whole process, which was presented to the committee. Members should take that critique very seriously. The fact is that we are in the early stages of doing planning consultation and participation satisfactorily. Great strides have been made in planning legislation to flag up the importance of consultation and participation, but we should be realistic and accept the fact that we do not yet know how to do that in a totally adequate way.

The recommendations in Clare Symonds's report should be taken seriously. Some say, "Oh, but she only talked to 11 people," but the 11 people were involved. Also, Ms Symonds made 54 freedom of information requests. Her conclusions stand up to scrutiny. For example, she points out that the participation statement says that there should be wide representation of all groups, including groups from the community sector and various equality groups. She does not feel that that criterion was met.

The participation statement should have made clear at an early stage how people could get involved. It failed on that front. There are lessons to be learned; let us learn them.
March 5th 2009, (Column 15542-4)