This marks the beginning of the National Consultative Group in Planning which wants to encourage people across civic Scotland to take an interest in the planning system.
Communities minister Margaret Curran said:
'We are committed to establishing open and accountable institutions and to building safe strong communities. In March 2003, we published Your Place, Your Plan, a white paper that sets out our proposals for strengthening and enhancing public involvement in the planning system. Our aim is to make planning much more inclusive, responsive, accountable and straightforward.
'The purpose of planning is to ensure that developments and changes in land use occur in suitable locations and to safeguard communities against inappropriate developments. The theory of this is fine but in practice it
can be a very difficult balance to achieve. For the system to work
effectively, it requires partnership working, genuine community involvement and good dialogue with developers.
'We know that people are keen to get involved in planning but sometimes the system can be intimidating. Today's group marks the beginning of a process which I hope will enable people to put forward their views, share examples of good practice and feel satisfied that their participation has been worthwhile. I am also looking for this group to act as a forum for the discussion of topical issues and the sharing of examples of good practice nationally.'
Today's meeting was organised for the executive by the Scottish Civic Forum.
Debbie Wilkie from the Scottish Civic Forum said:
'We all have an interest in the built environment in which we live and work but many people do not realise how important it is to get involved early on - when structure plans are being prepared. I hope this new process will enable wider understanding of the planning system and stimulate greater participation in it.'
Alice McGlone, convenor of the Royal Town Planning Institute said:
'We fully support this new initiative. Planning should be an inclusive process but it should also be about developing a shared vision for Scotland. This will provide a much needed spotlight on the positive contribution that planning should make.'
Better public involvement in the land-use planning system is a key policy priority for the executive. Last year, the executive published Your Place, Your Plan which set out a number of measures to enable people to get involved in planning issues. Amongst these measures was the establishment of the National Consultative Group on Planning.
Similar events will be set up during 2004 outwith the central belt.