AN overhaul of Scotland’s planning system is “dangerously close” to making the current situation worse instead of better, its architects have warned the government.

Hinting they might quit without a “swift intervention”, the independent advisers behind the Planning (Scotland) Bill said it was creating dozens of new burdens, not simplifying matters.

The members of the government’s independent panel on the Bill have now written to SNP planning minister Kevin Stewart requesting an urgent meeting.

The trio are Crawford Beveridge, chair of the First Minister’s Council of Economic Advisers, Petra Biberbach, chief executive of Planning Aid for Scotland, and John Hamilton, a former chairman of the Scottish Property Federation.

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In 2015, the three were asked for “game-changing ideas for radical reform of the system”.

A year later, their independent review urged a “fundamental rethink” of the planning system in Scotland, setting out 48 recommendations to “enable sustainable development”.

It called for a “bolder” approach, more flexible local development plans, a focus on delivering better housing and infrastructure, and a quicker, more accessible and efficient system.

Their work led directly to the Planning (Scotland) Bill, which was introduced in Holyrood in December 2017, and has since passed two of its three parliamentary stages.

In the second of these stages, MSPs made 230 amendments, and the Bill now adds 91 new burdens to the current system - 66 on councils and 25 on the Scottish Government.

The changes include an “agent of change” principle requiring developers moving into areas containing music venues to pay for any soundproofing, tighter rules on short-term lets, and a new “land value capture” system for use in local planning zones.

In their letter to Mr Stewart, the advisers said they were now troubled by the Bill’s condition.

They said their review had been conducted “in the spirit of delivering an efficient, inclusive and more simplified planning system”.

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But the recent amendments make it likely there would be “significant departures” from the original recommendations, creating “a range of additional burden”.

The wrote: “Accordingly, despite the well-focussed objectives of the Review Panel, at its current stage in the legislative process the Planning (Scotland) Bill finds itself dangerously close to creating a system that is more complex than before, more remote and in danger of losing the spirit of the original review recommendations.

“We feel that without swift intervention from the Scottish Government Scotland is at risk of being left with a planning system that operates in ways directly counter to the key principles of simplification, efficiency and effective place-making that we placed at the heart of our review’s conclusions in 2016.

“There remain fundamental flaws which make it difficult for us, as members of the original independent review of planning, to support the draft legislation in the form that is now being proposed.

“Notwithstanding the fact that MSPs approaching the bill at Stage Two have clearly had varying and sometimes wholly opposing views of the bill’s purpose, we are hopeful that practical steps might be taken to ensure that this vital legislation has the once-in-a-generation positive impact on our planning system that was originally foreseen.”

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Last week, current Scottish Property Federation chair Miller Mathieson said the Bill had become an unrecognisable mess, far removed from its original purpose.

“Our planning system is broken and is in severe danger of being made worse,” he said.

“The proposed Planning Bill has been hugely changed at Holyrood and while it started out with good intentions it has lost its way.”

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our programme of planning reforms, including the Bill, are based on the Independent Panel’s recommendations.  

"We share their concerns that the changes made to the Bill move away from delivering the shared vision of an effective, inclusive and simplified planning system.  

“The changes made to the Bill would increase the complexity of the planning system and could deter investment in Scotland.

"As we move forward we want to continue to work with stakeholders to ensure the final Bill helps to create quality places with the housing, infrastructure and investment that people need.”