Development Planning: the challenge of the 1960s

In the 1960s, development plans prepared under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1947 were the subject of increasing criticism.  Because of the detail they contained, they tended to be inflexible and, although planning authorities were under an obligation to review them at five-yearly intervals, this rarely happened.  In the Scottish Borders, the Quinquennial Review of the Selkirk County Development Plan, approved in April 1955, was not submitted to the Secretary of State until May 1964 (and approved in January 1968).  Elsewhere, none of the county development plans for Berwickshire, Peeblesshire and Roxburghshire, approved in 1965, 1955 and 1965 respectively, were reviewed prior to local government re-organisation in 1975.  Development plans were largely updated by formal amendments, which also required the approval of the Secretary of State.  The obligation to afford objectors the opportunity of a hearing or public inquiry meant that a considerable period of time could elapse before such amendments were approved, as was the case with the Tweedbank amendment to the Roxburgh County Development Plan.  As well as being out-of-date, development plans were also criticised as being merely land use maps with little attention being paid to potential investment and how proposals would be implemented.  They also ignored the broader environmental, social and economic needs of the community.

Consequently, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in England and the Scottish Development Department in Scotland jointly set up the Planning Advisory Group (PAG) in May 1964 to examine ways of improving the development plan system.  The PAG Report of 1965 proposed a basic change in the structure of development planning which would distinguish between the policy and strategic decisions required to guide development in an area and the more specific land use allocations and actions required to implement proposals at the local level.  County Plans, which would require ministerial approval, would be primarily statements of policy with a key diagram (not a map) and would concentrate on the broad pattern of future development but would not detail specific land use allocations as did the existing town maps.  Local plans, which would not require ministerial approval but must conform with the policies set out in the county plan, would be prepared for settlements within the county and set out land allocations and detailed policies to guide the control of development.  They would also identify action areas where specific action was required.

The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1969 set out the provisions for a completely new system of development planning, based on the PAG recommendations, which required the preparation of structure plans and local plans.  Structure plans would set out the broad policy framework for an area.  With the freedom from including detail policies and proposals, it was hoped that strategic issues could be settled more quickly than in the past.  Local plans would comprise detailed planning policies and proposals and must conform to the structure plan approved by the Secretary of State.

In England, Wales and Scotland, there was also general agreement in the 1960s that the system of local government was in need of reform.  In Scotland, there were more than 400 local authorities; 33 county councils, 4 city corporations, 197 town councils and 196 district councils.  In May 1966, the Labour Government appointed a royal commission under the chairmanship of Lord Wheatley to review local administration in Scotland.  A similar commission on local government administration in England was set up in June 1966 under the chairmanship of Lord Redcliffe-Maud.  The Wheatley Commission reported in September 1969 and recommended a new system of regional and district councils.  The report divided Scotland into seven regions, sub-divided into 37 districts.  However, following publication of the report and consultations with local authorities, changes were made; the South East Region was sub-divided and both Fife and the Scottish Borders were separated from Edinburgh and the Lothians.  Changes were made to the number of districts in the Strathclyde Region and regional and district boundaries amended.  The new authorities, 9 regions, 53 districts and 3 island authorities were introduced in 1975 by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, which also established non-statutory community councils.  Regional councils would be responsible for strategic planning, social services, education, roads and transportation; district councils for housing, local planning and building control, refuse disposal and licensing.  In relation to town and country planning, Highland, Dumfries and Galloway, and the Borders Regional Councils, together with the three Island Councils; Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland, were designated general planning authorities and given full planning powers.  In the other six regional councils, the town and country planning function was split between the region and constituent district councils.

It was hoped that the new system would avoid the delays of the past, reduce uncertainty and blight.  It was also hoped that they would be more responsive to public opinion.  Unfortunately, the proposed re-organisation of local government delayed the preparation of the ‘new style’ development plans.  The provisions of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1969, were not finally brought into force until 1975 with the enactment of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972 and the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, which required the production of structure plans for each of the nine regions and local plans for the constituent districts.

Meanwhile, in the Scottish Borders, following the publication of the Central Borders Plan in 1968 and encouraged by the Scottish Development Department, effort was concentrated on the establishment of joint working parties for individual burghs to examine the growth potential of the main towns in the central borders.  The Galashiels Technical Working Party was established in 1970 with representatives from Selkirkshire County Council, Galashiels Town Council and the Scottish Development Department.  In Roxburghshire, similar joint technical working parties were set up for Hawick, Jedburgh and Kelso.   Berwickshire and Roxburghshire County Councils produced reports covering the landward parts of their areas setting out policies and proposals for the rural settlements.  Peeblesshire County Council concentrated on the tourism and recreational aspects of its area. Selkirkshire County Council examined the problems of small settlements within the Ettrick and Yarrow Valleys.  Subsequent posts will look at each of these reports.


Author: douglas hope

Over fifty years experience in town and country planning, including twenty-one years with the Borders Regional Council (1975-1996) and twenty years with the Scottish Government as a Reporter for the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals.

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