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Awards, beliefs and communities in Scottish planning

By Ian Tant, President of the RTPI 2019

On a sunny midsummer morning, there are few more dramatic sights than that of approaching Stirling with the Castle sparkling above and the Highlands gleaming in the background. The view from Dumyat Path in the Ochil Hills is equally stirring, stretching across the city from the Highlands in the west to the Forth and Grangemouth in the east.

Stirling Enhanced Landscape Mitigation Project

It’s into this spectacular landscape that Scottish Power Energy Networks had the task of inserting a major power line on 604 high towers. How to mitigate its impact on the landscape? The identified solution was a progressive programme of engagement with the nine local communities.

Ideas were drawn up with each of the community groups, leading to tree and woodland planting in some areas and improved access in others, such as new paths and cycleways and footpath improvements. Connecting places and improving accessibility were seen as a key priority in all the communities.

At Dumyat Path, the project has involved a new car park, rebuilding several kilometres of dry stone wall, and footpath enhancements on the hillside. It’s little wonder then that the Stirling Enhanced Landscape Mitigation Project won this year’s RTPI award for Excellence in Planning for the Natural Environment.

Dargavel Village - excellence in large housing delivery

Equally impressive is Dargavel Village, winner of the Large Housing category at the Awards. Occupying 964 hectares of a former Royal Ordnance Factory on the edge of Bishopton, the village is developed according to a masterplan and design guides produced through partnership working between the owners, BAe Systems, Renfrewshire Council and the local community. The result is a truly high quality development that makes a major contribution to meeting housing needs of the area and regenerating a major derelict site.

But it has also taken perseverance in the face of challenging economic circumstances and serious contamination issues for the scheme to be delivered.

Over 1,000 of the 4,000 homes have been built and a new village centre is nearing completion close to Bishopton railway station, one of the key links between the existing and new villages.

Innovation is playing its part too. Taylor Wimpey have chosen Dargavel for the company’s Project 2020 scheme - new architect-designed homes meeting a brief set by customer survey and incorporating modern methods of construction, flexible interior layouts and low-carbon energy systems that look ahead to the zero net carbon target.

My visit to the Scottish Parliament coincided with the chance to witness the passing of the new Planning Bill, a major reform of the Scottish Planning System.

Containing many positive provisions including the statutory requirement for Chief Planning Officers, the Bill has proven controversial with the passion behind the debates highlighting the importance of planning to the politicians and communities of Scotland.

With Kevin Stewart, Julia Frost and John McNairney, Chief Planner for Scotland

Excellence in planning for health and well being

Communities lie at the heart of the Cuningar Loop Woodland Park, winner of the RTPI Planning Excellence Award for Health and Wellbeing. Here, the Clyde Gateway Urban Regeneration Company has worked closely with South Lanarkshire District and Glasgow City Councils, the Forestry Commission and local communities to deliver a country park right alongside the East End of Glasgow.

The park stands on what was wasteland – literally, in that the ground is filled with rubble (and worse) overspilling from the city. Masonry blocks come to the surface and are reused as sculptural features. A new footbridge over the Clyde links the former Commonwealth Games athletes village, now converted to homes for the local community, to the footpaths, riverside boardwalks and open spaces of the park.

Whilst holding firm to a vision of a place that could improve health and wellbeing, Clyde Gateway planners have shown that adaptivity is an important part of the planners’ toolkit. The park continues to develop, with new features planned and exploration for ground-source heat underway in a corner of the site.

Dundee Waterfront

Finally, all credit for the award-winning Dundee Waterfront development lies firmly with the planners and councillors of the City Council, who have worked hard to instil belief and confidence in the reshaping of this former industrial area. The use of digital technology has been at the heart of public engagement over the masterplan and proposals.

The exciting new building of the V&A Dundee provides an inspiring centrepiece to new public realm and there is huge optimism that new hotels and offices are on their way to complete this important regeneration project.

Planning lies front and centre in each of the impressive RTPI award-winning schemes, demonstrating yet again the vision, leadership, community engagement, determination and adaptability of our important profession.

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