"Ensuring that all places have the opportunity to prosper is an important aspect of achieving what is called "inclusive growth" Naomi Eisenstadt CB
Good infrastructure planning can accomplish more than just blue ribbon projects – it helps to make the most of the surrounding opportunities that these projects create. Because planners are trained to think about the bigger picture – the economic, environmental and social challenges which places face – they can help ensure that new infrastructure is well integrated and helps to support sustainable development.
The Borders Railway, the UK's longest newly-constructed railway for more than 100 years, has shown how investment in rail infrastructure can yield benefit for travellers, the environment, the economy and communities (A Plan For Scotland: The Scottish Government's Programme For Scotland 2016-17).
This renewed connection between Edinburgh, Midlothian and the Scottish Borders has brought many benefits. Good planning practice around the reopening of the Borders Railway line has seen new development sites and economic opportunities unlocked.
The line has allowed businesses to grow, with 200 permanent new jobs created by a single IT firm, CGI, with the new connection central to their ability to flourish. New master planning at Tweedbank has set out a transformational vision for continued investment and innovation, helping to ensure that provision of employment space meets growing demand.
The Scottish Borders has also seen a significant rise in visitor numbers, leading to an 8% increase in tourism employment. In turn, the railway has helped to create new attractions, with Galashiels due to become home to a new showcase for the Tapestry of Scotland.
This kind of new development does not simply 'fall into place' – long-term visions have to be conceptualised, with key opportunities identified and actively pursued. This is exactly what planners can offer: ensuring that infrastructure projects play their full role in creating great new places. Places are never finished, and neither is planning: it should be counted upon to deliver the benefits to communities which are associated with new projects.
The proposed extension of Borders Railway to Carlisle could see its wider benefits reach even further.
We are asking MSPs to make sure that the Planning Bill requires neighbouring local authorities, working together in Regional Planning Partnerships, to join up their approaches to planning, infrastructure and economic development.