The majority of Scots feel they have no say over changes in their local landscape, according to new figures.
Research by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) revealed that 72 per cent of participants said they had “no influence” on how their local landscapes are managed, including the construction of wind farms.
The Land We Love report, published today, contains findings gathered through surveys of 700 NTS members, around 1,000 members of the public and the attendees of a major landscape conference last November.
The results come just a few weeks after the NTS, plus other groups concerned with conservation, wild land and access to the countryside, highlighted serious concerns about whether wild land will receive sufficient protection under the draft Scottish Planning Policy and National Planning Framework.
Diarmid Hearns, NTS’s head of policy, said: “It is concerning that far too many people feel powerless when it comes to influencing local landscape developments – the planning system seems to be a complete mystery to them and they have no idea how to make their voices heard.”
The research also found that a connection between wealth and perceived influence over local planning issues, with 46 per cent of the wealthiest groups feeling they had some influence, compared to just 16 per cent among the least wealthy group.
Industrial development, pylons and neglect were the development issues of most concern to those surveyed from outwith the NTS. Trust members were most concerned by pylons, onshore wind farms and industrial development.
John Mayhew, director of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, said: “We get calls on a regular basis from our members and from others seeking basic advice on how the planning system works. Often they don’t get involved in the planning system until there is a proposed development right next to them.”
Mr Mayhew said the current system could be improved by introducing a third-party right of appeal, which would allow objectors another chance if their concerns were ignored by a planning authority.
“This would only apply in reasonably large planning applications,” he said. “It might apply to a wind farm … but not if you objected to the size of your neighbour’s conservatory.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We want to see the right developments in the right places. Our guidance to planning authorities includes a requirement for communities to be properly consulted and for all representations to be taken into account.”
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