News  |  Posted October 4, 2023

Celebrating 30 Years of Planning Aid Scotland

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Planning Aid Scotland, an educational charity and social enterprise helping people across Scotland to navigate the planning system and shape the future of their communities.

To celebrate this milestone, MSP for Lothian, Sarah Boyack, this week lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating Planning Aid Scotland on its work and the invaluable contribution of its network of several hundred specialist volunteers (chartered planners). The motion recognised Planning Aid Scotland’s commitment to promoting inclusive participation, supporting communities as leaders for their own place, and addressing climate change through the planning system.

In response, Joe FitzPatrick, Minister for Local Government Empowerment and Planning, also highlighted Planning Aid Scotland’s contributions over the last 30 years:

“Planning Aid Scotland has provided a vital service to people and communities throughout Scotland over the last 30 years, helping to make the planning system more accessible to everyone. This includes people from a wide range of backgrounds who recognise the importance of planning and their places in supporting their quality of life.

Planning Aid Scotland’s approach to providing free, impartial and trusted advice is a shining example of the power of volunteering, demonstrating the benefits that can be achieved when we work together to share experience and expertise. The organisation reflects the willingness and commitment of Scotland’s planning profession to support individuals and communities to better navigate the planning system. The Scottish Government has been pleased to support their efforts over the last 30 years.”

“I warmly congratulate and thank the team and the many volunteers who have contributed their time and effort to make a difference to so many people over the last 30 years.”

Planning Aid services first emerged in the United Kingdom in the late 1960-70s at a time when major town centre redevelopments and road building projects took place with minimal public consultation. With individuals and communities feeling increasingly disenfranchised from the planning system and protest groups calling for local people to have more say in the development of their areas, the Skeffington Report (1969) was the first formal recognition of the need for public participation in the planning system.

By 1978 there were volunteer Planning Aid groups established in Scotland by planners in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. These volunteers provided a helpline for members of the public who often needed urgent guidance on how to comment on a planning application.

By 1992, with only the Edinburgh and Glasgow branches still operating, the remaining volunteers decided to establish one organisation, Planning Aid for Scotland, with the aim of offering not only a Scotland-wide planning advice service, but also to expand into education and outreach work for community groups.

Planning Aid Scotland was formally founded in 1993 and has gone on to help members of the public in urban, rural and island communities across Scotland – providing a free and accessible Advice Service, supporting community-led plans and regeneration in marginalised communities, and helping local planning authorities to deliver more inclusive community engagement.

John Bury, Chair of the Board:

“We have come a long way from our early days, but our core values of integrity, impartiality, collaboration, participation, and inclusion have always remained at the forefront of our work. I am proud to be part of an organisation that has worked tirelessly to make sure communities are at the heart of decisions made about their places.”

“2023 marks a special year for us and I look forward both to celebrating the success of Planning Aid Scotland and to the future, as we continue to make a significant impact. Working towards more inclusive participation, we will remain focused on making the planning system more accessible to all.”

Looking to the future, Planning Aid Scotland is proud to support a planning system that is responsive to the needs of Scotland’s communities, helping them respond to new challenges like the climate emergency by providing advice on environmental issues such as climate adaptation and renewables, as part of the journey towards net zero.

Johanna Boyd, Chief Executive:

“Planning Aid Scotland remains a volunteer-led organisation, supported by a network of hundreds of planning professionals. From our first year with only 30 registered volunteers, we now have around 400 professionals supporting our Advice Service to help individuals and communities around Scotland navigate planning issues.”

“Our volunteers have truly been the key to our success, and I would like to warmly thank all our volunteers who have contributed not only their time, but also their expertise, over the years.”

To mark this anniversary year, Planning Aid Scotland has launched new branding – updating the logo and feel of the organisation whilst remaining connected to its rich history. Over the course of the next year, the organisation plans to host a series of events to mark the occasion including an exhibition in the Scottish Parliament in 2024.

If you would like support around planning issues, you can contact Planning Aid Scotland’s free Advice Service.