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As part of our training programme to community groups, PAS was commissioned by Disability Equality Scotland to deliver a series of workshops about the Scottish planning system for Access Panels. The wider aim was to facilitate Access Panels to be an influential voice within the planning system, and to develop “action plans” for their effective involvement.

Disability Equality Scotland (DES) is a national membership organisation for disabled people and disability groups/organisations. Their mission is to make Scotland fully accessible by promoting access in the widest sense, not only to the built and natural environment but also to inclusive communication, access to information and involvement in relevant decision-making. Access Panels are groups of volunteers who work together to improve physical access and wider social inclusion in their local communities,supported by DES.

The project was led by David Wood (PAS Planning and Policy Manager), who liaised with DES to develop an interactive and relaxed training programme where all participants would feel welcomed and comfortable to get involved. Each workshop began with lunch for trainers and participants. The four workshops took place in September and October in Leverburgh, Inverness, Dundee and Kilmarnock, and were delivered by PAS staff and volunteers.

Feedback indicated that participants found learning about the planning system beneficial and felt better able to become involved. It was felt that Access Panels have a distinct voice to add (which could be heard more strongly). Ideally local planning departments and developers should recognise the importance of consulting Access Panels on relevant matters – planning policy and on relevant individual planning proposals. It was also identified that communication about and between Access Panels is key and that understanding related but non-planning matters,especially building regulations, is very important

It is interesting to note that an amendment has been accepted at stage 2 of the Planning (Scotland) Bill to ensure that Access Panels are consulted in the preparation of Local Development Plans.

“Disability Equality Scotland has been the umbrella body for the Access Panel Network for over 16 years and we regularly seek to update the skills and knowledge of the Access Panels. The training we received from PAS was thorough, insightful and above all useful. As part of their remit, Access Panels have to review planning applications and the training that PAS delivered will mean that the ones who took part will be able to feed back on applications and take an active role in their community. I couldn’t be happier with the level of expertise and professionalism show by the staff and volunteers and I am looking forward to working with PAS in the future.”

Ian Buchannan, Access Engagement Officer – DES

Participant quotes

  • Although my concept of planning was a of a complex process, when broken down into bite-size pieces I have a better understanding
  • Highlighted close relationship between accessibility and planning process

For further information about this project contact David Wood: david@pas.org.uk