Fundamentally landowners in this country have a right to enjoy their land as they wish, unless there is an overriding reason why they should not. In practice that is tested by requiring owners who propose various kinds of change to make planning applications.

Ill effects on neighbours are only one of many considerations, and this also extends to possible benefits - for example, in addressing wider community needs - must also be taken into account by planning authorities. Many planning matters are therefore by their very nature highly contentious, especially when local preferences and effects are at odds with broader issues. Inherent in the planning system is the recognition of a reasonable return on investment (profit),but this should not be at the expense of the wider community.

In circumstances that can be expected to recur, planning authorities set policies to guide and simplify decision making: Greenbelt policies are among these. However, it is also a fundamental part of the system that policies must be reviewed periodically in the light of circumstances as they change over time Notwithstanding this formal process, any policy can be disregarded (in whole or in part) at any time if circumstances justify it, since fairness (and planning law) dictate that each individual application must be fully evaluated on its own merits.

As Edinburgh has a particularly large shortage of housing at present, relaxing current Greenbelt policies could become normal, and even if an application were refused planning consent by the Council as contrary to policy, an appeal to the Scottish Government would certainly have to take this into consideration.

Individuals and bodies like community councils can make representations to the Council when it is considering a planning application, but it is not generally understood that these will only carry weight if they are relevant in planning terms.

For its part the community council has to operate within a strict remit requiring it to reflect the views of the local community (which it will try to ascertain) - not simply make a judgement in favour of one or another viewpoint. Clearly any individual planning issue may bear much more heavily on one sector of the local community - and the community council should also make that clear in any representations. If it has insufficient evidence to reach clear conclusions or is aware of more than one body of opinion, it should reflect that too.

EACC Note: Planning authorities have development plans to guide growth in their area and the present one covering most of Edinburgh, the Edinburgh City Local Plan, was adopted in 2010.   Its intended replacement covering all of the City is currently undergoing formal examination by Reporters appointed by the Scottish Government with a view to its adoption hopefully in 2016.    For specific types of development the Edinburgh Planning Service has published guidance to help those navigating the planning system, which is accessible online via and, if in doubt as to what you may or may not do, consult the Planning Helpdesk – Waverley Court, 4 East Market Street, Edinburgh EH9 8BG, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., telephone 0131 529 3550.