An architect writes on Scotland’s planning crisis

An architect writes on Scotland's planning crisis

Following the release of SCN’s survey results on planning delays and the resulting impact on companies in Scotland’s construction sector, an architecture practice has reached out to SCN in confidence to share its experience.

Our company, a Chartered Architect practice, has suffered because of local planning delays as we have had to spend much more time on getting decisions made.

During this time we are being asked for status updates from our clients, constantly chasing local authorities for decisions and all of this is causing much more time spent on projects.

However, this is a small ‘suffering’ compared with our clients who have had to stall projects, experience rising cost of materials while they ‘wait’, miss out on agreed contracts, lay staff off, and re-organise their businesses and programmes.

We have seen pretty much every planning application take longer across numerous local authorities since the pandemic. Everyone else has returned to work and kept their businesses going but these delays from planning have a direct knock-on effect on the whole construction industry.

We see the major cause of the problem being that the council staff are all still working from home, have no or little communication from their teams, no direct supervision from their team leaders and no sense of urgency.

We do realise this is a generalisation and as always there are exceptions to the rules where there are lots of hard-working planning officers who are doing their best. But in general it is nowhere near good enough. The crazy stat is that most local authorities have fewer applications to determine post-covid but ALL of them are taking longer.

We had one recent planning approval that took 13 months to determine (11 months longer than the statutory target). We also had a re-application for a change of house type (original house already had full planning approval) that took 3-4 months longer than the original house application!

The main line we seem to be getting told by the local authorities is that they are understaffed, cannot recruit successfully, people are leaving the industry. Some of these we have seen first-hand and we can sympathise, but if this is the case Scotland-wide then this needs to be addressed at government level.

SCN is still keen to hear your experiences of Scotland’s planning system. Please send any correspondence, in confidence, to SCN editor Kieran Findlay via

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