Mixed sector response to decrease in planning decision times

Mandy Catterall
Mandy Catterall

Annual planning decision time statistics published by the Scottish Government have been met with a mixed reaction by the Scottish Property Federation (SPF) and Homes for Scotland (HFS).

Revealed yesterday, the figures showed that the average time for a planning decision to be made on major developments has fallen by 17 per cent on the previous year.

The average decision time for major developments in 2015-16 reduced by more than six weeks on the previous year, while major housing development decisions are now almost two weeks faster than in 2013-14, having moved from 41.3 weeks to 40.0 weeks.

Decisions made on local housing applications also reduced by almost a week compared to the previous year.

However, fewer planning applications have been decided overall, and there has been a 10 per cent drop in major applications since 2014/15.

The SPF said this fall is “very worrying”.

Mandy Catterall, government relations manager at the Scottish Property Federation, said: “It is very welcome that major planning applications are being decided more quickly. An efficient planning system is crucial in assuring investors that Scotland is open for business at a time when the priority in Scotland must remain growing the economy and working with international investors to secure appropriate new investment and development.

“The drop in major applications is, however, very worrying. We need to continue to improve how we work together if we are to sustain economic growth and investment, which is more important than ever in this period of uncertainty. Our industry has the potential to strengthen the economy, renew the built environment investment, and deliver more homes.”

Industry body Homes for Scotland said the improved planning performance must be built on in order to increase housing supply.

Tammy Adams
Tammy Adams

Head of planning Tammy Adams said: “These statistics provide a useful barometer on the overall performance of local planning authorities in terms of how long they are taking to issue decisions on planning applications. But these headline figures can only tell us so much.

“The fact remains that our members continue to experience frustrating delays to planning decisions across Scotland and HFS therefore echoes the Minister’s view that more needs to be done on improving performance.

“It is crucial that this is looked at across the piece. Section 75 negotiations (on what developer contributions are required) can double the amount of time it takes to issue a decision. Once a decision has been issued, the delivery of much-needed new homes can be further delayed as developers await yet more decisions relating to planning conditions. And, at present, if permission is refused or decisions are not forthcoming, the appeal system is struggling to cope with the current volume of cases.

“The on-going review of the planning system provides an opportunity to address these and other key issues in order to create circumstances which better support an increase in housing delivery across all tenures. HFS remains committed to playing a positive and full part in that work.”

Planning Minister Kevin Stewart had welcomed the statistics, but said more must be done to improve planning performance.

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