SPF calls for support for planning authorities to deliver economic transformation

Following the publication of the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation, the Scottish Property Federation (SPF) has called for additional resources for the planning system to support economic recovery from the pandemic.

SPF calls for support for planning authorities to deliver economic transformation

Kevin Robertson

The real estate membership body said it is concerned that a lack of resourcing within the planning system is leading to delays in processing applications. This, in turn, is having a series of knock-on consequences for projects reaching the construction phase and the delivery of much needed new residential and commercial buildings.

While this is not a new issue, the SPF said it has been further compounded by the COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 and 2021, and the additional burdens placed on the planning system by the 2019 planning reforms. These reforms placed 49 new requirements on local authorities, amounting to up to £59m of additional demand on the planning service, which has not been funded by the Scottish Government. 

Giving evidence to MSPs from the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Public Administration Committee on the Resource Spending Review Framework this week, SPF director David Melhuish highlighted the need to ensure that Scotland’s built environment is put in a better position to support Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic, boost employment and meet its net-zero ambitions. He raised the planning system as a key driver of growth and urged MSPs to support greater resourcing for stretched planning departments.

SPF chair Kevin Robertson said: “The Scottish Parliament voted for a major system of reforms to our planning services but did not support these new requirements with the resources necessary to deliver them. As we go through a period of economic transformation, we cannot lose sight of the planning system’s critical role in attracting investment and meeting the challenge of decarbonising our built environment.

“As a developer, we work closely with planning authorities to bring forward productive proposals to support our economy and wider built environment. But we see a planning service struggling to cope with repeatedly cut budgets and ever-increasing regulatory demands.

“Planning fees have recently been increased to better resource the planning service, and the SPF has always said that we would support increased fees for a better service. But this can only ever be part of the answer. We feel that if new burdens are placed on the planning service, then these demands should come with the resource necessary to deliver a modern, proactive planning service that can grasp the opportunities out there.”

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