Two-month statutory target to turnaround planning applications routinely breached in Scotland

SCN readers have reported that the two-month statutory target for dealing with planning applications is totally ignored by Scotland’s increasingly invisible planners directly leading to job losses in construction.

Respondents to our survey on Scotland’s planning system found that 96.3% of the country’s architects, housebuilders, developers and planning consultants believed that their businesses had suffered because of local authority planning delays, with the same percentage stating that the delays have increased since the Covid pandemic.

Almost all of the respondents (99.3%) do not believe that the situation will improve.

Sharing their experiences with SCN, the construction companies warned that the delays are having a direct impact on their businesses.

One leading housebuilder reveals: “The planning delays are impacting our business and affecting employment. We have been waiting on planning consent for a 57-house development for two years and a 54-house development for 20 months. Our local planning department took four months to respond to information submitted to discharge our planning conditions on a 14-plot site.

“One of the conditions was that we could not commence work until a Section 75 was signed and registered. It took a further four months for their legal department to provide the standard Section 75. It has now been a further month and I haven’t heard if it’s been signed or registered. This greatly impacted us starting work on site.”

Another exasperated reader points out: “There are 56,000 components in a new home. It should take four months to build a home from start to completion. Why then does it take the planning departments as long as up to 18 months to consider and then approve a planning application? It is ridiculous that this process takes four times the amount of time it takes to build a home – especially when the building industry contributes 6% to the GDP and can provide jobs/training and secure employment.”

A planning consultant reports: “A proactive and engaged planning officer is essential - too many are under large workload pressures, with low morale from constantly restructuring of teams due to council cuts. There is little to incentivise planning officers to engage with developers fully during planning applications and the process has become more ‘tick box’ rather than judgement and balance.”

He added: “Pre-application enquiry applications can take between 6-8 months in some cases, with registration of planning applications taking a further 4-6 weeks in our experience. The two processes together take longer than the statutory timescale for a decision! Local applications are taking circa nine months and the major applications are well over 12 months, and in some cases three years! Lack of engagement to sit around a table and discuss proposals and conflicting policies / potential solutions is a major factor in these protracted processes and interminable delays.”

A housebuilder relates his frustrating experience: “We have submitted an application for the first phase of a 250-house zoned site. The application was submitted in early 2022 and has still not been determined. The planning officer concerned is seeking alterations to the submitted layout on landscape grounds which we believe are completely unjustified. Unless we agree to the alteration we have been told the application will be refused.

“This is extremely frustrating as the officer has confirmed they have still not even visited the application site and, as they are all still working from home, officers are not meeting applicants. This is symptomatic of the general apathy within planning departments and makes a complete mockery of the term ‘public servant’.”

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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