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Holyrood bill cuts planning fees for under performing councils

Derek Mackay
Under-performing Scottish councils will have their planning fees cut under new legislation.


Section 41 of the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Bill will allow ministers to reduce planning fees in circumstances where they are “satisfied that the functions of the authority are not being, or have not been, performed satisfactorily”.
A new performance framework for planners developed by Heads of Planning Scotland and the Convention of Local Scottish Authorities will implement the “detailed practical arrangements” that Scotland’s planning minister Derek Mackay (pictured) considers “necessary to incentivise performance development”.
The “high-level” group has identified a set of 15 performance markers that “reflect key areas of essential good performance and service quality across the planning service”.
“They are the aspects of good performance and service quality that I expect to see implemented consistently across Scotland,” said Mackay. “Too often, performance has been far too variable.”
He said that section 41 of the bill would “improve behaviour and outcomes, and there should be no loss of income if planning authorities step up to the plate as I believe they will”. 
But Labour MSP Margaret McDougall warned that the section would “potentially give the Scottish ministers too much control over the planning process”. 
McDougall said: “No safeguards exist in the bill itself. There is nothing to ensure that all reasonable steps will be taken to improve the performance of the planning authority, and there is no function in the bill to provide proper parliamentary scrutiny of any proposed variation in fees.”
The proposals are part of a range of measures to help planning boost economic growth by removing unnecessary obstacles to delivering projects. These include reviewing planning agreements and obligations, and a consultation on innovative approaches to delivering development.
Proposals to reform the fee system will also address Audit Scotland’s concerns, raised in its report Modernising the Planning System, that the funding model for the planning system is “becoming unsustainable as the gap between fees and expenditure increases”.