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Improvement in planning not sustainable if cuts deepen, says RTPI Scotland

Words: Laura Edgar
Scotland / iStock

There has been a “significant decrease” in resources in the planning service, says an RTPI Scotland report.

The report, Progressing Performance: Investing in Scotland’s Planning Service outlines that there has been almost a 20 per cent decrease in planning department staff in Scotland since 2010 while gross expenditure in planning authorities will have dropped by £40 million between 2010/11 and 2015/16.

Progressing Performance also highlights that the cost of processing applications is not met by fees, with an average of 63 per cent of costs covered. But the report found that despite this loss, average processing times for local planning applications have shortened by a week since 2013.

In response to its findings, the report makes several recommendations, including:

  • Investment in the planning system in “inadequate” and therefore “innovative income generating strategies” should be explored to cover costs;

  • Improving planning performance should remain a priority; and

  • Existing processes and procedures should be decluttered while planning authorities across Scotland need support in the continuing assessment of how their services are delivered to adapt to a changing resource context.

Pam Ewen, convenor of RTPI Scotland, said: “Planning is a vital player in supporting sustainable growth across Scotland. This is especially true in helping to stimulate and deliver new, quality housing at a time when it is needed most. Our report shows that we have seen planning authorities across Scotland being innovative and improving the quality of their service, despite significant resourcing issues.

“However, if we want continued progress we need to explore how to maximise investment in the planning service from the Scottish Government, local authorities and developers. This research, I am sure, will provide valuable information to the new review of the planning system.”