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Scottish planners fear ‘inevitable’ fall in application fees

Words: Roger Milne
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Scotland’s top local authority planners have warned that the Covid-19 emergency is threatening planning services because fewer applications will inevitably mean less of the fee income on which planning authorities rely.

That is the worrying prognosis voiced in the latest blog from the Heads of Planning Scotland (HOPS) executive.

HOPS will carry out a survey next month to track application numbers and the income for local authorities.

It warns: “As the number of applications will inevitably decrease over the next few months, there will be a knock-on effect in fee income.

"Planning authorities rely on fee income to function so this combined with the postponement of the expected fee increase in June means there may be longer-term effects on the system.

“The HOPS position remains that the planning system needs to be appropriately resourced to function for all parties.”

A survey by the organisation found that planning services have implemented innovative services “across the board”, with most staff still in post and adapting to working from home. It noted that problems with holding planning committees and local review bodies meetings are being addressed by some authorities by moving to online meeting platforms with subsequent recordings made available for public viewing.

“Approximately 33 per cent of planning committees and 20 per cent of local review bodies are being carried out in this manner, with many authorities looking to review the position at a future date,” HOPS reports. Most planning authorities (75 per cent) are currently able to issue neighbour notifications.

The group also highlights examples of good practice in organising public consultation using online tools like Common Place and Social Pinpoint.

HOPS stresses that the emergency had allowed planners time to take stock of how people look at their surroundings.

“Calls for more easily accessible green space, methods of implementing active travel and considerations for public health in planning decisions have all been brought to light. The importance of good design and listening to the needs of communities has never been so important,” it argues.

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