Home builders oppose fee rise for ‘disastrously slow’ planning system

Tammy Adams
Tammy Adams

Home building industry body Homes for Scotland has opposed proposals by the Scottish Government to increase the maximum fee level for planning applications.

Holyrood is currently consulting in relation to fees and resources for major planning applications in Scotland in which it suggests an increase to fees to £125,000.

Responding to the official consultation, Tammy Adams, director of planning at Homes for Scotland, said there is no proposal to ring-fence the extra income and no mechanism to guarantee that the performance of the system improves.

Ms Adams added: “We do not object to the principle of reviewing and increasing fees but in recent months the average decision time for major housing applications has been 48.5 weeks – more than three times the statutory period of 16 weeks. This is disastrously slow and does not include the likes of negotiating Section 75 Agreements or road construction consents.

“The slowness of Scotland’s planning system works against the common goal of all those who want to increase the delivery of much-needed new homes. Indeed, our members tell us it has never been harder to get homes out of the ground.

“As no evidence has been provided to suggest the planning fee is the root cause of poor performance, or that the increase now proposed will guarantee a material improvement to applicants, we cannot support the measures currently being put forward.

“Homes for Scotland is ready and willing to engage positively with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders on how a stronger and more supportable package of measures can be put together to improve planning performance and justify a review of planning fees. We will therefore be requesting a meeting with officials and Ministers as soon as this consultation closes.”

Describing the consultation as a major turning point for local authority planning services around the country, the Scottish Property Federation (SPF) said it supports an increases in planning fees if it can lead to a more streamlined, effective and efficient planning service in Scotland.

David Melhuish, director of the real estate industry body, said: “The public and private sectors have both been very clear about the need for more resourcing in local authority planning departments. We see the Scottish Government’s proposals to significantly increase fees and resources for major planning applications in Scotland as a major turning point to deliver a better planning service - if used wisely.

“SPF members have previously indicated a willingness to pay a higher planning fee, for a tangible improvement in performance by planning authorities.  However, it is important that Scotland continues to remain competitive and these significantly increased planning fees must be used to deliver the critical improvements required in the planning service, such as an improvement in the speed and manner that major applications are deal with.

“Developers are already required to pay substantial sums far in excess of the planning fee for a range of technical reports and assessments. For a major development these costs can easily run into hundreds of thousands of pounds and are all prepared at risk to the private sector applicant, without any guarantee of a development being approved. It is important that we work with government to create a system which is not viewed by developers as prohibitive to development.

“We continue to work with the government to explore how other interventions can create a planning system to work in the interests of not just Scotland’s real estate sector, but also the communities across the country who rely on our industry to deliver jobs, investment and homes.”

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