Planning application decisions record quickest annual figures
Local developments, which include applications for changes to individual houses and smaller developments for new housing, were decided within 9 weeks on average in 2017/18, over one day quicker than the average of 9.2 weeks in the previous year and the quickest annual figure since the start of this data collection in 2012/13.
Local housing applications were decided in an average of 12.2 weeks, three and a half days quicker than the previous year (12.7 weeks).
A total of 19 out of 34 planning authorities have reported improvements in their average decision times for local developments in 2017/18 compared to 2016/17.
Major development decisions, including applications for 50 or more homes, as well as certain waste, water, transport and energy-related developments, larger retail developments, and other developments, were also quicker in 2017/18.
The average decision time for major developments (238 applications) in 2017/18 was 33.6 weeks, almost three weeks quicker than the average of 36.4 weeks in the previous year. Major housing applications were decided in an average of 38.2 weeks, more than five weeks quicker than the previous year (43.4 weeks) and the quickest annual figure since 2012/13.
A total of 17 out of 26 planning authorities with major application decisions in both 2017/18 and 2016/17 have reported improvements in their average decision times for major developments since the previous year.
The number of local development decisions in 2017/18 totalled 26,220, a decrease of 3% (766 applications) from the previous year. This drop was largely due to fewer decisions for householder applications (539 fewer).
The number of major development decisions in 2017/18 totalled 238, a decrease of 3% (8 applications) from 2016/17. There were decreases in other developments, business and industry and electricity generation while decided applications for housing, minerals and waste management increased.
In contrast, the number of applications that were subject to processing agreements increased by 40% from 1,503 in 2016/17 to 2,106 in 2017/18. There were 1,671 local applications (6% of all local applications) and 93 major applications (28% of all major applications) that were subject to processing agreements in 2017/18.
Commenting on the planning service statistics, David Melhuish, director of the Scottish Property Federation, found “cause for concern” in the statistics, particularly given an increase in planning fees.
He said: “For the average time taken to deliver decisions on major developments to have increased significantly in quarter four, despite a continuing fall in the overall number of applications determined, is particularly worrying and we must simply do better.
“Planning fees were increased six-fold last June with major applicants hoping to see an improvement in the planning service. However, the jury is clearly out on whether an improvement in planning performance has been achieved.
“While we recognise that it can take time to put in place the additional resources necessary, it is critical that local authorities use the new planning fees to invest in their planning services. At the moment that improvement is patchy and we must see tangible progress across the board before any further fee increases are contemplated.
“We urge local authorities to see planning as a tool of economic development and to prioritise these additional fees for the management and delivery of major developments.”
He added: “The Planning Bill offers a chance to improve up-front engagement and to streamline the planning process but we cannot afford any further obstacles to investment to be created in the planning system if we are to deliver much needed jobs, investment and economic growth.”