Planning performance has ‘major room for improvement’, says SBF

Vaughan Hart
Vaughan Hart

Decision times for major planning developments need to improve to prevent hampering economic development, the Scottish Building Federation (SBF) has warned.

The SBF was commenting on the latest annual planning performance statistics for Scotland’s 34 planning authorities, which show the average decision time for major planning applications was 36.6 weeks in 2014/15, 2 weeks slower than in 2013/14.

Released last week by Scotland’s Chief Statistician, annual and quarterly planning performance figures, found that the average decision time for decisions such as household extensions, smaller housing and retail developments, as well as various other types of local developments in 2014/15 was 10.1 weeks, 3 days quicker than the average of 10.6 weeks in the previous year.

Improvements have been seen across all categories of local developments, except for minerals and fish farming developments. Local housing developments have seen average times improve by 5 days to 14.5 weeks. A total of 22 out of 34 planning authorities have reported year-on-year improvements in their local development average decision times.

However, when dealing with developments of 50 or more homes, certain waste, water, transport and energy-related developments as well as larger retail developments, decision times in 2014/15 were 36.6 weeks on average, 2 weeks slower than the average of 34.6 weeks in the previous year.

The change has been driven by increases in average decision times for business & industry, minerals and ‘other’ developments. In contrast, major housing developments have seen average times improve by 4 days to 41.3 weeks. There have also been improvements for electricity generation and waste management developments.

In total, 9 planning authorities were able to meet the 16 week average target for major planning decisions, up from five in the previous year. The worst performing authority was Falkirk which took an average 132.4 weeks to determine major planning applications. Orkney was the best performing authority, taking an average 7 weeks. Orkney was joined by Argyll and Bute, Clackmannanshire, Dundee, Inverclyde, Loch Lomond, Moray, North Ayrshire and Renfrewshire in meeting the 16 week target.

SBF managing director Vaughan Hart said: “These latest figures suggest there is still major room for improvement in the time taken by Scotland’s 34 planning authorities to determine major planning applications. At the same time, it’s encouraging that the number of authorities meeting the 16 week determination target has risen from five to nine this year.

“Failure to take a decision on major developments without delay can be a real obstacle to economic development. The longer these projects remain stuck in planning, the more difficult it is to maintain a pipeline of new work for the construction sector. Efforts need to be redoubled to streamline the planning process and to give planning departments the necessary resources to make quicker decisions.”

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