RTPI: Scotland’s planning departments in ‘precarious’ position

A steep decline in resourcing for Scottish planning authorities over the last decade has left the profession in a precarious position, new research by Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Scotland has concluded.

RTPI: Scotland's planning departments in ‘precarious’ position

The research found that gross expenditure on planning departments in Scotland has been cut in real terms by 42% since 2009.

RTPI Scotland’s Resourcing the Planning Service: Key Trends and Findings 2021 also uncovered a 32% staffing reduction in local authority planning departments over the last ten years.

RTPI Scotland convenor Barbara Cummins said: “We are extremely concerned by these findings which demonstrate the impact of continued budget cuts on planning services in Scotland.

“We find ourselves at a critical moment. With planning playing a central role in supporting a green and economic recovery post-COVID, the system must be resourced effectively.

“The diminishing resource base for the planning profession must also be seen in terms of the increasing and unfunded duties resulting from the Planning (Scotland) Act. These new duties could cost between £12.1m and £59.1m to implement.

“There are also major demographic and succession challenges regarding the workforce pipeline, with less than 10% of staff in planning authorities now under 30 and a shortage of newcomers into the profession. An additional 700 new planners will be needed over the next 10 to 15 years to help reach net zero carbon targets.”

Among its recommendations, the research calls for the provision of emergency grants to support planning departments that are handling a surge of householder applications as a result of the pandemic.

The implementation of new digital platforms and initiatives could result in savings of more than £20m as the Planning Act is implemented, it added.

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