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Neil defends Holyrood's record

Ministers accused of ‘depressing’ delays in planning decisions

Alex NeilProperty experts have launched a scathing attack on the Scottish government over the pace of planning decisions.

They have accused Holyrood of overseeing a “significant fall” in the number of commercial developments approved in the last three months.

Other figures showing that the time taken to decide major housing developments has increased by six weeks to over 41 weeks have been branded “depressing”.

The Scottish Property Federation (SPF) say the pace of commercial development is “disappointing” at this point in the economic recovery and believes more projects should be under way. Just six were decided in the quarter, compared to ten in the previous three months.

The SPF is also concerned by a major increase in the time taken to decide applications and has accused local authorities of “stopping the clock”.

The SPF has urged government to recognise that further improvement is needed in this area and suggests that local authorities consider outsourcing more of this work.

SPF Director David Melhuish said: “Major development is a long and risky process and it is important that we have the right leadership in both the private and public sector as well as robust processes within planning authorities to deliver decisions quickly, properly and effectively in order to provide certainty to investors and communities alike.

“It is important that all aspects of the planning system – the private sector, public agencies and planning authorities – realise this challenge.  Otherwise, we risk losing the potential to attract major investment in our built environment across Scotland.”

Homes for Scotland is calling for a new approach to help address the country’s housing crisis. The organisation’s director of planning Allan Lundmark said: “These figures demonstrate that insufficient priority and resource are being allocated to the delivery of new homes at local authority level and highlight a system which falls far short of the standards of customer service, speed and efficiency that Scotland needs if we are to build more homes and stimulate economic growth.

“It is all the more frustrating given the recent increase in planning fees of more than twice the rate of inflation.

“It is hugely disappointing that after so many years of positive industry engagement and supposed planning reform, we are still battling the same old challenges and fighting for a system which encourages and facilitates housing investment rather than one which frustrates and delays it.

 “The only way to get the increase in housing supply that Scotland so desperately needs is for local authorities to work in partnership with the industry and for national government to use the powers it has at its disposal to step in where intervention is required.

Planning minister Alex Neil defended the government’s record. He said: “Effective planning is crucial to promoting strong, sustainable economic growth. We need to facilitate new developments and invest in modern infrastructure, while maintaining and creating great places to live and work.

“So I am determined to enhance the reputation of our planning service by quickening momentum on planning performance and driving further improvement.”

He said the statistics, released yesterday, show major developments are being processed more quickly than last year, and sustained good progress on local housing applications and local developments.

“Planning is about getting the right developments in the right place, and a consistently high approval rate shows authorities are working closely with applicants to meet that aim.

“There is however inconsistency across the country and it’s clear that those authorities with longer timescales are impacting on the averages. I have written to every planning authority to give my comments on all aspects of their performance in the last year, and I will continue to monitor the planning statistics closely.”

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