Better service demanded
Ringfence demanded around new planning fees
Call for process to be more efficient
The home building industry is opposing Scottish Government proposals to increase fees for planning applications as there is no proposal to ring-fence the extra income and no mechanism to guarantee that the performance of the system improves.
Its opposition marks a slight divergence from the views expressed yesterday by the Scottish Property Federation which offered support for price rises on condition that the system improves.
Homes for Scotland wants a greater commitment to that objective. Tammy Adams, director, said: “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.”
Real estate companies welcomed the rise in fees and resources for major planning applications – but only on condition that the system becomes more efficient.
The SPF described the proposed changes as a “major turning point” for local authority planning services if it speeds up the process.
SPF director David Melhuish 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.”
He said 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,” he said.
“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.”