SCOTLAND’S planning authorities are lacking resources because the issue is not seen as a vote winner, a senior property industry figure has warned.
The Scottish Government has unveiled plans to increase planning application fees in return for an improved service, but Andrew McNab, senior planner at Colliers, said local authorities do not have the resources to carry out enough pre-application discussions, which leads to poorer applications being submitted.
“That leads to applications taking longer to be determined, and it becomes a cyclical issue,” he added.
“It’s an issue for heads of planning and local authorities. Planning isn’t a vote winner, and they don’t put the required money into planning departments to assist them.”
Official figures showed the percentage of all major applications approved within four months fell to 29.9 per cent in 2011-12, down from 33.6 per cent the previous year.
According to Audit Scotland, there was a 7 per cent reduction in the number of planning staff between July 2008 and July 2010.
A spokesman for Cosla, the body that represents Scotland’s local authorities, said councils “actively encourage” those applying for planning permission to enter into pre-application talks, but the current level of fees does not reflect the amount of work involved in the process.
Under the current regime, a retail and leisure development of 10,000sqm would attract an average application fee of £15,950, but this could more than treble to £73,000 if the Scottish Government’s plans are adopted.
Property agency Jones Lang LaSalle estimates that revisions to the regulations would, in some cases, increase the maximum fee to £100,000.
Colliers has not seen an improvement in local authority performance in England, where fees for large developments can hit £250,000.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “A high-performing planning system needs to be properly resourced. That is why we launched a consultation on reforming planning fees. The changes are being proposed to ensure fees associated with processing planning applications reflect more closely the resource required to provide an effective service.”
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