Planning process criticised for being ‘four times’ over target

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Major planning applications are taking almost four times longer than they should, acting as a “drag on economic recovery”, new figures show.

Applications took an average of 62 weeks to get a green light, according to planning performance statistics covering the year to end of March released by the Scottish Government. Local authorities throughout Scotland currently have a target to determine major applications within a period of four months.

Only two Scottish local authorities – East Dunbartonshire and Stirling – recorded an average time period below four months for the determination of major planning applications, the figures show.

There were seven waste management projects in the period which took an average of 87.4 weeks to move through the system while 104 large housing projects took an average of 74.8 weeks.

Michael Levack, executive director of the Scottish Building Federation (SBF), said: “We fully recognise the significant workload and financial pressures councils are currently facing. But a system where the average major planning application is taking more than a year to determine is a real cause for concern. It acts as a major drag on delivering the large-scale industrial, commercial and housing developments our industry and the Scottish economy need to build a long-term recovery.

Grahame Barn, the director of the Federation of master Builders (FMB) Scotland said the figures were “disappointing”.

He added: “We must reduce the red tape surrounding the planning process, establish stronger deadlines, and give businesses the certainty they need to plan for the future.”.

A spokeswoman for Scottish Government said that there has been evidence of progress in the number of applications meeting targets but admitted “performance remains too variable”.

She added: “This government recognises that an efficient and responsive planning system is essential if we are to maximise opportunities for new investment and jobs across Scotland. We welcome progress made…but we know more can be done.”