Earlier this month the Scottish Government published its latest Performance Statistics on Planning Decision Making and Timescales for Q1 (April – June 2016). The statistics are based on data collected by the Scottish Government from Local Planning Authorities as part of the Planning Performance Framework introduced in 2012.
They paint a very mixed picture with some improvement in the determination period for local developments, but a worrying decline in the time taken to determine major applications.
There were 7,329 applications for local developments determined in Q1, 14% more than in the previous Quarter, but 5% fewer than determined in Q1 of 2015/16.
The average decision time for these applications was 8.9 weeks, better than the 10.3 weeks of the previous Quarter and the quickest average decision time since the start of data collection in Q1 of 2012/13.
For major developments, there were 61 applications determined in Q1, 6% less than in the previous Quarter and 12% less than in Q1 of 2015/16. The average decision time for these applications was 39.3 weeks, 13 weeks slower than the previous Quarter and more than five weeks slower compared to Q1 of last year.
The figures for major applications are distorted to some degree by the fact that 13 of the 61 major applications had a decision time in excess of a year. Nevertheless, it begs the question why there is such a delay in determining certain applications and why there has been a marked decline in performance.
Applications, either for local or major development, that are subject to a Processing Agreement, are not included in the average time calculations.
In this Quarter, 215 local development applications were determined with almost 80% meeting the agreed timescales that had been set between Developers and Local Authorities. However for the 30 major applications, only 50% met the agreed timescales.
Whilst improvements in the time taken to determine local applications are to be welcomed, it is a concern for the development industry that there has been a significant increase in the time taken to determine major applications. This is a concern shared by the Planning Minsters as expressed in a recent meeting and Officers have been instructed to determine the reasons for the decline and to seek improvement in performance. The outcome is awaited with interest.