Applications for planning permission are dealt with, in the first instance, by the local planning authority. Each authority works under the general principle that decisions are taken at the most local administrative level, unless there are compelling reasons for taking them at a higher level. It is not the Scottish Government's role or intention to micro-manage planning authority decision-making.
Scottish Ministers have a general power to intervene in the determination of a planning application and only where it appears there may be some matter of genuine national interest at stake. In practice, Ministers will exercise this power very sparingly, recognising and respecting the important role of local authorities in making decisions on the future development of their areas.
Any application for planning submitted to a planning authority should conform to policies contained in the development plan - in other words the adopted local development plan and the approved strategic development plan for the area. A planning authority may, however, grant planning permission in respect of an application which does not accord with the provisions of an adopted local development plan, provided the application has been advertised and consideration has been given to any representations received.
Planning authorities must notify Scottish Ministers if they are minded to grant planning permission, in respect of certain categories of development. These are known as notified applications. Planning Circular 3/2009: Notification of Planning Applications describes this procedure. Ministers also have general powers to require notification or direct call-in of any planning application, but as described above, these powers are used sparingly. Ministers can only intervene before the issuing of the planning authority’s decision letter.
Where an application for development defined in regulations as ‘major’ or ‘national’ is refused by the planning authority, the applicant has a right of appeal to Scottish Ministers. Planning appeals are mainly delegated to a member of the Scottish Government's Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (a reporter) for decision. This is an efficient means of handling appeals that do not raise issues of national importance.
Appeals can be 'recalled' to be determined by the Scottish Ministers themselves. Recall would only be considered where issues raise matters of genuine national concern or where there is a connection with another Ministerial case, for example a Section 36 energy consent. The Scottish Ministers may either accept or reject the reporter's recommendation, and they may either uphold or dismiss the appeal.
A decision on a planning application or an appeal by Ministers (or under delegated powers on their behalf) is final. Parties may, however, seek an appeal to the Court of Session within 6 weeks of the final decision. The Court of Session cannot change a decision but it can quash the decision and force Ministers to reconsider.