1. Optimal Economics has been appointed by the Scottish Government – Local Government and Communities Directorate - Planning and Architecture Division (PAD) to undertake an analysis of the responses to the public consultation on Proposed Changes to Pre-Application Consultation (PAC) requirements in planning.
2. The aim of the consultation was to obtain the views and opinions of stakeholders on the proposed changes to the PAC regulations and other matters relating to PAC, including respondents experience of online consultation as a result of COVID-19, timing and transitional arrangements, guidance, PAC with disabled people and impact assessments.
3. The analysis was undertaken in three main stages:
- Stage 1 was a validation of responses to determine that they are relevant to PAC, whether there were any duplicate responses or campaign responses and the development of a typology to reflect the respondents and their relationship to PAC.
- Stage 2 was focused on establishing an appropriate coding framework for the analysis of open-ended questions. Main themes were identified with a further detailed coding of each main theme undertaken to allow responses to be grouped to reflect key issues/views by the typology developed in Stage 1.
- Stage 3 was the analysis of all questions and reporting of results which took account of client feedback at all stages of the reporting process.
4. All responses to the "open" questions have been given an equal weighting, allowing every idea presented to be considered equally. Where possible we have used a number of simple bands to provide an indication of the frequency of an idea, although it is noted that this treats the response from an individual with the same weight as the response from a professional body which may have many members. Nevertheless, the following bands have been used to indicate the frequency with which a point was raised:
- Few: up to 3 responses.
- Several: 4 to 9 responses.
- Many: 10 and over responses.
Overview of Responses
5. The consultation received a total of 109 responses which are shown below by group.
Summary of Responses by Group
- Community Bodies: 3 (2.8%)
- Community Councils: 30 (27.5%)
- Developers: 16 (14.7%)
- Individuals: 22 (20.2%)
- Planning Authorities:17 (15.6%)
- Planning/Other Consultants: 6 (5.5%)
- Public and representative Bodies: 15 (13.8%)
- Total: 109 (100%)
Proposed Changes to PAC Regulations
6. A summary of the responses to the 'closed' questions are shown below.
|Yes||No||No View||Not Answered|
|Q1. Do you agree with the proposal to require PAC information which is to be made available to the public, to be available both by electronic means and in 'hard copy' format?||102||4||2||1|
|Q3. Do you agree with the proposal to make a second physical public event a minimum requirement of PAC?||71||27||7||4|
|Q4. Do you agree that a second physical public event required as part of PAC must include feedback to the public on their earlier engagement in PAC?||85||15||5||4|
|Q5. Do you agree with the proposed minimum time period between the required public events in PAC?||62||30||13||4|
|Q6. Do you agree with the proposed requirement for an additional newspaper notice for the second required public event?||63||33||10||3|
|Q7. Do you agree with the list of required content for PAC reports?||89||9||7||4|
|Q8. Do you agree with the PAC exemption being limited to the same applicant who made the earlier application?||62||36||8||3|
|Q9. Do you agree with the circumstances regarding an earlier application (withdrawn, refused etc.) in which a second application would be able to get exemption from PAC?||54||39||10||6|
|Q10. Do you agree with the approach linking the description of the proposal in the earlier application and that in the second application for the purpose of PAC exemption?||67||29||9||4|
|Q11. Do you agree that the exemption from PAC should be linked to the content of the PAN served in relation to PAC for the earlier application?||68||18||16||7|
|Q12. Do you agree with the proposed time limit on exemptions from PAC?||60||33||13||3|
|Q13. Do you agree with the proposed transitional arrangements for bringing the new PAC arrangements into force?||61||19||24||5|
Provision of Information
7. There was considerable support for the proposal to require PAC information to be made available to the public by both electronic and 'hard copy' means. Community engagement was felt to be most effective when different means were used to reach different audiences, although it was recognised that not everyone is able to access electronic information.
An Additional Public Event
8. There was support for the proposal to make a second physical public event a minimum requirement of PAC across all groups except developers. Those supporting the proposal felt that it would provide an opportunity to see if feedback from the first event has been addressed, provide a second opportunity to attend an event which could increase community engagement and allow members of the public to follow up with the applicant on matters arising from information from the first event.
9. Those not supporting the proposal felt that the second public event should be online rather than a physical event and this could provide scope for wider engagement. A degree of flexibility and discretion was also required on the second event with the context of the proposal, the type of development and the level of interest in the first event being considerations.
Second Event to Include Feedback to the Public on Earlier Engagement
10. There was considerable support for this proposal from all groups except developers. Providing feedback was important to improve the transparency of the process and ensure effective public engagement. It offers an opportunity for the public to hear how the developer intends to address, or not, the issues raised.
11. Those not supporting the proposal felt flexibility was required in the provision of feedback. There can be circumstances when the issues raised at the first event will not be able to be addressed by the time of the second event e.g. when an EIA is required.
Minimum Time Between Events
12. The proposal for there to be a minimum period of seven days between the two public events was generally supported. Some respondents agreed with the seven days but would prefer a longer period. Some of the respondents disagreeing with the seven days also wanted a longer period.
Additional Newspaper Notice
13. There was general support for the proposal for an additional newspaper notice for a second public event across all groups except developers. In the main, the proposal was important to raise awareness of the event. Many supporters of the proposal qualified their support by suggesting a range of channels should be used including local websites, social media and posters in local buildings.
14. Many of the respondents who did not support the proposal questioned the effectiveness of newspaper adverts and suggested alternative methods are used. One notice for both the first and second event may also be sufficient.
Prescribed Content of PAC Reports
15. There was considerable support for the list of required contents for the PAC reports across all groups. Some very specific points were raised but it was felt that the proposed list would provide clarity and consistency in the report. There were also questions raised about the role of the local authority with respect to the reports and whether they would be required to comment on them.
16. Those not supporting the proposals primarily raised points of detail regarding the proposed list.
Who is Making the Application
17. While there was majority support (from community councils and individuals) for the PAC exemption being limited to the same applicant who made the original application, other groups were more evenly split on the proposal and developers did not support it. Transparency and consistency were the reasons cited for restricting the applicant and the potential for a different applicant to have different views on the proposals and PAC.
18. Those respondents not supporting the proposal suggested that exemptions should apply to the land as planning permission runs with land and exemptions should apply to the characteristics of the proposals. It was also suggested that there needs to be flexibility around company names to deal with certain legal/contractual matters.
The Relationship Between the Development in the Earlier and Second Application
19. Opinions were more divided on whether a second application could be exempt if the first had been withdraw, refused, appealed etc. There was overall support, but two groups (individuals and community councils) were firmly opposed to the proposal. While there was support for the proposal some qualifications were identified.
20. Those opposing the proposal felt it prevented the public from having the opportunity to engage with the second application and there would be impacts on transparency and consistency.
The Link Between the Development in the Earlier Application and that in the Second Application
21. The proposal to link the description of the proposed development in the earlier application to that in the second application was supported by all groups except individuals where opinion was evenly split. Supporters of the proposal raised points regarding issues of definition. Those opposing the proposal also raised issues over definition.
The Relationship to the PAN
22. There was support for exemption from PAC being linked to the content of the PAN served in relation to PAC for the earlier application across all groups. Those supporting the proposal suggested there should be an element of flexibility for minor changes in the second application.
23. Those opposing the proposals felt that both applications should not be linked to the description in the PAN as some aspects or context may have changed. It was also suggested that there should be greater scope for proposals to alter between the PAN stage and the application being submitted.
A Time Limit on the Period within which an Exemption Would Apply
24. While there was overall support for the proposed time limit of 18 months on exemptions from PAC, some groups were less supportive (developers, individuals and consultants). Of those opposing the time limit, some felt 18 months was too long and some felt it was too short. Others felt that flexibility is required.
Other PAC Related Matters
Alternatives to Public Events During COVID-19
25. In general, respondents experience of online PAC during COVID-19 has been positive. Events were successful and felt to have better attendance and greater engagement. Social media had also generated considerable feedback. There were some respondents however, who felt engagement had been lower with online events.
26. However, many respondents felt that face-to-face events are more effective, although online events were considered more convenient. Online events can exclude those without good internet access which may be the more vulnerable members of the community. A hybrid of both physical and virtual events would be welcomed.
Timing and Transitional Arrangements
27. There was overall support for the proposed transitional arrangements and the requirement for an application to be made within 18 months of the PAN. Although agreeing with the proposal, some respondents felt the time period could be reduced to 12 months. Several respondents opposing the proposal also felt the time period could be reduced while a few felt it was too short.
Engagement with Disabled People
28. The consultation highlighted the importance of PAC with Access Panels and guidance will consider how best to achieve this. The PAC report should also show what consultation was done and how issues were considered in finalising proposals. There was considerable support for the proposed approach to PAC engagement with disabled people.
29. While some respondents felt the full range of disabilities should be recognised, both in ways to notify disabled people and support them express views, other respondents felt that everyone should have equal access to engagement in the process and there should be no need for any differentiation.
30. It was suggested that consultation with Access Panels should be a statutory requirement for PAC and disabled groups should have input to the guidance.
BRIA and Combined EQIA/CRWIA
31. There were few comments on the BRIA and EQIA/CRWIA. The do nothing option in the impact assessment was not considered a viable option if an improvement in PAC procedures and mechanisms is to be achieved. The costs associated with the BRIA appear proportionate to deliver more effective community engagement. A number of suggestions were made for sources of additional information and it was suggested that there should be more publicity of the BRIA and combined EQIA/CRWIA.
Island Communities Impact Assessment
32. There were few comments on the island communities impact assessment and comments were mixed. There was both agreement and disagreement with the conclusion that a full assessment was not required. It was suggested that there was a need to work with island councils, community councils and local residents' groups and that when an application is relevant to both mainland and island communities, the island community should have its own public event.