1 Executive Summary
1.1 The Scottish Government consulted on proposals to raise planning fees. The consultation follows an independent review of planning fees which recommended a substantial increase in fees for major applications to support a move towards full cost recovery. The consultation document sets out proposals for fee maxima across most categories, and asks a single question - "As a first stage, do you agree with the proposed maximum fee level?" - including a closed Yes/No element and also inviting written comment.
1.2 The final number of submissions received was 124, including 96 from group respondents and 28 from individual members of the public. The group respondents included businesses and developers, business/developer membership organisations, planning authorities/other public sector bodies, professional firms & consultants, professional bodies & academics, and third sector organisations.
Views on proposed maximum planning fees
1.3 Respondents were somewhat divided on proposals; 54 respondents (44% of all respondents) supported the proposed maximum fee level, and 65 (52%) were opposed.
1.4 Support for the proposals was most widespread amongst planning authorities and other public bodies, third sector organisations, and professional bodies/academics. The respondent groups most likely to be opposed to proposals were businesses and developers, and professional firms and consultants.
1.5 Those who supported the proposed maximum fee referred to a range of positive considerations that had influenced their view. The most common was support for the principle of ensuring planning fees better reflect costs associated with determining applications. Ensuring the quality of planning services was also a common motivation for those supporting the proposed maximum fee, including specific reference to increased fee income enabling performance improvements for planning services.
1.6 Those who objected to the proposed maximum fee level, and a substantial proportion of those broadly in favour, raised a range of concerns or points for consideration for the proposals.
1.7 Objection to the scale of the proposed fee increase was a commonly cited issue, including a number of respondents querying the lack of detail provided on how the proposed fee maxima have been calculated. Some of these respondents also objected to proposals on the basis that they are disproportionate in their impact on specific types of development. This included reference to the impact of proposals on sites in excess of 50 units and on renewable energy development.
1.8 Concern that higher fee maxima will not deliver improvements to the planning system also appeared to be a significant motivating factor for those opposed to the proposals - more than half of those who objected to proposals referred to this issue. Some suggested that the consultation should have included detail on how additional fee income would support improved performance across the planning system.
1.9 Respondents also raised some concerns around the potential impact of proposals. This included suggestions that any proposed increase in planning fees needs to be considered in the context of the range of other burdens which add to the cost of development. Several respondents also suggested that proposals could have an adverse impact on the viability of specific types of development, including large housing development, renewable energy developments, and mineral sites.
Comments on the proposed fee structure and its implementation
1.10 In addition to views on the proposed fee maxima, respondents also referred to the implementation approach. This included suggested amendments or additions to proposals for the planning fee structure, and comments relating more specifically to implementation. Specific concerns included that unchanged fees for smaller developments are not sufficient to meet costs associated with determining these applications, and that proposed fee maxima for planning permission in principle applications does not reflect the resources required. Several respondents also suggested changes to the fee structure, including an increased in the per hectare or per unit fee such that proposals reach the fee maxima more quickly, and that calculation of planning fees for commercial scale renewable energy developments is based on MW capacity rather than per hectare.
1.11 Views were mixed on the timescale for implementation. A small number of planning authorities/other public bodies expressed a preference for proposals to be introduced as quickly as possible. Others suggesting a delayed or phased introduction of the increased fee maxima, including some suggesting that proposals are not introduced until the wider planning review is completed.
Improving performance in the planning system
1.12 The link between increased planning fees and improved planning performance appeared to be a significant factor in respondents' support for or opposition to the proposals. Nearly half of all respondents included specific reference to this. This included a substantial number expressing a view that planning system performance must be improved to justify increased planning fees. Some of those in favour of proposals also stated that their support was contingent on performance improvements being delivered.
1.13 Respondents recommended a number of approaches to ensure the proposed increase in planning fees delivers performance improvements. These included measures to ensure additional fee income is reinvested in planning services, linking fee payment with planning performance, reference to other specific approaches including ongoing work.
Email: Chief Planner
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House