- 15 Nov 2019
Date received: 24 Sep 2019
Date responded: 1 Nov 2019
1. How many times have developers appealed planning decisions by local councils to the Scottish Government, since 1999? Please break down your response by council area, and calendar year.
2. How many times, again broken down by council area and by year, has the Scottish Government ruled in favour of developers appealing against planning decisions made by local councillors? Please provide the response data in the same manner as above.
3. Finally, please tell me, broken down by each council area and year as outlined above, how much money in costs the Scottish Government has ordered local councils to pay to developers who were successful in their appeals to the Scottish Government against planning decisions of local councils.
If it is too costly under FOI legislation to go as far back as 1999, please provide the answers to the above as far back in time as possible within the cost restrictions.
On 10 October 2019 you provided some clarification of your request, namely:
1. With regard to the first part of your request you clarified that you wished the stats for appeals against refusal by councils to grant planning permission only.
2. With regard to the second part of your request you clarified that you would like the figures where the Scottish Government has ruled in favour of developers against the decisions of elected councillors on planning committees (or equivalent, for example area committees in Aberdeenshire), and not delegated decisions by planning officers.
In general, you also clarified that you are only interested in stats that relate to large scale property developers.
As the information you have requested is ‘environmental information’ for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.
This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.
The attached spreadsheet provides what we are able to answer for your questions with some exceptions applied as out lined below:
1. The figures for all requests have been supplied as far back as records go. Scottish Government files are archived after 10 years, and only a limited amount of information on each case is retained after that point. The information retained does not include the statistics you have requested, meaning we have only managed to obtain the statistics for the period 01/10/2009 until 30/09/2019. We have provided details on the assumption that you are interested only in housing developments (given the use of the term large scale property developers.)
2. The figures for this request have been supplied for all relevant appeal decisions, as we do not retain a record of whether the authority decision was taken by a planning committee or by a planning officer. As above, the information has only been provided for the period 01/10/2009 until 30/09/2019 as the files have been archived, and the information you have requested is not included that which is retained after archive.
3. I have provided the figures for the number of expenses claims that were made against councils and the number of these that were successful. However, I am unable to provide any figures for the amount of money that was paid by councils to developers, as parties are expected to agree the amount of expenses between themselves. If this was unsuccessful, we would remit the account of expenses to the Auditor of the Court of Session to decide on a party/party basis. We are not informed at any point of the amount of money paid between parties. As above, the information has only been provided for the period 01/10/2009 until 30/09/2019 as the files have been archived, and the information you have requested is not included that which is retained after archive.
While our aim is to provide information wherever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have some of the information you have requested. Therefore we are refusing those parts of your requests under the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs. The Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested because:
(i) some of it was routinely destroyed in accordance with our standard records management practice, before the date of your request;
(ii) some if it was unavailable because DPEA do not hold records of whether the appeal under consideration is against a decision made by the planning committee or by a planning officer; and
(iii) some of it was unavailable because DPEA do not determine the actual amount of expenses to be paid in decisions for claims of award of expenses.
This exception is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. While we recognise that there may be some public interest in the information you have requested, clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House