Investing in planning - resourcing Scotland's planning system consultation: impact assessments

This consultation on resourcing Scotland’s planning system responds to current resourcing challenges. It builds on ideas generated in a stakeholder workshop held in November 2023, and sets out a series of proposals which aim to improve capacity and build resilience.

Islands Communities Impact Assessment

Step One – develop a clear understanding of your objectives:

The Scottish Government is committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure that the planning system is better equipped to deal with current and future challenges. We must build capacity and skills to enable good quality development that improve places, benefit our quality of life, and help us grow a wellbeing economy and transition to net zero.

This consultation sets out a range of options which have the potential to improve the capacity of the Scottish planning system, in particular in planning authorities, in the coming years.

It responds to current and future challenges, with a view to identifying actions that could improve the capacity of the planning system by helping build resilience and by strengthening cross sector collaboration.

The consultation paper includes a range of proposals which are currently underway and new proposals which could be taken forward in order to improve the financial resources available to authorities.

It should be noted that the proposals are considered to be options and it is intended that the consultation will provide some feedback on which proposals should be progressed and how these should be prioritised.

In Scotland there are 34 planning authorities with 6 authorities covering island areas these are: Argyll & Bute, Western Isles, Orkney, North Ayrshire, Highland and Shetland.

Step Two – gather your data and identify your stakeholders:

The consultation paper acknowledges the challenges faced across the planning service as a whole. Key points include:

  • Local authorities continue to face financial pressure and planning services have not been immune to this, with reductions in budgets leading to reductions in staff.
  • There are growing demographic challenges for the planning workforce.
  • The wider jobs market for planning professionals is also challenging, with similar shortages in other parts of the UK and Ireland.
  • Compounding these challenges, the development sector, business and industry are facing significant challenges arising from the economic context.
  • The pace of change is also a significant factor.

Previous research and consultations have acknowledged that the income generated through planning fees in more rural authorities can be lower than those in more urban locations due to the different nature and scale of developments which occur in those locations. However, the proposals in the consultation paper are wide ranging and include proposals to increase fees for development types that are more commonly, as well as less commonly, located in the island authorities’ areas.

Step Three - consultation:

During the Places, People and Planning Consultation which was undertaken in 2017 no island-specific recommendations were made.

The Planning Performance and Fees consultation in 2019 asked respondents to provide comments on the impact of or proposals on the islands. The responses to the consultation did not raise any specific issues which required to be addressed in the subsequent Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications) Regulations 2022.

This consultation will again seek stakeholders’ views on the particular impacts of the proposals on island authorities. The proposals include providing further discretion for authorities to set fees and charges in relation to planning and in particular whether there are specific considerations to take account of regarding the impacts on island authorities.

Step Four – assessment:

At this stage it is not considered that a full ICIA is required.

However, as island authorities are known to face particular resourcing challenges, it will be important to continue to consider how any proposals that emerge from the consultation will impact on these circumstances.

Fee changes and improved resourcing could benefit island authorities to different extents, depending for example on whether certain changes relating to renewable energy are made. The same varying benefits might also be expected between planning authorities in other parts of Scotland.

Following the consultation, further work will be required to implement any proposals. We will discuss the finalised proposals with all planning authorities including island authorities to establish whether further consideration of specific impacts is required. This will inform development of the proposals and if a fuller Islands Communities Impact Assessment is required.

ICIA completed by: Chris Sinclair
Position: Policy Manager
Signature: Chris Sinclair

Date completed: 8 February 2024

ICIA approved by: Dr Fiona Simpson
Position: Chief Planner
Signature: Fiona Simpson

Date approved: 8 February 2024



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