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

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.

Part 2 – Raising Resources

Planning Fees

66. Statutory planning fees play an important, but limited, role in resourcing planning services. Fees reflect the general principle of larger developments paying higher fees, so that applicants rather than the taxpayer cover the cost of the service provided to determine applications. However, previous research from 2019 has shown that on average planning fees only cover 65% of the cost of determining applications.

67. Levels and types of planning applications continuously evolve in response to a wide range of factors. We have extended Permitted Development Rights, removing more minor applications from the system and ensuring that officers’ time is spent on applications where they can add most value. Between 2013/14 and 2022/23, the number of major applications being determined reduced from 371 to 260 with the number of local non-householder applications reducing from 16,219 to 12,132 and householder applications reducing from 13,904 down to 12,591.

68. Changes to planning fees were implemented in 2014, 2017 and 2022. The most recent changes in April 2022 increased planning fees in most case types by between 25% and 50%. Since then, Heads of Planning Scotland have been gathering information from authorities on the impact of that increase. The survey is not yet complete, but early responses indicate that most but not all authorities have seen some increase in income as a result of the fee increase. Although around a quarter of authorities have not seen a significant increase in income, the new fee levels may nevertheless have protected them from a reduction in income.

69. Some of the key findings from initial responses include:

  • some authorities have implemented discretionary charges, and this is helping them to retain posts and fill vacancies;
  • recruitment is limited and extremely strong business cases are required to justify a decision to recruit due to severe budget pressures faced by Councils; and
  • additional planning fee income has been used in a variety of ways including filling posts; investing in IT software and hardware in order to make people and processes more efficient; maintaining training budgets; and procuring consultancy support to either assist with clearing application backlogs or to provide specialist support.

70. These findings demonstrate significant variations in the ways that planning authorities can utilise additional income in order to improve planning services.

71. We previously sought views on the introduction of refunds, rebates and other incentives for planning applications more generally in the 2019 Planning Performance and Fees Consultation. Many stakeholders, particularly applicants, argued that refunds should be introduced for planning applications where there has been an unreasonable delay in determining an application. Planning Authorities have previously expressed concern about the fairness of introducing refunds particularly where delays could lie outwith their control, for example, due to delays in responses from consultees or applicants. It is also recognised that potentially having to repay fees will add additional administrative burdens and costs to planning authorities and could introduce further complexity to the system through the need for arbitration. Introducing refunds would also potentially penalise those authorities who are currently under resourced having to return vital income which could ultimately result in further reductions in budget and staff numbers.

72. We currently do not consider that introducing a process for seeking a refund of a planning application fee is the right approach in delivering improvement in the planning service and in particular to improving determination timescales. In September 2023 the National Planning Improvement Champion was appointed. The role supports continuous improvement in the planning system. The Champion is in the process of piloting a new National Planning Improvement Framework which will support continuous improvement through local improvement plans.

Annual Inflationary Increase

73. Planning fees have not kept pace with inflation, and this has been felt more acutely in recent years. Fee increases have been made at irregular intervals, rather than reviewed on a regular basis to ensure they reflect their changing context.

74. So that the fee level does not fall behind, and to help planning authorities manage their costs, we propose that planning fees are automatically adjusted annually in line with inflation. An indexation mechanism calculated on the basis of the 12-month Consumer Price Index rate is proposed.

Question 13: Do you agree that planning fees should increase annually in line with inflation?

Strongly agree | Partially agree | No view | Partially disagree | Strongly disagree

Please explain your view

Question 14: Is a calculation based on the 12 month Consumer Price Index the most appropriate mechanism?

Strongly agree | Partially agree | No view | Partially disagree | Strongly disagree

Please explain your view

75. Planning fees are currently set in different ways. For instance, an application to amend or extend a dwelling house is £300, whereas an application to build a new dwelling house is charged on a per house basis at a rate of £600 per house for the first 10 houses, with that then dropping to £450 for houses between 11 and 49 and finally for each house over 50 it is £250. The maximum fee that can be applied is £150,000. Other types of development fees operate on the basis of the extent of floor space to be created or site area.

76. When it comes to applying an inflationary increase, we are keen to understand if there is support for the individual fees, increments and maximums to be increased.

77. Only increasing the individual fees and increments would potentially lead to more applications reaching the maximum fee quicker and may impact planning authorities’ ability to recover their costs in determining applications.

Question 15: Should an annual inflationary increase apply to:

i. Individual fees and increments

ii. Individual fees, increments and maximums

iii. No view

Locally Setting Planning Fees

78. In 2010, the consultation on Resourcing a High Quality Planning System sought views on alternative approaches to setting planning fees, including providing a mechanism for authorities to set their own fees. At that time there was a lack of support for the proposal, with respondents considering that different fees across the country may add confusion and may result in increased enquiries for authorities. It was also considered that there may be comparisons between authorities about fee levels versus service provided, particularly where higher fees are in place.

79. We are now, however, in a very different financial position and need to look at alternative options to increase resource. Through the Verity House Agreement and the Scottish Budget 2024/25 we have committed to looking at planning fees as one area where Councils can be empowered by increased discretion to determine and set fees and charges locally.

80. Locally setting planning fees would allow each authority to set their fees in a way which could enable them to meet local needs and demand, achieve full cost recovery and increase accountability for the service they provide. Authorities could also set fees in a way which allows them to act as an economic development tool, for instance reducing or waiving the fee for certain types of development in order to act as an incentive and attract development and investment in that area. However, we would not wish to support the use of planning as a disincentive to development and investment by increasing planning fees to a level which is not economically viable.

81. Following the consultation, further work will be required to establish whether the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 provides sufficient scope to allow for any changes which are proposed through regulations or if changes to primary legislation would be needed. Any changes to primary legislation would potentially involve significantly longer timescales. Consideration will also need to be given to the process authorities may need to follow in setting and administering fees and how the ePlanning fee calculator remains up to date. There will also be impacts and interdependencies with other options presented in this consultation paper such as planning appeal fees, inflationary increases and proposals relating to hydrogen and shellfish farming.

82. There are various approaches which could be taken to provide authorities with greater control over the setting of planning fees and charges. For example, authorities could be given full discretion to set fees and charges, including fee categories, individual units of calculation, and if there are any maximum fees. This could potentially allow for them to depart from current principles such as, fees being paid on submission of the application, allowing for phased or deferred payments or for different payments to be made depending on the individual requirements of an application such as the need for legal agreements or other processes which are not applicable to all types of application.

83. Another approach could be that the principles contained within the current planning fee regulations are retained and authorities are given greater scope to set their own fees for each category of development including the individual increments and maximums. This would provide some level of certainty to applicants over the different categories of development and general principles which apply to all applications.

84. Alternatively, the Scottish Government could continue to set fee levels as is currently the case with authorities given greater scope to identify and implement services which are intended to facilitate the effective and efficient processing of applications which go beyond the current levels of service provided.

85. We are interested in hearing views from across planning stakeholders on alternative approaches to increasing authorities’ discretion to set fees.

Question 16: What would be your preferred approach to how planning fees are set in the future?

Question 17: Are there key principles which should be set out in the event that fee setting powers are devolved to planning authorities?

Increasing Discretionary Charging

86. The Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications) Scotland Regulations 2022 give authorities the option to introduce charges for providing written confirmation of compliance with conditions, the non-material variation of a planning application, retrospective applications and to introduce charges for entering into pre-application discussions with an applicant. Since then, we have seen charging for pre-application discussions become standard practice across most authorities.

87. With the current financial situation, authorities are actively thinking about how best to increase income generation to better cover the services provided. Increasing discretionary charging powers would provide them with further opportunities to consider alternative approaches that suit local needs. We therefore propose to increase discretionary charging powers to cover other parts of the planning application process.

88. We consider that the introduction of any additional charges should focus on actions which support the efficient processing of planning applications. This will ensure there continues to be a strong link between what is paid, and the service directly provided. Charging should focus on areas where the authority can add real value to ensure that applications are determined effectively and efficiently, provide high levels of customer service, and that the post consent process does not delay the commencement of development. Additional flexibility for discretionary charging would ensure that authorities can act swiftly to introduce charging elements to the planning application process rather than requiring the Scottish Government to put in place legislation. We would expect that for any services which are introduced, that it should be clear what is being charged for, how the charge has been arrived at and any process which should be followed in the event that expectations are not being met.

89. We expect that applicants are likely to wish to see a refund issued if they have not received the service expected. Under current arrangements for introducing charges for pre-application discussions, authorities are required to publish information setting out what service a fee is being charged for, how the fees are to be calculated and under what circumstances an authority may consider waiving or reducing a fee. We consider that there is potential to introduce a requirement that authorities set out the circumstances whereby a refund may be requested.

Question 18: What other processes that support the determination of a planning application could authorities be given powers to charge at their discretion?

Question 19: Do think the circumstances where a refund can be requested is set out as part of any published information regarding the introduction of a discretionary charge?

Fee for Proposals on Unallocated Sites in the Development Plan

90. One idea from the November resourcing workshop was to investigate the potential of introducing an increased fee for a planning application for development which is not allocated within the development plan. Sites which have been allocated in the development plan have been subject to public consultation, scrutiny by the planning authority and consideration has been given to proposed uses. An authority is likely to have greater costs in determining unallocated sites due to the additional work required to identify what information is required to be submitted to support the application, what impact the proposed development may have and identifying any mitigation.

91. Not all types of development are allocated in the plan. For instance:

  • rural housing in more remote and island communities is more likely to be brought forward using a windfall approach;
  • small and medium-sized enterprise housebuilders may also tend to focus on sites which are not allocated in the development plan; and
  • renewable energy developments may also not benefit from specific allocations.

92. Authorities would therefore need to be clear in what circumstances the increased fee is applied.

Question 20: Do you agree with the principle that authorities should have discretionary powers to increase fees for a proposal on an unallocated site within the development plan?

Strongly agree | Partially agree | No view | Partially disagree | Strongly disagree

Please explain your view

Masterplan Consent Areas

93. The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 introduces Masterplan Consent Areas (MCA) as a new upfront consenting mechanism. This has significant potential to simplify planning within certain areas, strengthening investor confidence whilst still ensuring new developments are well located and designed. The Act provides that a planning authority can prepare a MCA ‘scheme’, with scope to give a range of types of consent, including planning permission, road construction consent, listed building consent and conservation area consent – where provided for in the particular MCA scheme. Development that is in line with the scheme could be brought forward without the need to apply for full planning permission.

94. Work on regulations and guidance is ongoing and a separate consultation is underway.

95. In order to put a MCA scheme in place, the planning authority will incur costs, for example through the need to analyse the site, consult, prepare a masterplan, and set out the type of development consented along with any necessary conditions.

96. The 2019 Planning Performance and Fees consultation sought views on the principle of authorities being able to recoup their costs of establishing a MCA.

97. Taking account of the responses to the 2019 consultation, we consider that it is appropriate to allow authorities to set their own fees/charges in relation to MCAs. We propose to introduce additional provisions for discretionary charging to allow planning authorities to recoup their costs in establishing a MCA.

98. The cost of establishing a MCA will vary across the country due the different priorities and site specific requirements. Therefore, providing authorities flexibility in how they set any fees/charges for carrying out development in a MCA, allows for them to recover the costs. We expect that as part of a MCA scheme authorities will set out their costs in establishing the scheme. To recoup those costs, fees/charges expected to be paid by applicants looking to carry out development within a MCA should also be set out in the scheme, alongside the methodology of how such costs will be apportioned.

99. Authorities may also wish to consider charging for applications covering Approval of Matters Specified in Conditions (AMSCs) within the MCA scheme.

Question 21: Do you agree that planning authorities should be able to recoup the costs of preparing a Masterplan Consent Area through discretionary charging?

Strongly agree | Partially agree | No view | Partially disagree | Strongly disagree

Please explain your view

Resourcing Other Parts of the Planning System

Fees for Planning Appeals

100. The 2019 Planning Performance and Fees Consultation sought the views of stakeholders on the principle of introducing fees for an applicant to appeal a refusal of planning permission. There was broad support (63%) for introducing fees for appealing planning decisions both to Scottish Ministers via Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) and to a Local Review Body (LRB).

101. The consultation also sought views on the types of appeal which should be included and excluded for charges as well as whether the appeal fee should be refunded in the event of the appeal being successful.

102. The introduction of fees for appealing is not intended to inhibit access to justice or to discourage applicants from appealing planning decisions. The purpose is to ensure that public services are appropriately resourced to deliver the service expected by customers.

103. Any finalised proposals would need to take account of the responses to earlier parts of this consultation – particularly the potential for different fee levels being applicable across the country.

104. In the interest of consistency, it is proposed that the fee for appealing a planning decision is the same irrespective of whether the appeal is being considered by a Local Review Body or Scottish Ministers. This allows for variations in the approaches taken by authorities to their schemes of delegation and what decisions are taken by officers and committee, which ultimately determines the route for appeal.

Types of Appeal

105. The types of applications where we consider a fee should be payable for submitting an appeal (to DPEA or Local Review Body) are:

  • Planning permission
  • Retrospective permission
  • Planning permission in principle
  • Approval of matters specified in conditions
  • Conditions
  • Planning obligation/contribution/good neighbour agreements
  • Advertisement consent
  • Certificate of Lawful Use or Development
  • Certificate of Appropriate Alternative Development
  • Hazardous Substances Consent
  • Prior Notification/Approval
  • Tree Works Consent
  • Review of old minerals permissions

106. We do not consider a fee should be payable for the following applications types:

  • Non-determination
  • Means of access etc. for disabled persons
  • Listed Building Consent
  • Conservation Area Consent

Question 22: Do you agree with the types of appeals that should incur a fee?

Yes | no view | No

Please explain your view

Fee Level

107. Approximately 50% of DPEA’s workload relates to determining appeals. Other work includes Local Development Plan Examination and other non-planning case work such as Section 36 large scale renewables projects, Roads Orders and Compulsory Purchase Orders.

108. Figure 2 shows the approximate cost of determining DPEA appeals over the last 4 financial years:

Figure 2: DPEA Budget and number of appeals determined by DPEA and LRBs over last 4 years
DPEA Total Budget 50% of budget for appeals Number of planning appeals Number of Appeals to LRB
2022/23 £4,153,061 £2,076531 144 516
2021/22 £3,783,862 £1,891,931 182 481
2020/21 £3,609,098 £1,804,549 164 442
2019/20 £3,607,438 £1,803,719 152 506

109. Local Review Bodies determined 516 appeals in 2022/23 (average of 497 appeals over the last 4 years), which were determined in an average time of 16.7 weeks. In 64% of those cases the original decision was upheld. We do not hold information on costs of LRBs.

110. Fee levels could seek to achieve full cost recovery for the determination of planning appeals. However, based on the figures above, to achieve this for DPEA appeals, a flat fee in excess of £13,000 for every planning appeal would be required. This would be a disproportionate cost for the majority of appellants, and we do not consider it to be a viable or appropriate option.

111. To aim for partial cost recovery, we could set a universal fee. Figure 3 sets out a series of potential options for lower level fees and the likely level of income they would generate.

Figure 3: Flat rate appeal fee
Fee per appeal lodged Projected income based on DPEA average appeal number of 160 appeals. Projected Income for authorities based on LRB average number of 497
£100 £16,000 £49,700
£500 £80,000 £248,500
£1,000 £160,000 £497,000
£2,000 £320,000 £994,000
£5,000 £800,000 £2,485,000

112. A flat universal fee would mean that small and large scale proposals would attract the same fee – the cost would not reflect the volume of work required. The cost of administering such a scheme would also reduce any benefit from the introduction of fees.

113. Figure 3 shows that in most instances, the appeal fee would exceed the cost of the original planning application fee, for instance where an application to alter/extend a dwelling house is required, the fee is generally £300. In most of the examples above all of the proposed fees exceed that. In such cases, the appellant would be paying the same fee as a developer who has paid a fee of £150,000 to submit their planning application. We do not therefore consider this to be an equitable, practical or appropriate approach.

114. Another option would be to match the appeal fee to the hierarchy of development. All developments are categorised as national, major or local. However, the range and complexity of applications within one category can be significant. For example, the types of development which are classed as local can range from extending or making alterations to a dwelling house, to a development of 1-49 houses where the planning fee can vary between £600 and £23,500. The hierarchy also relates to certain procedural requirements and does not necessarily align with the planning application fees. Given that a local development can include developments of up to 49 houses, if one additional house was added to that application it would result in a potentially significant increase in the planning appeal fee. In such cases, a link with fees could therefore skew the scale and nature of applications, with unintended consequences. As a result, we do not consider that matching appeal fees to the hierarchy is an appropriate option as it does not accurately reflect the potential variations in the size and complexity of applications and therefore the cost involved in their determination.

115. A further option would be to charge a percentage of the application fee. This would address the issues identified above. It would provide a fair system which is equitable, transparent, ensures that the fee is proportionate to the proposed development, linked to the original fee and the likely resources required to determine the appeal. We therefore consider this to be the most appropriate way to set the level of appeal fee. This approach would also mirror the general principle under which planning fees operate, that the larger the development (and more significant cost involved in processing it) the higher the fee to better cover costs.

Question 23: Do you agree that setting the fee for applying to appeal the refusal of planning permission (to either DPEA or the planning authority) is set as a percentage of the original planning application fee?

Strongly agree | Partially agree | No view | Partially disagree | Strongly disagree

Please explain your view

116. Figure 4 shows, based on current application fees, the likely costs for an appellant based on various percentage scenarios. We do not intend to propose that the fee for appealing a refusal of planning permission should achieve full cost recovery as there are many variables which can affect this, including whether the appeal is determined by a Local Review Body or Scottish Ministers. Further, setting the appeal fee at a prohibitive level could raise issues regarding to access to justice. We also consider that the cost of determining an appeal would not be the same as the costs involved in the original determination of the application by the planning authority.

Figure 4: Breakdown of potential cost of appealing for different types of application
Application/ Appeal Type Planning Fee Potential appeal cost based on percentage scenario
10% 20% 30% 40%
Planning Permission - Householder £300 £30 £60 £90 £120
Single House £600 £60 £120 £180 £240
Planning Application - Minimum £500 £50 £100 £150 £200
Planning Application - Maximum £150,000 £15,000 £30,000 £45,000 £60,000
Planning Permission in Principle - Minimum £300 £30 £60 £90 £120
Planning Permission in Principle - Maximum £75,000 £7,500 £15,000 £22,500 £30,000
Conditions £100 £10 £20 £30 £40
Advertisement Consent £300 £30 £60 £90 £120
Hazardous Substances £600 £60 £120 £180 £240
£1200 £120 £240 £360 £480
Prior Approval - £100 £100 £10 £20 £30 £40
Prior Approval - £500 £500 £50 £100 £150 £200

Question 24: If a percentage of fee approach to appeal charging was considered most appropriate, what level do you consider would be most appropriate to reflect volume of work by DPEA or the LRB?

10% | 20% | 30% | 40% | No view | Other

Please explain your view

117. Planning authorities also have the ability to waive or reduce the fee payable for submitting an application for planning permission. In order to exercise those powers, authorities are required to set out the circumstances whereby they will consider waiving or reducing the fee. We do not consider that a decision by an authority to waive or reduce a planning fee should impact on a fee payable to DPEA for appealing a refusal of planning permission. However, for appeals which are to be considered by a Local Review Body, we consider it appropriate for authorities to assess whether a similar reduction or waiver is appropriate for the appeal fee.

Question 25: Do you agree that an authority should consider waiving or reducing an appeal fee where they have offered such a waiver on the related planning application?

Strongly agree | Partially agree | No view | Partially disagree | Strongly disagree

Please explain your view

Digital Service Charge

118. Since 2016 we have operated the e-Development service that enables users to apply online for a variety of permissions including planning applications, building warrants and planning appeals.

119. Maintaining and improving an online application submission service is an important part of delivering an effective planning and building standards system. e-Development is currently jointly funded by Scottish Government, local authorities and planning authorities.

120. In the current financial climate, we are keen to explore new ways to fund the ongoing operation of eDevelopment, that reduces costs for authorities. One option could be to introduce a service charge. The charge could allow recovery of operational costs to help secure its long term sustainability as well as the potential to make longer term improvements to deliver efficiencies. Improvements could include helping to reduce the initial submission of invalid applications, allowing direct participation of statutory consultees in accessing applications and facilitating two way communication between applicants and local and planning authorities.

121. Further work would be required to investigate how to administer such a charge, but we would envisage that it could be collected alongside the planning application fee and/or building warrant fee. For planning we consider that there are three options for charging: a flat rate fee; a fee based on type of development (e.g. for planning - major, local or householder); or a percentage of the application fee. Similarly, as building standards fee rates are based on the value of works, we consider there are three options for charging: a flat rate fee; a fee based on the value of works; or a percentage of the application fee

Question 26: Do you have views on how a service charge for applying for planning permission or a building warrant online could be applied?

Question 27: What other options are there to resource the operation and improvement of the eDevelopment service?

Energy Generation


122. Scottish Ministers are responsible for deciding applications to build, operate or modify onshore electricity generating stations with capacities exceeding 50 megawatts (MW), under powers contained in the Electricity Act 1989. Applications concerning onshore electricity generating stations with capacities of 50 MW or less are decided by planning authorities under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, as amended.

123. Tackling the climate change emergency has led to a significant increase in proposals for electricity generation and storage developments using energy from renewable sources. As technology has moved forward there has been a trend towards taller and more powerful wind turbines. This increase in capacity has meant that a greater proportion of applications are over the threshold for consideration under the Town and Country Planning Act 1997. Most wind farm proposals now include turbines greater than 180m in height with a generation capacity of 5-7MW each. A wind energy proposal comprising approximately 8 or 9 turbines is now likely to meet the 50MW threshold and require determination by Scottish Ministers.

124. This change in technology has shifted the balance of decision making with Scottish Ministers now determining a greater number/proportion of wind farm applications since the Electricity Act came into force in 1989. Our statistics show that the volume of applications made to Scottish Ministers has more than quadrupled over the last 20 years, with 15 applications made between 2001/03 and 70 applications made between 2021/23.

125. This shift has also impacted decision-making timescales. Our statistics show that, between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023, applications for new renewable electricity generating stations made under the Electricity Act 1989, which were not subject to a public local inquiry, took Scottish Ministers an average of 16.6 months to determine. This figure varied from 8 months for a solar energy park up to 22 months for a wind energy development. The equivalent planning application statistics for 2022/23 show that planning authorities took on average 24.6 weeks (approximately 6 months) to determine applications for ‘major’ renewable energy developments which were not subject to a processing agreement.

126. Under current arrangements, planning authorities are assigned a voluntary contribution, amounting to 50% of the fee paid to Scottish Ministers for applications made under the Electricity Act 1989, so that they can undertake work to consider the application as a statutory consultee. Increasing the threshold would have resourcing implications for planning authorities. They would receive the full fee for determining the planning application but would have additional work to process and determine the application.

127. The Scottish Government has committed to undertake work to explore the benefits and disadvantages of altering the threshold, and to explore the scope for planning authorities to determine more applications for onshore electricity generating stations. We welcome initial views through this consultation. This includes views on the resourcing implications arising from any change to the threshold, including the difference in workload arising were planning authorities to determine more such applications, rather than acting as a statutory consultee under the Electricity Act 1989.

Question 28: Should the current threshold of 50MW for applications for electricity generation which are to be determined by authorities be altered?

Yes | No view | No

Please explain your view

Question 29: Should different thresholds apply to different types of generating stations?

Yes | No view | No

Please explain your view

Question 30: What would be the resource implications of increasing the threshold for the determination of applications for onshore electricity generating stations?


128. Scottish Ministers are responsible for deciding applications to construct, extend or operate a generating station with a generation capacity in excess of 1 megawatt (MW) situated in the Scottish territorial sea (out to 12 nautical miles (nm) from the shore), or with a generating capacity in excess of 50 MW in the Scottish Offshore Region (12 to 200 nm), under powers contained in the Electricity Act 1989.

129. Where a planning authority is responding to an invitation to comment on an application for offshore generating station, there are resource implications for the authority in undertaking the necessary work to comment on the application. Currently there is no recovery of costs for authorities for this work, unlike the voluntary contribution assigned to planning authorities for the consideration of onshore applications. Planning authorities have requested that the Scottish Government considers assigning a voluntary contribution of the fee for an application for offshore electricity generation to planning authorities who are asked to comment on such applications. We welcome further views through this consultation.

Question 31: If Scottish Government were to make a voluntary contribution equivalent to a percentage of the offshore electricity fee to authorities, what level of contribution would be appropriate to support some recovery of costs? Please provide justification for your answer.

Fee Categories for Hydrogen Projects

130. Low-carbon and zero emissions hydrogen development will play an important role in supporting the transition to net zero. It can provide a sustainable alternative to the burning of fossil fuels in transport and energy-intensive industries and can be stored to support the operation of the electricity grid. Scotland therefore has an ambition to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of renewable and low carbon hydrogen by 2030, and 25 GW by 2045, and it is expected that new hydrogen production and storage facilities will be developed at scale.

131. Currently, the Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications) (Scotland) Regulations 2022 do not include a specific fee category for hydrogen projects. Initial feedback from planning authorities indicates that applications for hydrogen projects comprising facilities for the production and storage of hydrogen, are typically processed under the fee category for plant and machinery (category 13). It has, however, been suggested that there is benefit in providing greater clarity to help avoid any confusion and potential delay in the validation of planning applications.

132. Hydrogen projects can vary in complexity and are often subject to environmental impact assessment. Initial feedback has indicated mixed views on whether the level of fee charged under category 13 is appropriate and/or likely to cover costs linked to considering applications for hydrogen projects. We are therefore seeking views on the introduction of a new fee category for hydrogen projects.

Question 32: Should we introduce a new category of development for applications for hydrogen projects? If so, how should these fees be set/calculated?

Yes | No view | No

Please explain your view

Question 33: Are there different considerations for hydrogen production when compared with proposals which are concerned only with storage and distribution?

Yes | No view | No

Please explain your view

Prior Notification / Approval

133. Permitted development rights (“PDR”) refer to those forms of development which are granted planning permission through legislation, meaning they can be carried out without a planning application having to be submitted to (and approved by) the local authority. Specifically, PDR are contained within the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992 (“the GPDO”).

134. By allowing development to be carried out without an application for planning permission, PDR can provide certainty to developers and save the time and expense associated with applying for planning permission. They can also reduce burdens on planning authorities, allowing them to focus resources on more complex and strategic cases. Since 2020 the Scottish Government has been taking forward new and extended PDR through a phased review programme, with each phase of the review focussing on particular development types. Phase 3 is focussed primarily on PDR for renewable energy equipment: a public consultation was held in summer 2023 and we will be implementing the final measures shortly.

135. PDR are organised into a series of "classes" set out in the GPDO. Each class specifies the type (or types) of development for which planning permission is granted. Most classes of PDR are subject to conditions and limitations. These conditions may, for example, specify the maximum size or scale of what is permitted, restrict or dis-apply the rights in certain locations (e.g. conservation areas, National Scenic Areas etc.). In most cases, PDR allow development to be carried out without reference to the planning authority – provided the relevant PDR conditions are complied with. However, a small number of PDR are subject to a process known as “prior notification and prior approval”. Under this process, a developer must notify the planning authority, provide details of its proposed development and pay the relevant fee (as specified in the Fees Regulations). The authority then has an opportunity to indicate whether specific aspects of the development are acceptable.

136. The planning authority’s determination is limited to the particular matters specified in the relevant PDR class – for example, siting, design or appearance. In this sense, the process is lighter touch than a planning application because a narrower range of considerations can be taken into account. This is reflected in the fee levels for prior notification and approval applications: in most cases, the fee is £100 (this was increased from £78 in 2022). However, for some PDR classes subject to prior notification/approval (agricultural and forestry buildings/operations) there is no fee, while in others (conversion of agricultural buildings, fish farms, telecoms) the fee is £500.

137. Our view is that the prior notification and approval process strikes a sensible balance between the certainty offered by PDR, whilst providing planning authority oversight of key elements of a development in cases where a full planning application would be disproportionate. However, we are aware that some authorities have expressed concern that the fees for prior notification and approval applications do not reflect the level of work involved in determining them – and that in some cases this can be akin to a planning application. We would welcome views on whether this issue is more acute for certain PDR classes and why that is the case.

Question 34: Do you agree that the standard £100 which applies to most prior notification and approval applications is appropriate?

Yes | No view | No

Please explain your view

Question 35: Are there particular PDR classes where you think the current fee should be amended? If so, please explain why that is considered to be the case.

Shellfish Farming

138. The Scottish Government is supportive of the continued development of shellfish farming in Scotland, as is set out in the Vision for Sustainable Aquaculture and Scotland’s National Marine Plan. The sector can support the growth of rural and island economies through trade, investment and the provision of secure year round employment, as well as supporting the growth of the wider aquaculture supply chain. The range in size of shellfish farming businesses, from small family owned farms to multi-site operations, demonstrate the opportunities for both smaller entrants and larger established businesses to invest in shellfish farming.

139. The Planning Performance and Fees consultation in 2019 explored separate fees for fish and shellfish farms due to the differing nature of development. The majority of respondents had supported these changes, with some suggesting that fees for shellfish farms should be smaller as applications may generate less work in their determination compared to fin fish farms.

140. In April 2022 changes were made to planning fees to move planning fees closer towards full cost recovery. The fee for shellfish farming applications were increased from £183 to £200 per 0.1 hectare (HA) of surface area and the seabed area element of the calculation (previously set at £63 per 0.1 hectare) was removed.

141. An unintended consequence of the new fee structure is that shellfish application fees have increased almost two-fold to that calculated under the previous fee’s formula. This is due to a change in the way the site area for shellfish farms is being interpreted by local authorities. The shellfish farming sector have stated this increase has resulted in many businesses being unwilling to seek consents for new shellfish farms.

142. We have provided worked examples showing how the differing fee structures and area calculation methodologies result in different planning fee costs. The following examples are based on a 5 x 220m twin-headline longlines farm at 20m spacing with 30m end moorings:

  • Pre April 2022 fee using original area calculation = £1,752
  • Post April 2022 fee using original area calculation = £400
  • Post April 2022 fee using new area calculation = £3,600

143. We consider that maintaining the current methodology and interpretation of site area would provide consistency and avoid a need to introduce a new methodology for both applicants and authorities to understand and adapt to.

144. Using the example provided above and the current methodology, a fee of £100 per 0.1 Ha would amount to a similar fee to that which was in place before April 2022. With the understanding that the current fee, £200 per 0.1 Ha, has resulted in a significant increase, it is proposed that the current fee level is reduced to encourage development of new shellfish farms, whilst ensuring we maintain an adequate level of cost recovery.

Question 36: Would a reduction of the current fee (£200 per 0.1 hectare) be an appropriate approach to resolving this issue?

Question 37: What would you consider to be a reasonable fee for shellfish farm applications? (Please elaborate on your answer using an average shellfish farm development (5 x 220m twin-headline longlines at 20m spacing with 30m end moorings) as an example.)

Cumulative Impact

145. The proposals in this consultation are options for consultation. They build on ideas identified in our stakeholder workshop, but are not exhaustive, and we are keen to hear of additional suggestions to resource the planning system.

146. We do not envisage that all proposals will be implemented and acknowledge that to do so could lead to significant additional costs for applicants. There are also likely to be costs for authorities in establishing new processes and systems – but this would be offset by increased income. We would therefore welcome your views on which proposals you think we should prioritise.

Question 38: Which proposal would you most like to see implemented?

Please explain the reason for your answer.

Question 39: Do you have other comments on the cumulative impact of the proposals?

Question 40: Do you have other ideas to help resource the planning system? Please set out how you think the proposal could be resourced.

Impact Assessments

147. This Consultation paper is accompanied by a number of impact assessments. Due to the wide ranging nature of the proposals included in the consultation paper there may be a need to complete more detailed impact assessments when taking forward specific proposals. We would therefore welcome any views on the proposals and in particular if there are any potential impacts which we need to consider.

Question 41: Please provide any information on the potential impacts of our proposals to assist with preparation of the following impact assessments:

Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment

Equality Impact Assessment

Islands Communities Impact Assessment

Children’s Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment

Fairer Scotland Duty

Strategic Environmental Assessment



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