Places, People and Planning consultation: Scottish Ministers' position statement

Ministerial response to the views expressed on the proposals set out in the Places, People and Planning consultation.

Stronger Leadership And Smarter Resourcing

16. Developing skills to deliver outcomes.

We noted the importance of skills, including leadership, to support an improved planning system. We have now received recommendations from Heads of Planning Scotland ( HoPS) and the Royal Town Planning Institute ( RTPI) Scotland on skills development and shared services.

  • There is widespread support for multidisciplinary working and opportunities to develop skills, such as internships and secondments.
  • Priorities for training emerging from the responses include: leadership, mediation, development economics and finance, project management, design, placemaking, archaeology, environmental assessment and energy planning.
  • There are some concerns about time and resources required, and that planning education needs to focus on practical skills.

We will continue to work with RTPI Scotland, Heads of Planning Scotland, COSLA and the Improvement Service on skills development. We will also explore the scope for shared services, and expect there could be particular benefit in developing more effective sharing of expertise in some specialisms such as archaeology or environmental assessment.

17. Investing in a better service.

We set out a range of proposals for which additional fees could be charged in order to ensure that the planning service can be better resourced. This included possible charges for appeals and reviews of decisions, agency services, pre-application discussions, Simplified Planning Zones, repeat applications, advertising costs (as part of a fee), central government functions, enhanced services or fast tracked applications.

  • Responses to the consultation show agreement that planning is under-resourced.
  • Many consultees feel that any increased income should be proportionate and ring-fenced to ensure it is invested back into the planning service.
  • There are some concerns about more specific proposals for fees, including mixed views on fees for services provided by agencies and fees for appeals.
  • Several interests (including energy developers, those operating in rural and island communities) have particular concerns about fees and the impact this would have on development viability.
  • Many believe that an increase in fees should be matched with improved performance.
  • There have been calls for any change in fees to be gradual and / or flexible to reflect different sectors and circumstances.

We believe that there is a need to ensure that the system is properly supported if it is to deliver on a more ambitious, enabling agenda. Following a separate consultation, we have increased the maximum planning fee. We will not consult on further changes until after the Planning Bill has been considered by Parliament, to ensure we have a clear idea of the resource implications arising from the finalised changes to the planning system. However, given the limited existing powers in current legislation around resourcing, we expect the Planning Bill to include additional enabling powers that provide scope to widen discretionary charging and to extend the range of services for which fees can be charged.

We recognise that the development and business sectors have some concerns about the impact of further charging on development viability and wider investment. Whilst it is too early to set it out in detail, as proposals emerge we will continue to evaluate their impact including through the requirement for a Business and Regulatory Impact of any relevant legislative change and the Financial Memorandum that will accompany the Planning Bill.

18. A new approach to improving performance.

Our proposals on improved performance reflected the importance of ensuring a good quality service for all users of the planning service. We asked how planning authorities could be supported to improve their performance and whether there is support for monitoring outcomes from planning more than procedures.

  • Many consultees welcome the proposal to monitor outcomes, including on health and wellbeing as well as climate change and carbon emissions.
  • Some suggest that the Place Standard could provide an ideal measure of how a place has changed.
  • There is support for a proposal to introduce 360 degree feedback as part of performance monitoring.
  • Some respondents have concerns about retaining the penalty clause, with views that it is a negative approach and that performance would be better improved with support rather than sanction.

The proposed changes to fees will not reduce Ministers' focus on a high performing system. We will continue to work with the High Level Group and others in pursuit of improved performance.

19. Making better use of resources: efficient decision making.

The consultation paper set out opportunities to streamline the system including by increasing permitted development rights and simplifying development management procedures.

  • There is support for expanding permitted development rights from many consultees, including those areas set out in the consultation paper (digital telecommunications, low carbon developments, development supporting the farming sector, allotments and community growing schemes, town centre uses and aquaculture).
  • Other areas proposed include energy infrastructure, broader agricultural uses, and some household extensions and alterations.
  • Some consultees have concerns about the impact this could have, for example on conservation areas or rural areas.
  • There are also mixed views on options for changes to development management, including some questions around the value of pre-determination hearings and full council decisions, and the legislation relating to the duration of approved planning permissions.

We remain of the view that broadening the scope for permitted development could play a significant role in making best use of resources in the planning system. Heads of Planning Scotland has since progressed work in this area and we will give more detailed consideration to the proposals, along with the priority areas identified in the consultation paper.

We are currently minded to take forward a range of improvements to development management procedures, and will give further consideration to consultation responses to inform our approach.

20. Innovation, designing for the future and the digital transformation of the planning service.

The consultation paper highlighted the importance of digital technologies and innovation to support the future planning service.

  • There is considerable support for this proposal and a welcoming of the service already provided under the eDevelopment programme.
  • Many feel that better use of digital technology, whether in the form of 3D visualisations or improved use of digital communication tools, could provide a step change in the way the planning system operates.
  • Some concerns relate to resources and there have been calls for a central resource to support local authorities in moving to maximise opportunities through digital transformation.
  • Some also expressed concerns about potential for digital exclusion.

We recognise the huge potential that exists through harnessing use of digital technologies and data more effectively and will be setting out our ambitions for a future digital planning service in Scotland shortly. We are moving forward with establishing a Digital Task Force to lead and shape these broad and transformational aspirations, as well as inform on more specific ideas and innovation in this key area.


Email: Chris Sinclair,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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