- 16 Feb 2021
Karen Heywood, DPEA Interim Chief Reporter
Scott Ferrie, DPEA Assistant Chief Reporter
David Henderson, DPEA Head of Performance and Administration
Christine Brown, DPEA
Cherie Chrystal, DPEA
Nikki Anderson, ECDU
Alan Brogan, ECDU
Ruth Findlay, ECDU
Donald Campbell, Heads of Planning Scotland (HoPS)
Mandy Catterall, Scottish Property Federation
Stephanie Conesa, Scottish Renewables
Hugh Crawford, Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland
Alan Farquhar, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
Richard Henderson, Balerno Community Trust and south West Communities Forum
David Law, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)
Dawn McDowell, Historic Environment Scotland (HES)
Alison McNab, The Law Society of Scotland
Craig McLaren, RTPI
Laura-Anne Van Der Westhuizen, Scottish Planning, Local Government and Environmental Law Bar Group
David Middleton, Sustainable Communities Scotland
Adele Shaw, Historic Environment Scotland(HES)
Clare Symonds, Planning Democracy
Penny Uprichard, Royal Burgh of St Andrews Community Council
Welcome and apologies
Karen Heywood welcomed everyone to the meeting and confirmed that apologies had been received from Graham and Marion Lang, Nikola Miller, David Wood, Alastair McKie and Euan Pearson.
A change to the last meetings minutes was agreed to confirm Planning Democracy’s involvement in the webcasting initiative.
Energy, Consents and Deployment Unit (ECDU)
Karen welcomed Scottish Government Colleagues from the ECDU to give a presentation on the work they do in relation to cases that end up at DPEA for examination.
The presentation covered a range of the work carried out by ECDU. It was confirmed that the presentation would be forwarded to the Group.
ECDU confirmed that fees would be introduced in May 2019 for variation applications, of which there were a growing number. On average approximately 50% of Section 36 applications are referred to for examination and overall around 50% of applications they consider are granted permission .
ECDU confirmed that guidance on variation applications will be published shortly
In relation to Wayleave applications and Compulsory Purchase Orders it was confirmed that ECDU are looking at devolved legislation with a view to modernising the process. There is a frustration within both ECDU and DPEA in relation to the number of withdrawn cases following referral to DPEA.
The Stakeholder Group raised a number of issues on the presentation:
- Requesting more background information on the decision makers within ECDU and what is taken into account in the decision making process. It was confirmed that it is “general civil servants” in the Scottish Government.
- The length of extensions being requested. It was confirmed that anything up to 24 years is currently being considered.
- Whether there was any scope for review of the 1989 Electricity Act. ECDU confirmed that this was the only area of Infrastructure Development not devolved and whilst they would strongly wish to take this forward, it was not in their gift to do so currently.
- Whether inquiries are required if no objection from the local planning authority. ECDU confirmed that this was possible in cases such as when a neighbouring authority object to the proposal or when a statutory consultee objects.
- Whether there was any intention to review the standard conditions. Yes, a strand of work is being taken forward on this issue
- Have changes to subsidies reduced the number of cases they are dealing with. ECDU confirmed that they are busier than ever.
Scott Ferrie set out the background to the Planning Bill and the current position. He confirmed that there was still wide ranging concerns over the impact of the Bill
A range of views were expressed by the Group:
- It would take brave leadership to do something differently, particularly in regard to climate change.
- It was a mistake to just focus on efficiency at the expense of good decision making.
- There was a fear of limited focused ambitions in appeals and there was a need for a limited right of appeal beyond the applicant – in cases contrary to the LDP.
- The lack of evaluation currently of how a plan led system is measured.
- A third party right of appeal would improve the planning system.
- Support for a plan lead system but there has to be flexibility within and an obvious danger of not getting houses built that are required.
- The success rate of appeals suggests a problem with local authority decisions.
David Henderson gave the background to DPEA’s performance over the first 10 months of the year
The Group queried whether the lack of cases where an oral process was considered necessary tied in with proper community engagement.
Independent review of planning - what we can do to support reduce the length of the decision making process when inquiries/ hearings held.
Karen set out the background to the Rosewell Report which set out 22 recommendations aimed at reducing the time it takes to conclude planning inquiries in England and Wales, whilst maintaining the quality of decisions.
She confirmed that PINS inspectors were generally supportive of the report.
The Group confirmed general support for setting dates for oral sessions at the outset, albeit recognising that there was a balance to be struck in terms of parties availability.
The Group commented that:
- Complex decisions require the appropriate time to consider and it was questioned whether you would you get as good a decision if the case was expedited.
- It was more important to get the right decision, even if that took slightly longer.
Karen concluded by thanking everyone for their helpful contributions