- 18 Feb 2021
Attendees and Apologies
Paul Cackette, DPEA Chief Reporter
Dan Jackman, DPEA Assistant Chief Reporter
David Henderson, DPEA Head of Performance and Administration
Christine Brown, DPEA
Cherie Chrystal, DPEA
Andy Kinnaird, PAD
Donald Campbell, Heads of Planning
Mandy Catterall, Scottish Property Federation
Rachel Connor, Scotland Against Spin
Joe Dagen, Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland
Richard Henderson, Edinburgh South West Communities Forum
Aileen Jackson, Scotland Against Spin
Suzanne McIntosh, Sir Frank Mears Associates & Association of Mediators
Alastair McKie, The Law Society of Scotland
Maurice O’Carroll, Scottish Planning, Local Government and Environmental Law Bar Group
Dara Parsons, Historic Environment Scotland(HES)
Allan Rutherford, Historic Environment Scotland(HES)
Mike Shepherd, Scottish Natural Heritage(SNH)
Charles Strang, Scottish Environment Link
Karol Swanson, Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland
Tammy Swift-Adams, Homes for Scotland
David Wood, Planning Aid Scotland (PAS)
Apologies – Craig McLaren, Euan Pearson, Penny Uprichard, Clare Symonds, Sue Hamilton.
Paul Cackette welcomed everyone to the meeting. He confirmed that he had now returned to DPEA as Chief Reporter although his return had been slightly delayed by his involvement on the Buchanan and St Ambrose High School review.
The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed and there were no matters arising.
Role and purpose of the Group
Paul stated his support for the Stakeholder Group to help ensure opportunity for the group to raise issues designed to help and improve the quality and standard of decision making. However he confirmed that the purpose was not to discuss individual cases and more specifically live cases. Paul confirmed that DPEA were happy to discuss these issues but individually and outwith the meetings of the Group. He confirmed that whilst setting the agenda for this meeting had been relatively easy given the current position with regard to the Planning Act and also the suggested item relating to Expense Circular 6/1990, it was reasonable to say that DPEA do not receive a great deal of feedback or suggestions in relation to possible agenda items.
Paul asked the question of the group as to whether we were using the Stakeholder Group as effectively as possible; whether the Group should have a remit; and how to encourage enhanced discussion of relevant issues. He appreciated that members may wish to reflect on this issue and feedback further subsequent to the meeting.
The Group raised a number of issues/suggestions:
- A rolling programme of agenda items decided at the end of each meeting.
- Short presentations from individual members of the Group on relevant topics.
- Whilst the current focus of the Groups is on DPEA matters it could be extended to wider relevant Scottish Government issues.
- Whether there was merit in extending the membership of the Group.
- It is positive that the Groups remit be wide ranging.
- It was suggested that it was for DPEA to set out what it hopes to gain from the Group.
- It would help for issues raised by the Group to be raised, where appropriate, with the relevant Division in the Scottish Government - and for feedback on these issues to be reported back to the Group.
- The importance of having “public” representation on the Group given the perception held in some quarters that there is little point in getting involved in the appeals process which is not helped by the lack of public hearings.
Paul indicated that he was happy to open up the Stakeholder Group to individual members who wish put forward ideas for presentations to the Group on relevant topics. Any topic of relevance to planning and environmental appeals would be appropriate to suggest, albeit that it should be understood that certain such issues are not within scope for DPEA to address or change. He stressed that this is the stakeholders group as much as DPEA’s but confirmed that DPEA would also be happy to present on subjects named by the Stakeholder group.
He asked members to feedback further comments in early course.
Publication of the Annual Review
Dan Jackman gave the background and headlines from DPEA ‘s Annual Review for the period 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019. He confirmed that there had been an increase in appeal numbers over the course of the year, although this did include 22 advert appeals in Glasgow; the numbers of appeals in hand had remained fairly constant; Roads Orders relating to the A96 and A9 had taken up large amounts of DPEA resources over the year; and there had been an increase in Wayleave applications being handled. He confirmed that performance against targets had improved over the course of the year, albeit there had been a slight dip in relation to cases subject to further written submissions and that the relatively few complex cases subject to oral procedures had significantly missed their targets. Dan confirmed that LDP examinations had taken slightly longer than hoped but that the issue of anticipated submission dates remained a problem as slippage in this meant DPEA not able to have reporters lined up to commence the examination as soon as would be expected. Dan confirmed that 44% of all appeals were allowed; 85% of appeals were submitted electronically; and that there had been 18,000 hits on the DPEA webcasting site.
The Group raised a number of points:
- There was a likely increase in residential development appeals in the future.
- Pleasant surprise at webcasting numbers. Some disappointment was expressed at cases which would not be webcast live. This was the result of poor broadband in some venues and a balance needing to be struck between holding the oral process locally with suitable venues. Paul noted that live webcasting wasn’t always successful but that there remained a benefit in being able to see proceedings not in real time.
- The importance of a qualitative assessment as well as against targets.
- Whether conclusions could be drawn between different success rates by authority.
- Whether performance initiatives in the Planning Act would apply to DPEA. It was confirmed that the principles would apply.
- Whether an analysis of appeal success rates could be supplied to the Group in relation to applications which had been recommended for consent by planning officers. DPEA confirmed that they would look to see whether this information could be obtained and sent to the Group.
- How does DPEA deal with decisions quashed by the Court of Session. It was confirmed that the starting point in most instances was to allocate the case to a new reporter.
Paul confirmed that DPEA had recently carried out a recruitment exercise for salaried reporters and 4 new reporters would be starting in the next few weeks.
He also advised that it was likely that DPEA would be moving office in the next 6 months and future Group meetings would hopefully be held in the new premises.
Andy Kinnaird from Planning and Architecture Division delivered a presentation to the Group on the Planning Act and next steps. A copy of presentation would be forwarded on to the Group.
The Group raised a number of issues:
- Whether communities would still have the opportunity to be involved in on-going work in relation to next steps. This was confirmed but also that there will be working parties set up and it was important that it was not just the “same people” involved.
- Given the Development Plan is the cornerstone of the planning system it was important than changes to this process were prioritised.
- It was important the local place plans were not just a “box ticking” exercise.
- Annual Reports should show what money is spent on and not just the amount.
- Community engagement events need to be more than just “window dressing”.
- Pre-application consultation only applies to certain cases and does not always cover other cases that may still have a significant impact.
- There should be a study of the performance of Local Review Bodies.
- The funding for local place plans was critical to their possible success.
- Planning obligations should not be set aside without the opportunity for others, rather than just the signatories, to get involved.
- The importance of ensuring the “Climate Emergency” is fully considered as part of the on-going work.
Awards of Expenses – review of circular 6/1990
Scotland against Spin put forward that Circular 6/1990 should be updated to deal with the behaviours of parties at hearings and inquiries. This included, what they saw as, personal and vicious attacks on members of the public. They thought that reporters should exercise greater control over parties and the proceedings. They added that issues relating to late submissions should be included, they cited a 721 page closing submission that was 15 weeks late. They put forward that the “test” should be unreasonable behaviour and not just such behaviour that leads to additional expense.
Two other members of the Group responded saying that this experience was not one they had encountered when representing different parties, including community groups, at an examination.
Paul added that it was helpful that Andy Kinnaird was present as a decision on whether the Circular required updating would be one for PAD.
Paul thanked everyone for their attendance and contributions to the meeting