Planning and Environmental Appeals: annual review 2020 to 2021

Planning and Environmental Appeals Division's annual review of its performance for 2020 to 2021.

Chief Reporter's Statement

7.	Scott Ferrie - Interim Chief Reporter

This Annual Review reflects on a year like no other.

Covid restrictions have continued to impact on the work of DPEA throughout the year. This has manifested in the form of changing infection rates and resultant uncertainty on how and where in Scotland restrictions would be imposed. The first and most important achievement that ought to be recorded here is that DPEA looks set to emerge from those restrictions with no backlog of casework.

This has been facilitated by a series of evolving guidance notes for reporters and parties on how DPEA would progress casework as restrictions shifted. But it has been achieved due to the hard work and flexibility of staff and others in the process, often labouring under difficult circumstances, together with a robust electronic casework management system which was already in place.

I also record my appreciation to those members of staff who were wholly or partly re-deployed on Covid PPE-related duties in the early part of Scottish Government's response. The willingness of staff to take on new and demanding tasks whilst at the same time continuing to work on their 'day job' is commendable.

At the time of last year's Annual Review, Paul Cackette had been seconded to lead the SG Outbreak Management Division, subsequently retiring as Chief Reporter in December. Paul's forensic but ever-cheerful leadership has been a huge loss to DPEA, with his overall contribution to public service recently being recognised by the award of a CBE. Two experienced and well-respected reporters, Tim Brian and Bob Maslin, have also hung up their pens this year; their legacy of sound reasoning and case management remains with us.

DPEA's move to new offices at Hadrian House, quite ironically, took place at a time when most staff had shifted to home-working. I am confident though, that this fit-for-purpose accommodation will facilitate improved collaboration between colleagues and with stakeholders. I am also optimistic that the fully kitted-out conference suit will enable more hearing and inquiry sessions to be held in our offices, whilst at the same time allowing for remote participants to take part fully in these events.

The continuity of service provided by DPEA has been remarkable of itself. We have, however, continued to undertake significant improvements to that service. Notable amongst those are publication of the easy-read Guide to the Appeals Process, suggested by stakeholders; and publication of Guidance Note 23, which aims to foster more efficient and proportionate inquiry processes. The latter will be particularly important as DPEA is stretched to resource an anticipated increase in inquiry cases and examinations.

In the year ahead I intend that DPEA will focus on maintaining good performance against targets where that is currently achieved, and in adopting the new ways of working espoused in Guidance Note 23 in order to improve our performance on hearing and inquiry casework. We will also continue to work with Planning and Architecture Division on planning modernisation, including preparation of NPF4, and in monitoring the impact of revisions made to SPP in regard to the presumption in favour of sustainable development. In addition we continue to liaise with client divisions in preparation for the acceptance of new appeal streams: forestry appeals; workplace parking levy; deposit return scheme; and low emission zones.

I intend personally to focus also on the wellbeing of staff, and of stakeholders as far as I can.

Like never before, none of this could have been achieved without the skill, professionalism and dedication of all of our reporters and administrative staff. The same applies to our stakeholders and other participants in the appeals process, who have, almost without exception, cooperated with DPEA in adopting new ways of working. I am profoundly grateful to all.

Scott M Ferrie

Interim Chief Reporter



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