Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA): annual review 2022 to 2023

Planning and Environmental Appeals Division's annual review of its performance for 2022 to 2023.

Chief Reporter’s Statement

As this Annual Review demonstrates, this has been another highly productive year for DPEA. Reporters and administrative staff have worked collaboratively, in the context of budget constraints, to continue to deliver a high quality and efficient appellate service. I am hugely grateful to all team members for their continued commitment to delivering high quality decisions and recommendations within Ministerial target dates.

For the year ahead I intend that DPEA will build on this track record by maintaining good performance and by working together with stakeholders to ramp-up initiatives designed to ensure that processes are proportionate and efficient.

As I mentioned last year, this work is resulting in faster processing times for onshore wind proposals, making a significant contribution to the achievement of Scottish Government net zero targets. Engagement with Energy Consent colleagues and the Energy sector indicates that DPEA can expect to receive a significant increase in Electricity Act Section 36 and Section 37 onshore renewable energy generation proposals and transmission lines, together with an unprecedented rise in the volume of Wayleave cases.

Within this context we intend to build on the efficiency gains achieved by Guidance Note 23: Managing an Efficient Inquiry Process by requiring inquiry parties to submit summaries of their case as it stands at the close of inquiry, enabling the Reporter to incorporate those in their report and move straight onto their own reasoning and conclusions. This ought to facilitate quicker and more proportionate reporting, whilst providing inquiry parties with a direct voice to Ministers.

In the same vein, it has become apparent that the proportion of Further Written Submission casework has been steadily growing over the past four years or so, at some points outstripping the proportion of Site Inspection casework. This was never the intention of the 2006 Planning Act reforms, which aimed for a review of planning decisions based on the information before the planning authority, albeit on a de novo basis. Requesting further submissions also elongates processing times. To this end a short life working group of reporters and caseworkers has been considering the causes for this increase and is making recommendations to ensure that further submissions are sought only where absolutely required.

One external factor which has been identified is sometimes inadequate appeal submissions and planning authority responses, where the reporter is unable to form a clear picture of the party’s case. In this regard I would ask all parties to ensure that a full case is presented first time around, in order to avoid further exchanges. That is not to say that submissions need be lengthy. Just as I am encouraging reporters to prepare succinct decision notices and reports, I would encourage all parties to do the same, concentrating on the key issues in contention. This ought to result in more proportionate and efficient processes at a time when resources are limited all round.

I also mentioned last year that DPEA staff had been engaging with Planning, Architecture and Regeneration Division (PARD) colleagues on the preparation of NPF4, advising on detailed drafting rather than policy choices. NPF4 has been adopted by Ministers and reporters have now issued the first of their reports and decisions where NPF4 is part of the development plan. Those decisions will feed into monitoring of the effectiveness of NPF4.

Also on the planning modernisation front, DPEA staff have been involved in intensive collaboration with PARD, Key Agencies, Heads of Planning Scotland and planning authority colleagues in preparation for the receipt of the first LDP Evidence Report Gatechecks, expected around the turn of the year. I aim to ensure that DPEA approaches those in a proportionate and timely manner.

Scott M Ferrie, Chief Reporter



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