Planning performance and fees: consultation analysis

Analysis of a consultation to obtain the views and opinions of stakeholders on a new approach to how the performance of planning authorities is measured, the role of the National Planning Improvement Co-ordinator (NPIC) and the new structure for the planning fee regime.

Executive Summary


1. Optimal Economics has been appointed by the Scottish Government - Local Government and Communities Directorate - Planning and Architecture Division (PAD) to undertake an analysis of the responses to the public consultation on Planning Performance and Fees.

2. The aim of the consultation was to obtain the views and opinions of stakeholders on a new approach to how the performance of planning authorities is measured, the role of the National Planning Improvement Co-ordinator (NPIC) and the new structure for the planning fee regime along with the introduction of additional services which can be charged for and the ability to waive or reduce planning fees in certain circumstances.

3. The consultation was broadly divided into two parts. The first part covered planning performance and the role and responsibilities of the NPIC. The second part of the consultation was focused on fees and was split into four main sections - planning fees, other fees, discretionary charging and other issues. There was a further section at the end of the consultation with questions on impact assessments.


4. The analysis was undertaken in three main stages:

  • Stage 1 was a validation of responses to determine that they are relevant to planning performance and fees; whether there were any duplicate responses or campaign responses and the development of a typology to reflect the respondent and their relationship to the planning system and its processes.
  • Stage 2 was focused on establishing an appropriate coding framework for the analysis of open-ended questions. Main themes were identified with a further detailed coding of each main theme undertaken to allow responses to be grouped to reflect key issues/views by the typology developed in Stage 1.
  • Stage 3 was the analysis of all questions and reporting of results which took account of client feedback at all stages of the reporting process.

5. All responses to the "open" questions have been given an equal weighting, allowing every idea presented to be considered equally. Where possible a number of simple bands have been used to provide an indication of the frequency of an idea, although it is noted that this treats the response from an individual with the same weight as the response from a professional body which may have many members. Nevertheless, the following bands have been used:

  • Few: up to 3 responses.
  • Several: 4 to 10 responses.
  • Many: over 10 responses.

Overview of Responses

6. The consultation received a total of 109 responses which are shown below by group.

Summary of the Number of Responses by Group
Number %
Business 29 27
Civil Society 28 26
Development Industry 12 11
Policy and Planning 40 37
Total 109 100

General Issues

7. A number of recurring issues emerged throughout the consultation which are summarised below.

8. The issues of planning performance and fees are intrinsically linked and while there was general support for increasing fees, there was also a recognition that any increase in fees would need to be accompanied by a tangible improvement in the service provided by planning authorities. Linked to the need to improve performance was the suggestion that authorities should have the option to ringfence any funding from increased fees.

9. There was support for moving to full cost recovery, whereby those using the planning system, pay for the full cost of the process. However, this requires clear information on the processing costs of applications and concerns were raised that there was insufficient evidence in the consultation on how the proposed fees had been calculated and whether the fees cover the cost of processing the application.

10. Reference was made to the 2019 Scottish Government goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. From the business perspective, there is a need to ensure that the proposed fees do not adversely affect the delivery of a low carbon economy. Civil society also questioned whether fees were sufficiently high to reflect the adverse effects of some activities in contributing to climate change.

Planning Performance

11. There were three 'closed' questions on planning performance which are summarised in the table below.

Summary of Responses to Planning Performance Questions
Yes No Not Answered
Should a vision for planning in Scotland be set out? 79 3 27
Do you agree with the proposed vision? 40 37 32
Is the proposed approach to content of reports correct? 49 24 36

12. While there was considerable support for a vision for the planning service in Scotland, there was only marginal support for the vision proposed in the consultation. There was concern that the proposed vision lacked ambition and did not reflect the importance of planning in delivering the development and land uses that are needed to ensure Scotland can flourish. The proposed vision is too focused on process and not enough on the outcomes to which it contributes.

13. There was support for the content of the Planning Performance Reports (PPR) which are proposed to take account of the outcomes in the National Performance Framework and include chapters on customer service, engagement, case studies, improvements and outcomes. The importance of identifying measurable outcomes was acknowledged as was the need to learn from past experience.

14. Many suggestions were made about the statistics which should be included in the PPRs with the key indicators for measuring the success of the system and authorities identified as outcomes, timely decision making, customer satisfaction and engagement.

15. In terms of measuring the outcomes from planning for placemaking, sustainable development and quality of decisions, concerns were raised about the definition of the terms, the subjective nature of the outcomes and the fact that the true impact is not immediately ascertainable.

National Planning Improvement Coordinator

16. There was support for the NPIC as shown in the table below.

Summary of Responses to NPIC Question
Yes No Not Answered
Do you agree with the proposed responsibilities of the NPIC? 56 7 46

17. The consultation identified the need for the NPIC to promote improvements and share best practice across authorities. Policy and planning respondents felt the NPIC should identify obstacles to improving performance and share good practice. Civil society believed this should be a nationwide role, improving consistency across planning authorities while the business and development industry groups felt that the current forum for performance discussions was not conducive to improved performance.

18. Many respondents from all groups identified the need for the NPIC to develop communications/relationships with key stakeholders, including agencies, development industry, infrastructure providers, local authorities, agents and community groups and that digital tools could assist with this.

19. All groups except policy and planning referred to the need for the NPIC to have powers to implement change and drive improvement. The need for the role to address issues within the planning system as a whole and to strengthen the ability of the system to deliver on Scotland's priorities was identified by all groups except development industry.

20. In terms of the skills and attributes of the NPIC, all groups identified that the NPIC should have significant experience of the statutory planning system including from the user's perspective. The post should also be independent from political parties, government departments and other users of the planning system.

Planning Fees

21. The table below provides a summary of the responses to the closed questions on the proposed fees and method for calculating fees for the different fee categories. In terms of the open questions, very detailed points were made for all categories of fees with a summary of the main themes provided below.

22. For all categories of development, the majority of respondents answering the question agreed with the proposed fees with the exception of Category 20 - peat. The overall support masks different trends within the major groups with civil society and policy and planning respondents tending to support the proposed fees and business and development industry respondents showing less support.

23. In terms of the proposed method, most respondents answering the question supported the proposals for all categories of development except Category 1 - residential development. As with the proposed fees, civil society and policy and planning respondents tended to support the proposed method while business and development industry respondents showed less support.

24. Fee Rates: there was concern the proposed increases (particularly when expressed in percentage terms) were too high at the lower end of the scale (e.g. Category 6) and sometimes too high at the higher end of the scale (e.g. Category 9). There was inconsistency in the base fees applied per 0.1ha across many categories (e.g. Categories 15 and 16) and the suggestion that there should be a better alignment of base fee rates between non-housing categories. There was also inconsistency between flat rates applied to different categories (e.g. Categories 18 and 25). Maximum fees charged in some categories were felt by policy and planning respondents to be too low given the potential issues that arise in determining these applications (e.g. Category 12), but business respondents felt that the maximum fee charged in some categories was not justified in terms of the hours required to process the application (e.g. Category 11). The requirement for a maximum fee was also questioned by policy and planning respondents (e.g. Category 17).

25. Methodology: In some categories the methodology was felt to be too complicated with different fee rates and many thresholds (Category 6). Clarity is also required over the rationale for selecting specific approaches to the fee calculation e.g. the use of floorspace for Category 13. There was also concern about the inconsistency of approach to different categories (e.g. Categories 15 and 16). It was also suggested that where fees are charged on site area, it may promote potentially negative behaviour such as minimising red line boundaries to the detriment of environmental initiatives. Also, in some categories, a reduction in fee is proposed at the lower end of the scale which is not consistent with a move towards cost recovery.

26. Definition: all groups raised issued around the definition of the fee categories and what activities will be covered by specific categories. For example, if tourism should be included in Category 7. Guidance should be prepared to ensure there is no misinterpretation of the categories.

27. PPP: for categories where the fee for PPP was proposed as 50% of the detailed application fee, there was little general support for this. It was felt that both PPP and detailed applications require a full assessment of the suitability of the proposals, therefore charging half the fee for PPP does not reflect the level of assessment required.

Summary of Responses to Planning Fees Questions
Yes No Not Answered
Category 1: Residential Development Fee 28 25 56
Methodology 23 29 57
Category 2: Extensions and Alterations Fee 27 17 65
Methodology 22 21 66
Category 6: Retail and Leisure Fee 29 14 66
Methodology 22 17 70
Category 7: Business and Commercial Fee 26 17 66
Methodology 23 18 68
Category 8: Agricultural Buildings Fee 21 17 71
Methodology 20 15 74
Category 9: Glasshouses Fee 18 14 77
Methodology 17 15 77
Category 10: Polytunnels Fee 21 10 78
Methodology 20 9 80
Category 11: Wind Farms and Access Tracks Fee 28 18 63
Methodology - Site Area 30 12 67
Category 12: Hydro Fee 27 9 73
Methodology 24 11 74
Category 13: Other Generation Projects Fee 25 12 72
Solar Farms Separate 25 13 71
Energy Storage Separate 21 15 73
Heat Networks Separate 19 15 75
Category 14: Exploratory Drilling Oil & Gas Fee 25 11 73
Methodology 23 11 75
Category 15: Fish Farming Fee 23 9 77
Methodology 20 10 79
Category 16: Shellfish Farming Fee 24 6 79
Methodology 24 6 79
Category 17: Plant and Machinery Fee 31 6 72
Methodology 28 4 77
Category 18: Access, Car Parks for Existing Uses Fee 27 12 70
Methodology 24 12 73
Category 19: Winning & Working Minerals Fee 24 14 71
Methodology 24 14 71
Category 20: Peat Fee 15 16 78
Methodology 17 14 78
Category 21: Other Operations Fee 25 10 74
Methodology 27 6 76
Categories 22 & 23: Waste Disposal & Mineral Stock Fee 22 9 78
Methodology 22 8 79
Category 24: Conversion of Flats & Houses Fee 32 5 72
Methodology 28 9 72
Category 25: Change of Use Buildings Fee 31 10 68
Methodology 25 12 72
Category 26: Change of Use Land Fee 31 10 68
Methodology 26 12 71

Other Fees

28. Other fees cover a wide range of different fees with the results of the closed questions shown in the table below. Of the respondents answering the questions, there was clear support for all the proposals except for reduced fees for applications in conservation areas which have arisen because of the restriction on permitted development rights. Opposition to the reduction was driven by policy and planning respondents who highlighted the need to recover additional costs with these applications e.g. advertising costs. Support for the reduction in fees was to ensure that properties are properly maintained.

29. The current fee structure for Approval of Matters Specified in Conditions (AMSC) is complicated with many suggestions proposed on how the fee should be calculated. There was support for the resetting of the fee calculator if a Section 42 application is granted, primarily from civil society and policy and planning respondents.

Summary of Responses to Other Fees Questions
Yes No Not Answered
Should granting a Section 42 lead to fee calculator being reset? 20 13 76
Should a reduced fee be payable for applications in conservation areas because permitted development rights for dwellings are restricted? 18 27 64
Is a fee for applying for listed building consent appropriate? 34 13 62
Should the fees for hazardous substances consent be increased 30 3 76
Are the proposed fees for CLUDS appropriate? 30 4 75
Are the proposed fees for advertisement appropriate? 29 4 76
Are the proposed fees for prior approval appropriate? 29 6 74
Are the proposed fees for alternative schemes appropriate? 26 5 78

30. For cross-boundary applications, there was majority support for splitting the fee as per how the development is split across boundaries as it would provide a more equitable distribution of the fee given that both authorities have to undertake assessment.

31. For all other categories of other fees there was considerable support for the fees proposed.

Discretionary Charging

32. The Planning Act 2019 contained provisions which enable the extension of the scope of services planning authorities can charge for in carrying out their functions. The table below shows respondents views on different aspects of discretionary charging.

33. There was general support for most categories of discretionary charging except for charging for entering a processing agreement and an enhanced project management service. There are some concerns that introducing fees for discretionary services, such as processing agreements, may discourage applicants from using these services.

34. Although there was support for charging for appeals to DPEA, there was no support for the fee being refunded in the event of a successful appeal. In the case of appeals to DPEA, business and development industry respondents are more likely to express concern that a fee would damage the impartiality of the system, whereas civil society and policy and planning respondents are more likely to find a full or partial cost recovery fee acceptable.

35. There is a general feeling across the respondents that fees for discretionary services should be related to the service level provided and should correlate with the scale and complexity of the proposal and the planning effort provided to the applicant.

36. There are differing views on how the actual fees should be set, with policy and planning and civil society respondents tending to favour local planning authority discretion in setting fees, with business and development industry respondents more likely to favour a national approach. There is some support across all respondent categories for any discretionary charges to be included in the overall planning fee.

Summary of Responses to Discretionary Charging Questions
Yes No Not Answered
Should the range of services an authority can charge for be set out? 59 9 41
Should the fees for pre-application discussions be subtracted from the full fee payable on submission of an application? 40 29 40
Should there be an additional charge for entering into a processing agreement? 19 47 43
Should authorities be able to charge for carrying out the monitoring of conditions? 43 24 42
Should a fee for monitoring be limited to certain types of monitoring? 31 28 50
Should a fee be payable for the discharge of conditions? 41 33 35
Should planning authorities be able to charge for the drafting of planning agreements? 36 25 48
Should an authority be able to charge for development within a Masterplan Consent Area (MCA)? 42 6 61
Should the fee or an upper limit for MCA development be set in the regulations? 19 14 76
Should authorities be able to offer and charge for an enhanced project management service? 29 31 49
Should authorities be allowed to charge for adding names to the register of interested people for self-build projects? 20 17 72
Should there be a restriction on the amount charge for inclusion in the register for self-build? 18 13 78
Should fees be charged for appeals to DPEA? 45 27 37
Should the fee be refunded in the event of a successful appeal? 17 37 55
Should the maximum reduction allowed for reduced/waived fees be set out in the regulations? 21 16 72

Other Issues

37. The consultation sought views on a range of other issues including retrospective applications, incentives, environmental impact assessment (EIA), hybrid applications and Scottish Government services. The table below shows respondents views on these other issues.

38. There was support for the proposals relating to retrospective applications, a single fee to including advertising and charging for PPP at half the standard rate. There was no support for the use of incentives, applying a fee for paper applications not submitted through ePlanning, a supplementary fee for an EIA and a service charge for applications submitted through eDevelopment.

39. Retrospective application surcharges at 100% tended to be supported by civil society and policy and planning respondents as a means of encouraging proper applications. Business and development industry respondents tended to feel the surcharge would be punitive and discourage submission.

Summary of Responses to Questions on Other Issues
Yes No Not Answered
Should the surcharge for retrospective applications be set at 100% 32 26 51
Should authorities need to clearly set out the reasons why the surcharge has been applied or not in each individual case? 38 18 53
Is the use of discounts, rebates or other incentives a useful tool in delivering a more efficient service? 21 27 61
Is it appropriate to apply an increased fee for paper applications which are not submitted through ePlanning? 28 34 47
Should there be a single planning fee which includes advertising costs? 33 22 54
Should the submission of an EIA warrant a supplementary fee? 24 47 38
Should applications for PPP continue to be charged at half the standard fee? 29 20 60
Should a service charge be introduced for submitting an application through eDevelopment? 20 38 51

40. With regard to the use of discounts, rebates or other incentives, civil society and policy and planning respondents tended to disagree with penalties placed on local planning authorities as delays could be outwith their control and the process could be difficult to administer. On the other hand, business and development industry respondents tended to favour the use of incentives to improve the efficiency of the planning service.

41. There was general support for moves towards electronic processes, for example the use of e-Planning and the removal of the need to advertise applications in print media. However, there was recognition across the board that applicants without access to the means to submit electronic applications should not be disadvantaged.

Consolidated Impact Assessments

42. The consultation set out a consolidated impact assessment and considered the effect of the proposals on Island authorities. The results of these questions are set out in the table below which shows support for the impact assessment conclusions. There was support from all major groups with civil society respondents tending to be the respondents disagreeing with the conclusions.

Summary of Responses to Consolidated Impact Assessment Questions
Yes No Not Answered
Do you agree that a full EQIA is not required? 25 5 78
Do you agree that a full SEA is not required? 26 6 78
Do you agree that a full CRWIA is not required? 25 5 79
Do you agree that a full Fairer Scotland Duty assessment is not required? 22 7 80



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