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Planning performance statistics 2020/2021: quarterly (April 2020 to September 2020)

This report presents summary statistics on planning application decision-making timescales for April to September 2020, as well as historic data back to 2016/17. It is based on data collected from Local and Planning Authorities as part of the Planning Performance Framework (introduced in 2012).

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3. Major Developments

Major developments include applications for developments of 50 or more homes, as well as other applications covering areas of development such as minerals, housing, business and industry, waste management, electricity generation, fish farming and other developments. 

Classification between local and major developments depends on the particular development type. For example, housing developments are classed as major when the application is for 50 or more dwellings or for a site that exceeds two hectares, whereas electricity generation is classed as major when the capacity of the generating station is or exceeds 20 megawatts. 

This section presents quarterly information on average timescales across all major developments, along with separate figures for the key categories of housing, business and industry and other developments. Information on other categories of major developments is reported on an annual rather than quarterly basis.

Decision times for major applications may vary greatly between applications so average figures based on a small number of applications can be volatile. 

Some local authorities use processing agreements where the developer and the local authority agree on timescales for decisions. When an application is subject to a processing agreement it is not included in average decision time calculations.

Legacy cases validated before 3rd August 2009 are not included in the figures but are reported separately in Section 10.   Figures for all applications including legacy cases were reported up to and including 2016/17 and are available in previous publications.

The number of applications and average decision times has been impacted on in the first two quarters of 2020/21 by restrictions due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Further information about the impacts is available in Section 1.2.

3.1. All Major Developments

There were 82 major development applications not subject to processing agreements in the first six months of 2020/21, 32 (28%) fewer than in the same period in 2019/20. The average decision time was 39.0 weeks, over seven weeks slower than the 31.7 weeks for the same period in the previous year. 

In addition a number of applications were concluded that were subject to processing agreements, these are not included in average time calculations. In quarter one of 2020/21 there were 18 major development applications with processing agreements, 50.0% of these met agreed timescales that had been set between developers and local authorities. In quarter two there were 20, 45.0% meeting the agreed timescales. 

In quarter one major applications with processing agreements accounted for 34.6% of all major development decisions, in quarter two they accounted for 29.4%. 

Chart 15: All Major Developments 
Combined line and bar chart showing annual trends since 2016/17 in number of applications determined and average decision times for all major developments

The average decision time figures of 35.9 and 41.2 weeks for quarters one and two have been influenced by a number of lengthier decision times, including 15 decision times of longer than a year – six in quarter one and nine in quarter two. Two applications in quarter one and three in quarter two took over two years, two of the three in quarter two taking over four years.

If the applications taking over two years are excluded the average decision time for quarter one would be 31.1 weeks, almost five weeks quicker. For quarter two the average decision time would be 31.9 weeks, a reduction of more than nine weeks.

59% (20 of 34) of major development applications decided in quarter one were decided in a time that was quicker than the quarter one average. In quarter two 63% (30 of 48) were decided in a time quicker than the average for that quarter. Further information on the distribution of decision times for major development applications is given in Annex A.

3.2. Major Housing Developments

Major Housing developments are those with 50 or more dwellings or with a site area that is or exceeds 2 hectares where the predominant use is for housing. 

There were 29 major housing developments not subject to processing agreements decided during the first six months of 2020/21, 35 (55%) fewer than in the same period in the previous year. The average decision time was 53.7 weeks, more than 18 weeks slower than the 34.9 weeks for the same period in the previous year. 

In addition a number of applications were concluded that were subject to processing agreements, these are not included in average time calculations. In quarter one of 2020/21 there were 9 major housing applications with processing agreements, 33.3% of these met agreed timescales set between developers and local authorities. In quarter two there were 10, 40.0% meeting the agreed timescales.

Chart 16: Major Housing Developments 
Combined line and bar chart showing annual trends since 2016/17 in number of applications determined and average decision times for major housing applications

Average figures based on a small number of applications can be volatile. In quarter one three major housing applications had decision times of more than one year, the longest taking more than two years. The average decision time of 42.5 weeks was significantly influenced by the application with the longest decision time; the average decision time for the remaining 10 applications was 35.1 weeks, more than seven weeks quicker. In quarter two, six major housing applications had decision times of more than one year, two of these taking over four years. The average decision time (60.5 weeks) was significantly influenced by the applications taking over four years with the remaining 16 applications averaging 40.9 weeks, almost 20 weeks quicker. For further detail on the distribution of decision times for major housing see Annex A

3.3. Major Business and Industry

Business and industry developments include construction of a building or structure for any of the following: use as an office, for research and development of products or processes, for any industrial process or for use for storage or as a distribution centre. 

To be classed as major the gross floor space as a result of the development must exceed 10,000 square metres or the site area must exceed 2 hectares. 

Seven major business and industry developments not subject to processing agreements were decided during the first six months of 2020/21, three more than in the same period in 2019/20. The average decision time of 24.6 weeks was more than six weeks slower than the 18.0 weeks in the first six months of 2019/20. The number of major business and industry applications is very small and so average decision times may be significantly influenced by times for a single application.

In addition a number of applications were concluded that were subject to processing agreements, these are not included in average time calculations. In quarter one of 2020/21 there were 3 major Business and Industry applications with processing agreements, two of which met agreed timescales set between developers and local authorities. In quarter two there was one application and it met agreed timescales.

Chart 17: Major Business and Industry Developments 
Combined line and bar chart showing annual trends since 2016/17 in number of applications determined and average decision times for major business and industry applications

There were no business and industry applications not subject to processing agreements in quarter 2 of 2017/18 therefore there was no average decision time.

3.4. Major Other Developments

Other developments are developments not falling wholly within any other single class. They include but are not limited to retail, leisure and entertainment, education, healthcare, community facilities, transport interchanges, water and drainage developments and projects. This class also covers mixed use projects.

Major other developments are where the gross floor space of any building, structure or erection as a result of such development is or exceeds 5,000 square metres or the area of the site is or exceeds 2 hectares.

There were 35 major other developments not subject to processing agreements decided during the first six months of 2020/21, five more than in the same period in the previous year. The average decision time was 27.8 weeks, just over a week slower than the 26.3 weeks for the same period in the previous year. 

In addition a number of applications were concluded that were subject to processing agreements, these are not included in average time calculations. In both quarter one and quarter two of 2020/21 there were three major other developments applications with processing agreements, two in each quarter met agreed timescales that had been set between developers and local authorities. 

Chart 18: Major Other Developments 
Combined line and bar chart showing annual trends since 2016/17 in number of applications determined and average decision times for major other developments applications

In quarter two, three major other development applications had decision times of more than a year, the longest taking 1.7 years. The average decision time of 29.4 weeks was notably influenced by the application with the longest decision time. The average decision time for the remaining 20 applications was 26.4 weeks, three weeks quicker. Further detail on the distribution of decision times for major other developments is available in Annex A

Contact

Email: planstats@gov.scot

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