Planning Performance Statistics: background and context information

Background information and context relating to the Scottish Government Planning Performance Statistics

This document is part of a collection

Introduction and Context

This document accompanies the Planning Performance Statistics publications.  It provides more in depth background and content information about the survey and the publication for readers who require this level of detail. 


Planning authority performance data is a statistical collection undertaken to establish the number of planning applications determined by Scottish planning authorities, and their performance in processing them. The Scottish Government Communities Analysis Division collects quarterly data from all 32 local authorities and the two planning authorities (Cairngorms National Park and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park) on the detail of planning decisions and timescales.

Uses of the Statistics

The key objective of the statistics is to allow Scottish Government and the planning authorities to monitor the performance of planning authorities in the timeliness of deciding planning applications. The statistics monitor the impact of the development management system, part of the modernising planning agenda, which was implemented on 3rd August 2009. Further details are available at on the Scottish Government planning statistics website.

Legacy Cases

On 3rd August 2009 substantial changes to the statutory development management system, relating to the handling of planning applications, came into effect across the whole of Scotland. A few legacy cases that were validated pre 3rd August 2009 can badly skew results and therefore the analysis in Sections 2 to 5 covers applications validated in the current planning system post 3rd August 2009.

Figures for all applications including legacy cases were reported up to and including 2016/17 and are available in previous publications.

Detailed tables of results

Detailed excel tables of results as well as a copy of this summary, along with quarterly results and annual results for previous years are available from the Planning Authority Performance Statistics Section on the Planning Publications page of the Scottish Government’s website.

Categories of Planning Applications

For planning applications, developments are put into one of three categories: local, major or national. The different types allow councils to treat developments in a way which is suited to their size, complexity and the issues they are likely to raise.

Local developments include applications for changes to individual houses and smaller developments for new housing as well as applications covering areas of development such as minerals, business & industry, waste management, electricity generation, freshwater fish farming, marine finfish farming, marine shellfish farming, telecommunications, Approval of Matters Specified in Conditions (AMSCs) and other developments. Most applications will be for local developments.

Major developments include applications for 50 or more homes, as well as certain waste, water, transport and energy-related developments, larger retail developments, and other types of major 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. Typically there are only a small number of decisions made for major developments each quarter and therefore average decision times are likely to be volatile.

The sub-category “other developments”, used for both major and local developments, includes any developments not falling wholly within any of the specific categories of development for minerals, housing, business & industry, waste management, electricity generation, fish farming and AMSCs.  It includes, but is not limited to, retail, leisure and entertainment, education, healthcare, community facilities, transport interchanges, water and drainage developments and projects. It can also include mixed use projects.

National developments are mainly large public works (for example, the regeneration of the former Ravenscraig steelworks and the redevelopment of the Dundee Waterfront) and are identified in the National Planning Framework. These are not included in the planning performance statistics analysed in this publication.

Details for the classification of all development types can be found in the Hierarchy of Developments planning series circular. 

Calculation of Decision Times

The average decision time in weeks is calculated in days from the date of validation (the validation date, from which the time period for determination runs, is the date when the final piece of information for an application is received from the applicant) to the date the decision is issued. The average weeks are then calculated by dividing the number of days by seven.

When calculating cut-off dates for local applications meeting two month targets months are measured from a specific day in one month until the day with the preceding date in the following or subsequent months.

Some local authorities use processing agreements where the developer and the local authority agree on timescales for decisions. Applications subject to processing agreements are not included in average decision time calculations.

For further explanation of planning performance methodology, please refer to Planning Performance Technical Notes.

Stopping the Clock

In some cases it is appropriate to remove a length of time from the total decision time. “Stopping the clock” is used where there has been a lengthy delay caused by the applicant or external consultees, outwith the planning authority’s control that has halted progress with an application. It is for individual authorities to decide what they consider ‘lengthy’ on a case by case basis. This should not be used for every application; it is about recording the data in a way which produces more accurate performance statistics that would otherwise have been skewed by extreme cases of delay outwith the planning authority’s control.

Clock stops were not used where there was a delay to authority processing as a result of the impact of COVID-19 restrictions.  Stop the clock guidance has been issued to planning authorities to help with decisions for stopping the clock.


The revisions policy for planning performance statistics has been developed in accordance with the UK Statistics Authority Code of practice for Official Statistics.

Statistics for other UK Countries

Information and statistics on planning applications for the other UK countries can be accessed at the following links:

August 2022

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