Reasons for delays with planning applications for housing

Research identifying the main reasons for delay with applications for housing which have taken over one year to conclude.

1 Executive Summary

1.1 Executive Summary

The Scottish Government publishes decision making timescales on a quarterly and annual basis for all planning applications (applications which are subject to a processing agreement are reported separately). The reporting on timescales to determine housing applications has highlighted that there are a small number of cases being decided which are significantly affecting the average timescales. In the first two Quarters of 2017-18 there were 101 planning applications for housing which took longer than a year to conclude.

The Scottish Government appointed Ironside Farrar to undertake research to identify the reasons for delays with decisions on planning applications for housing. The aim of the research was to identify and investigate the reasons for delays that arise with applications for housing. The study commenced with desk-based data collection, gathering and analysing information obtained from the planning portal on each application. Email questionnaires were then distributed to the planning authority / applicant / agent for each application where assumptions of the reason for delay could not be made from the portal. Where required these were followed up with telephone calls. 56% of planning authorities responded to questionnaires or phone calls and 23% of applicant / agents.

The research identified primary and secondary reasons for delay when deciding planning applications for housing. The primary reason is defined as that which is largely responsible for the application being determined past the statutory two month (Local Development) or four month (Major Development) timescale. The secondary reason is defined as that reason(s) which further protracts the determination process past the statutory determination timescale.

The following conclusions emerged from the research:

  • The most common primary reason for the delay in an application meeting its determination timescale is the delayed response by an applicant to a request for information.
  • The most common secondary reason for the delay in an application meeting its determination timescale is the requirement for a legal agreement.
  • Of the applications reviewed, when a legal agreement is required it has delayed the application process on all occasions.

The most common reasons for delay that arise during the determination process when deciding planning applications for housing in order of magnitude are as set out in descending order of magnitude below:

1. Delayed Response by Applicant to additional information request (55%)
2. Legal Agreement (drafting / signing) (53%)
3. Delayed Action / Response by Planning officer (25%)
4. Delayed Action / Response by Other Council Officer (23%)
5. Other reason for delay (14%)
6. Delays - planning authority availability / staffing (11%)
7. Committee Determination Required (outwith timescale) (7%)
8. Applicant / agent asked for delay in decision making (2%)
9. Delayed Response by Statutory Consultees (1%)


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