COSLA welcomes planning change

MOVES to improve the planning system have been welcomed as “a step in the right direction” by councils.
Planning minister Derek Mackay is to team up with the Conventional of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) to lead a group as part of the Scottish Government’s drive for reform. “People who want to invest in construction projects in Scotland need a planning system that is timely, reliable and fair,” the minister told MSPs.
The group will be made up of local authority planning bosses from across the country with the aim of boosting performance.
At a debate on planning in the Parliament, Mackay said a report on the planning performance of local authorities will be published in the spring under the new Planning Performance Framework agreed with professional body Heads of Planning Scotland.
The document sets out the steps Holyrood will take to reform the system. As well as taking “concerted action” in cooperation with COSLA to boost planning performance, it will refine the examination process to ensure development plans are up to date. The document also covers work to simplify and streamline the process, including extending permitted development rights.
Mackay said: “In 2009, we introduced the most comprehensive programme of planning reform in a generation. But there is more still to do and last year I outlined the further ways we intend to improve that system, including a new performance framework, agreed with Heads of Planning Scotland.
“COSLA and I are determined that we should deliver the high performing planning system Scotland deserves. I know resourcing is a real issue for local authorities, and last month I announced a 20% increase in planning fees. At the same time I have made clear that any increase in fees must be linked to improved performance.”
Councillor Stephen Hagan, COSLA’s planning spokesman, said he welcomed the minister’s recognition of the pressures and of his proposal to increase fees but the organisation remained committed to “a fundamental review of planning fees which leads to full cost recovery in due course”.
Mackay agreed to a COSLA proposal for a joint ministerial group to look at a review of the structure of planning fees, the process of measuring performance and ultimately a further increase in planning fees.