Scottish planning departments in ‘precarious’ position


ROYAL Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Scotland has published new research which claims a decline in resourcing for Scottish planning authorities over the last decade has left the profession in a ‘precarious’ position.

The research found that gross expenditure on planning departments in Scotland has been cut in real terms by 42% since 2009. Other findings included that there has been a 32% staffing reduction in local authority planning departments over the last ten years.

RTPI Scotland convenor Barbara Cummins said, “We are extremely concerned by these findings which demonstrate the impact of continued budget cuts on planning services in Scotland. We find ourselves at a critical moment. With planning playing a central role in supporting a green and economic recovery post-Covid, the system must be resourced effectively.

“The diminishing resource base for the planning profession must also be seen in terms of the increasing and unfunded duties resulting from the Planning (Scotland) Act. These new duties could cost between £12.1m and £59.1m to implement. There are also major demographic and succession challenges regarding the workforce pipeline, with less than 10% of staff in planning authorities now under 30 and a shortage of newcomers into the profession. An additional 700 new planners will be needed over the next 10 to 15 years to help reach net zero carbon targets.”

The research calls for the provision of emergency grants to support planning departments dealing with a ‘surge’ of householder applications as a result of the pandemic. It also says the implementation of new digital platforms and initiatives could result in savings of more than £20 million as the Planning Act is implemented.