The Scottish Government has published Annual Planning Performance Statistics for the year 2013/14. The report details average performance across Scotland's 32 local authorities and 2 national park authorities. Here are a few of the headline national figures from the past year:
- 30,026 local development applications were determined with an average decision time of 10.6 weeks. This is 6 days quicker than 2012/13 when 29,332 applications were determined.
- 309 major development applications were determined with an average decision time of 34.6 weeks. This is 12 days quicker than in 2012/13 when 238 applications were determined. Amongst the overall statistics were some very encouraging figures. The number of applications for major residential developments increased by 50% to 116 in 2013/14 and there was a marked reduction in processing times to around 26 weeks, a full 8 weeks faster than in 2012/13
- 92.6% of all applications were delegated for determination by planning officers (91.2% in 2012/13)
- 94.1% of all applications were approved (92.2% in 2012/13).
- Local Review Boards considered 543 cases and in nearly 40% of cases overturned the original decision of the planning officer. The comparative figures for 2012/13 are 537 cases with approximately the same number of decisions overturned.
- Reporters appointed by the Scottish Ministers considered 427 appeals in 2013/14. They sustained approximately 46% of appeals. The comparative figures for 2012/13 are 427 cases with 38% of appeals being sustained.
- Enforcement action was initiated by planning authorities in 5,987 cases (5,687 cases in 2012/13).
- Processing agreements were used in just 125 applications. However 83% of all agreements were within just 4 local authority areas and almost one third within the City of Edinburgh. A processing agreement is a project management tool. It the form of an agreement between the applicant and planning authority and sets out matters such as the information to be provided, milestones, heads of terms for planning obligations and agreed timescales. Scottish Government has recently re-launched planning agreements and while not mandatory, they are encouraged for all applications for major developments. It remains to be seen whether the current low take up will improve.
Overall the national trend shows some improvement in the average determination periods for both local and major applications. Of course as with any statistical report the devil will often be in the detail and within the average figures there are significant differences among planning authorities and for different types of development. To take just one example, the average time taken to determine a major minerals application fell from 46.6 weeks in 2012/13 to 20.6 weeks in 213/14 while the average determination period for major electricity generation applications increased from 50.7 weeks to 58.4 weeks.