Councils' planning costs outweigh fees by £20m
Johnstone | 16 September 2011
in Scotland are spending £20m more on processing planning applications than
they receive in fees, according to Audit Scotland.
gap must be addressed ‘urgently’, the watchdog said in a reportpublished yesterday, Modernising the planning system.
The auditors found there had been some improvements since the Scottish Government
introduced a new planning strategy in 2008. In particular, the six main public bodies that
are consulted in the planning process, such as Scottish Water and Historic
Scotland, were working better together.
this had not led to a reduction in the time taken by councils to decide on
applications. Only 65% were decided within the recommended two months in
2009/10, compared with 63% in 2004/05.
In the same period, costs increased by 17%, despite the number of
planning applications falling by 29%. This had created a £20.8m gap in revenue,
which the planning authorities – 32 councils and 2 national parks – had to fund
Audit Scotland called for more detailed information to be produced on
the efficiency of planning authorities’ work and for examples of best practice
to be spread.
Baillie, chair of the Accounts Commission, said the ‘unsustainable’ gap between
costs and fees received, which has risen from £6.7m six years ago, needed to be
‘Our planning system plays a key role in sustaining and growing our economy and
shaping our communities. The time taken to decide planning applications is not
reducing and the gap between income and expenditure is widening and becoming
unsustainable. Councils lack detailed information on the costs of handling
these costs and why they have increased is a necessary first step in
identifying where efficiencies can be made. Councils need to make progress on
this as a matter of urgency.’
planning advisors Planning Aid for Scotland said the report recognised ‘the
progress that has been made in modernising the planning system’, but agreed
that ‘important work remains to be done’.