What does a high-performing planning system look like? And what impact does this have? This is the question currently being asked by Craig McLaren, Scotland’s new National Planning Improvement Champion, to planning authorities and users of planning services across the country.
Through this consultation, the Improvement Service (the national improvement organisation for Local Government in Scotland) is looking to understand users’ ambitions for the planning system. Three questions are being asked:
- What outcomes do we need the planning system to deliver to have an impact?
- What makes a high-performing planning authority?
- How can we measure this?
This comes at a time when planning authorities across Scotland are facing resourcing issues, and the industry as a whole is facing a significant shortage of qualified planners. For the planning system to deliver impactful outcomes, it needs to be well-resourced and not just with Planners. We need more expert consultees who can respond to the detail within planning submissions and respond quickly to consultations.
IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNICATION
As a user, the one thing that makes a high-performing planning authority stand out is communication. A case officer who has the time to respond to, and engage with the applicant/agent and with the design team is going to have a much greater influence on the proposals, which in turn will deliver much better outcomes for neighbouring communities, local authorities, and developers. Communication is key, and to allow planning officers the time and opportunity to engage with applications fully, they must be better resourced.
A consequence of the Covid pandemic was the introduction of flexible working, including working from home. Whilst remote working can arguably increase productivity, it also presents challenges within the planning system in terms of the coordination and general communications required in the determination of major planning applications in particular. There needs to be a greater understanding of the significant benefits in terms of time and resources to both public and private sector Planners of getting back to more face-to-face meetings.
CONTRIBUTING TO ITS SUCCESS
A further measure would be to revisit determination periods (including those where a time extension has been agreed upon). We should be monitoring the success of pre-application discussions, particularly where these result in a positive decision, and we should be listening to our Planners – and this consultation is a great first step.
But it is not just open to planners; it is available to all users of the Planning System, and we would strongly encourage our clients and contacts to engage to help generate a positive response to this consultation.
If you would like to know more, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our Scottish Planning Team.