Four of Scotland’s leading sectoral trade associations have combined to voice disquiet at the Scottish Government’s decision to increase fees for planning applications by more than twice the rate of inflation.
The four trade associations – the British Aggregates Association, Homes for Scotland, Scottish Retail Consortium, and Scottish Tourism Alliance – have spoken out ahead of the 5% increase which will come into effect this week, on 1 November. It follows a previous 20% rise in fees introduced in 2013.
Richard Bird, Secretary of the Stirlingshire-based British Aggregates Association, said:
“We already have concerns about the lack of sufficiently experienced planners to deal with mineral planning applications, and this further bumper leap in fees will only exacerbate that.”
Homes for Scotland’s Head of Planning Strategy, Blair Melville, commented:
“Homes for Scotland members have always stated that they would be willing to pay higher planning application fees in return for a quality service. However, the Scottish Government’s own Planning Performance Framework monitoring shows a system which falls far short of the standards of customer service, speed and efficiency that the country needs if new development is to stimulate economic growth.
“There are some bright spots and good authorities, but too many are still offering inadequate service, and the worst-performing Councils are undoubtedly acting as a drag on development. In addition, when public service spending cuts are continuing, we have no confidence that increased planning application fees will be used to improve staffing or service levels in planning departments.”
David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said:
“Retailers want to see an effective and well-resourced planning system, one that facilitates investment in new or existing retail premises. However it is far from clear that this further above-inflation rise in fees, coming on top of last year’s hefty 20 per cent increase, has been accompanied by a commensurate and demonstrable improvement in service to retail applicants.”
Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said:
“Scotland’s tourism industry has enjoyed a strong 2014. However if we are to maximise the momentum of the past 12 months and achieve the growth ambition set out in the national tourism strategy, then investment into many existing businesses and new assets is essential.
“Managing costs remains a challenge and commitments to tourism investment need surety that the upfront costs are justified. The industry has yet to be convinced of the need for this further above inflation rise in planning fees. Tourism firms will expect to see improvement in the service provided and especially in the pace of processing applications.”