Craig McLaren, Director of Scotland and Ireland at RTPI, discusses the idea of top slicing planning fees to help provide resources to improve performance
RTPI Scotland recently provided written evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee on the Scottish Government Budget 2014/15. We used this to highlight the need to invest in the planning system. We also pointed out that, although there is strong pressure to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the planning system, planning authorities do not have the resources required to support them to adopt and implement continuous improvement programmes. We appreciate that is currently difficult to fund this from existing planning authority and/ or Scottish Government budgets. Nonetheless we feel that there is a real need to find resources to enable this to happen, and ultimately, to improve performance.
We do our bit in RTPI. We will organise around 50 events this year (the very large majority of which are free or very low cost) through our Chapters and Scottish Young Planners’ Network as well as our key events such as the RTPI Scotland Annual Conference, Scottish Young Planners’ Conference and Sir Patrick Geddes Commemorative Lecture.
And the Improvement Service are doing a sterling job in developing and pulling together opportunities for planning authorities to learn from one another through events and benchmarking sessions. However, this is done on the proverbial shoestring which obviously limits what can be done and what impact it will have.
Given this, we believe that there may be need to approach the issue creatively and to explore the possibility of top-slicing, or adding a levy onto, planning fees which can then provide a pot of money to support improvement. This could help to provide a significant resource which can be used to create a nationwide, coordinated improvement programme and best practice portal. Investing in such a programme should benefit the customers of the planning service through improved performance. This ‘percent for performance’ could go someway to provide the continuous improvement programme we need.
We hope that this is approach is something that would be attractive to planning authorities given that it should help them and their staff to develop and improve. It should help developers, investors and communities as they would get an improved level of service. And it should help Scottish Government to show the improvement in planning performance.
We’d welcome thoughts, ideas and reactions…