Craig McLaren asks what game-changers should be taken forward as part of the review of the planning system
RTPI Scotland is working closely with our members over the coming months to prepare our response to the Scottish Government consultation paper Places, People and Planning. We have already published a paper setting out some key game changers Repositioning Planning. Alongside our chapters we are running workshops for members across Scotland, each one tasked with exploring one of the review’s key themes. These will discuss a number of propositions to help RTPI Scotland to pull together thinkpiece papers on key issues. These papers will form part of our response to the consultation and, hopefully, provide some constructive thinking on practical ways forward.
A workshop is being held on 9 February in Glasgow by the West of Scotland and Dumfries and Galloway Chapters looking at Leadership, Skills and Resources. The propositions to be discussed are:
Proposition 1: Every Council should have a statutory Chief Planning Officer
We need to make sure that strategic decisions taken by local authorities and Community Planning Partnerships are not taken in isolation. The implications of new investment and new development need to be assessed and planned for. The role of a Chief Planning Officer for each planning authority should be established in legislation to ensure expertise about place and spatial planning at senior management level. This should set out where they would need to be involved in decision-making within and beyond the planning service. It would also establish how and when the Chief Planning Officer would be required to be involved in strategic decision-making. We believe that this will provide a better planned approach to service delivery and development which will benefit places and people. Questions arising from this include:
- Do you agree?
- Should role be established in legislation?
- Help ensure planning expertise at senior management?
- When and how they would be required to be involved in strategic decision-making?
- Will this mean better consultation on corporate issues?
- Will it lead to more joined up service delivery and development?
Proposition 2: Full cost recovery for planning applications which is ring-fenced for development management
We need to make sure that councils can recover the costs of deciding planning applications, and use this money to keep improving their planning service. Research published by RTPI Scotland shows that between 2010 and 2015 up to 20%of posts were lost from planning departments across Scotland, alongside a loss of£40m from planning budgets. The average proportion of local authority budgets for planning functions was 0.63%. Meanwhile, only 63% of the costs of processing a planning application were recovered by the fee charged. The principle of full cost recovery for assessing planning applications should be established. Planning application fees should be ring-fenced so that they are only used to support the assessment of planning applications. There is a need to explore how planning authorities can best cover the costs of running an effective planning service.
Some questions that arise:
- Do you agree with this?
- Can fees move from current average 63% cost recovery?
- How do we cover costs of assessing applications, including support from other Council services?
- How can money raised to be reinvested in development management process? Is legislation required?
- How do we deal with variations across Local Authorities?
- Is further research required?
Proposition: Introduce a more coordinated approach to skills development
A skills development programme should be established for planning and other built environment professionals. This should agree the skills,knowledge and behaviours required for the ‘new planning system’ and identify where there are gaps and coordinate approaches to supporting planners and planning organisations to attain them. This should include establishing a planning graduate intern programme to help graduates to obtain diverse experience at the beginning of their careers, equipping them for the roles demanded by a new planning service. Questions raised are:
- Do you agree?
- How do we get agreement on skills & knowledge needs?
- Should an online portal ‘one stop shop’ be developed along with a coordinator to focus on training; opportunities to share learning; training providers; good practice; opportunities for joint working; benchmarking; a graduate intern programme
- How do we resource this?
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