Major housing decision times increase to four times the statutory period



Nicola Barclay
Nicola Barclay

The time taken to decide major housing developments in Scotland has increased to its slowest yet, official figures have shown.

The latest Scottish Government statistics on planning performance show major housing decisions in Q1 2015/16 took over 64 weeks on average. Four of the 20 applications had a timescale of over two years.

This is four times the statutory period of 16 weeks and, compared to the same quarter last year, represents an increase of over 80 per cent whilst the number of applications determined actually fell by 40 per cent.

Conversely, the 1,498 decisions made on local housing developments in quarter one (April to June) of 2015/16 took an overall average decision time of 13.6 weeks, which was the quickest average decision time over the past thirteen quarters.

Describing the figures as “disappointing on a number of fronts”, Nicola Barclay, director of planning at trade body Homes for Scotland, said: “Even when the four abnormally lengthy decisions referred to are stripped out, the median is still 37.6 weeks – two weeks longer than the same time period last year. Frustratingly, there is no information on the actual decision so we cannot tell how many of these applications are being taken forward.

“My main concern, however, is around the use of processing agreements, the whole point of which is for all parties to agree upfront to a realistic and achievable timescale. Of the nine major and seven local applications using such agreements, only half met the agreed programme. This is extremely worrying and must improve if partnership working is to be encouraged and supported going forward.

“Whilst the statistics for smaller developments are better, it is glaringly obvious that the system needs to gear up significantly if Scotland is to provide enough homes to meet the diverse housing needs of its growing population. This demonstrates the scale of challenge facing the independent panel tasked with undertaking the current ‘root and branch’ review of the planning system.”

Statistics on quarterly planning performance in Scotland have been released today by Scotland’s Chief Statistician.

Key Findings for Quarter 1 of 2015/16:

Housing GraphThe overall average decision time for Local Developments was the quickest over the past thirteen quarters.

  • For the first quarter from April to June 2015 the overall average decision time for local developments was 9.5 weeks, quicker by over 4 days compared to the previous quarter (10.2 weeks), and one week quicker when compared to the equivalent quarter in 2013/14 (10.5 weeks). This is the quickest average decision time since quarter one of 2012/13.
  • For quarter one in 2015/16 the percentage of local development decisions made in less than two months was 76.0 per cent, four per cent higher than 72.0 per cent in the previous quarter. Equivalent quarter one figures for previous years were 71.7 per cent in 2014/15, 74.2 per cent in 2013/14 and 70.6 per cent in 2012/13.

The average decision time for local housing developments was also at its quickest since quarter 1 of 2012/13.

  • There were 1,498 decisions made on local housing developments decided during quarter one of 2015/16. The average decision time for these local housing developments was 13.6 weeks, more than six days quicker than the previous quarter (14.5 weeks) and also the quickest average decision time since quarter 1 of 2012/13.

The overall decision time for Major Developments was six and a half weeks quicker than the previous quarter but over 5 weeks slower than the equivalent quarter in the previous year.

  • There were a total of 69 major applications decided during the first quarter of 2015/16 and the average decision time was 34.2 weeks, quicker by 6 and a half weeks compared to the previous quarter (40.7 weeks) but slower than the equivalent quarters in 2014/15 (28.9 weeks) and 2013/14 (32.8 weeks).

The average decision time for major housing developments was at its slowest since quarter 1 of 2012/13.

  • There were 20 decisions made on major housing developments decided during quarter one of 2015/16. The average decision time for these major housing developments was 64.4 weeks, almost 21 weeks slower than the previous quarter (43.8 weeks) and also the slowest average decision time since quarter 1 of 2012/13. This average has been skewed by a few lengthy applications and as a consequence three quarters of major housing applications were decided in a time quicker than the average of 64.4 weeks. The median decision time for major housing applications is 37.6 weeks. In addition, there were nine major housing applications (not included in average time calculations) that were subject to processing agreements with five of these meeting agreed timescales.

These figures exclude pre 3rd August 2009 cases.

Local developments include applications for household extensions and loft conversions etc, smaller housing and retail developments, as well as various other types of local developments.

Major developments include applications for developments of 50 or more homes, as well as certain waste, water, transport and energy-related developments, larger retail developments, and other types of major developments.

The overall rate of approvals for all types of application was 93.7 per cent in the period April to June 2015, similar the previous quarter (93.5 per cent) but down from the equivalent quarter one in 2014/15 (94.6 per cent).

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