New research has revealed that gross expenditure on planning departments in Scotland has been cut in real terms by 42% since 2009; it also uncovered a 32% staffing reduction in local authority planning departments.
A steep decline in resourcing for Scottish planning authorities over the last decade has left the profession in a precarious position, new research published today by Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Scotland has concluded.
Key findings include:
The planning service is the one of the most severely affected of all local government services in terms of budgets with a reduction of 42% since 2009;
Nearly a third of planning department staff have been cut since 2009;
Planning application fees do not cover the costs of processing planning applications;
The new Planning Act has introduced 91 unfunded duties which could cost between £12.1m and £59.1m over 10 years to implement;
It is estimated that over the next 10 to – 15 years the planning sector will have demand for an additional 680 – 730 entrants into the sector.
The planning workforce has both demographic and succession challenges in the short, medium and long term Given this, if we want to ensure that the planning system meets its fullest potential to support the post COVID recovery there is a need to:
re-invest in planning services, and in the immediate term introduce emergency grants to support post-COVID green, economic recovery;
ensure planning fees are ring fenced used to support planning purposes.
RTPI Scotland Convenor Barbara Cummins said: “We are extremely concerned by these findings which demonstrate the impact of continued budget cuts on planning services in Scotland. We find ourselves at a critical moment. With planning playing a central role in supporting a green and economic recovery post-COVID, the system must be resourced effectively.
“The diminishing resource base for the planning profession must also be seen in terms of the increasing and unfunded duties resulting from the Planning (Scotland) Act. These new duties could cost between £12.1m and £59.1m to implement.
“There are also major demographic and succession challenges regarding the workforce pipeline, with less than 10% of staff in planning authorities now under 30 and a shortage of newcomers into the profession. An additional 700 new planners will be needed over the next 10 to 15 years to help reach net zero carbon targets.”
Among its recommendations, the research calls for the provision of emergency grants to support planning departments that are handling a surge of householder applications as a result of the pandemic.
It also says that the implementation of new digital platforms and initiatives could result in savings of more than £20m as the Planning Act is implemented.