Resourcing a High Quality Planning System: A Consultation Paper (Scottish Government 2010)
Submission from ALGAO:Scotland
Directorate for the Built Environment
2J (South) Victoria Quay
14 October 2010
Resourcing a High Quality Planning System: A Consultation Paper
ALGAO:Scotland represents Local Authority and National Park archaeological services in Scotland and is part of the UK-wide organisation, ALGAO:UK. We welcome this opportunity to comment upon this Scottish Government consultation and wish to offer the following responses to the consultation.
A major part of the work of ALGAO:Scotland members is the provision of advice to planning authorities on the archaeological implications of planning applications in Scotland. Some members are employed directly by planning authorities to provide this advice. Others provide advice to planning authorities through employment by Trusts, a shared service, or under a bought-in arrangement with a neighbouring authority. In all cases the costs of the archaeological advice service is borne by the planning authority, and is therefore ultimately resourced via the planning application fees. We have responded only to those questions below which we feel are particularly relevant to our role.
EFFECTIVE USE OF RESOURCES
Q1. What measures could be implemented that would improve the quality of application and supporting information?
The ability for planning authorities not to register applications of insufficient quality would be welcome. Archaeological issues arising from major developments are best handled at as early a stage as possible, so that submitted applications are accompanied by relevant archaeological assessment reports. If these reports are not submitted with applications, delays in processing can ensue whilst such reports are sought from the applicant, thereby affecting processing timescales. Most major applications already have such reports in place at application stage, but there should be some ability for planning authorities not to register applications which do not have relevant supporting material.
Q2. Would you be in favour of the introduction of a charge for pre application discussions? In considering your response, should this be a one-off payment or should it be discounted against the subsequent submission of a planning application?
ALGAO:Scotland members are regularly involved in pre-planning application discussions on archaeological matters on behalf of planning authorities. This is often unresourced work, particularly for those archaeological advice services which are located externally to the planning authorities (for example where a service is bought in from a Trust or a neighbouring authority, or from a shared service).
ALGAO:Scotland would be in favour of the ability either to charge applicants separately for pre-application discussions on behalf of planning authorities, or to reclaim costs from the planning authorities themselves by our inclusion in their own pre-application charging regimes. This would greatly help to underpin the financial stability of all of Scotland’s archaeological advice services, particularly at a time of major funding cuts.
New ways of working
Q3. Are you supportive of the ways of working identified above? If so, is there a particular approach that you consider could make a difference to the performance of the planning system? If yes, which one and why?
Some ALGAO:Scotland members are already experienced in some of the new ways of working set out in section 2.3 of the consultation document. There is already a shared archaeological advice service in the west of Scotland (the West of Scotland Archaeology Service advising 11 planning authorities). There are three instances of advice being bought in from neighbouring authorities (Clackmannan Council from Stirling Council, Moray and Angus Councils from Aberdeenshire Council, and Midlothian Council from East Lothian Council). The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority also buys service from the West of Scotland Archaeology Service, Stirling Council, and Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust. Perth & Kinross Council obtains advice from the Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust and the Shetland Islands Council from the Shetland Amenity Trust. We are therefore very supportive of new ways of working, but would caution that there can be some disadvantages as well as advantages in adopting different procurement models, in that shared or outsourced services can be viewed as external, or outside, organisations, making them potentially vulnerable to cuts in a difficult financial climate. Encouraging active ownership of and involvement with, shared or outsourced services, where there is no statutory imperative, can be challenging.
Q4. What do you consider constitutes a high performing planning system? In considering your response, please reflect on the roles and responsibilities of the various parties in the planning system including developers, planning authorities, key agencies as well as other stakeholders.
Are you aware of any existing appropriate frameworks currently being used that could be used? If not, are there any themes or indicators that could be considered as part of a framework to monitor the planning system? In considering your response we would also welcome views on the introduction of such a framework as well as who is best placed to carry out this assessment.
We support the view that quality is as important as speed in a high performing planning system, but we cannot offer any frameworks for monitoring. We believe that much of the required quality can be built in at the pre-application stage.
REVIEW OF THE FEE STRUCTURE
Q5. Do you think the Scottish Government should amend the current fee structure?
Which is your preferred option (1, 2, 3, 4 or 5)? (Please give any comments on why these are you preferred/least favoured options)
Which is your least preferred option (1, 2, 3, 4 or 5)?
What alternative approaches do you feel the Scottish Government should consider, if any? In considering your response please give any comments on why the option you identified above are you preferred/least favoured.
We do not wish to support any particular fee option, but wish to point out that many specialist skills, such as archaeological advice, are required in the processing of planning applications, not all of which are necessarily available in-house in the planning authorities. We would ask that the costs of obtaining such specialist advice is fully built into whatever fee option is finally selected.
Q6. Do you consider that the maximum fee level should be raised? If so, what would you consider to be an appropriate maximum level and should this higher fee be dependent on a defined service and timescales being delivered by the planning authority?
Allocation of the fee
Q7. Do you consider that other consultees should charge the relevant planning authority for their input on planning applications?
Some of our members are regarded as consultees by planning authorities, whether seen as internal or external depending on circumstances. A charge is already in operation in the sense that the planning authorities are currently paying for the provision of archaeological advice to themselves. It needs to be acknowledged that consultees, such as ourselves, do more than just comment on planning applications. We also provide pre-application advice and oversee the implementation of archaeological conditions on behalf of planning authorities. We would wish that any fee structure that may be agreed in relation to consultees should recognise the true costs of the provision of specialist advice, and is sufficient to allow the planning authorities to obtain that advice, however they may choose to procure it.
Q8. Do you consider the use of rebates, discounts or other incentives a useful tool in delivering a more efficient service? If so what would be an effective discount, rebate or other incentive?
Staged / phased payments
Q9. Do you think the introduction of staged payments would encourage more efficient service and be helpful to developers? If so, are there any particular stages within the process that should trigger a payment?
We would support staged payments, provided that our members could recover as appropriate the costs associated with the work at different stages. For example much of the work of our members is associated with the purification and implementation of archaeological conditions attached to planning consent, in particular the monitoring of the work of private archaeological contractors employed by developers to ensure that required standards are met. This is a costly area of work for the planning authorities to meet, and it would be preferable if it could be charged directly to the developer.
One off single fee
Q10. Do you consider there should be a single fee?
Q11. Should the charging scheme take into account the regional variations in types of applications and the varying nature of local authorities? If so, what factors should be considered?
Large rural areas with small scale planning applications may not generate high amounts of planning fees, but may actually have higher unit processing costs. For example officer travel costs over longer distances are higher and there may be more need to buy in specialist advice which is not available in-house.
Change of use
Q12. Do you consider it appropriate to amend the fees for changes of use? If so, how should this be calculated?
Environmental Impact Assessments
Q13. Do you consider that submission of an EIA should warrant an additional fee? If so what might an appropriate charge be?
We consider that submission of an EIA does warrant an additional fee, because of the amount of work involved in analysing and processing the large amounts of information, some of which requires specialist advice from consultees. We have no comment on what would be an appropriate charge.
Fees for application for planning permission in principle
Q14. Do you agree that applications for planning permission in principle should continue to be charged at half the standard fee?
Hazardous Substances Consent
Q15. Do you agree that the fees for Hazardous Substances Consent should be increased inline with inflation?
Discharge of Conditions
Q16. Do you think there should be a fee payable for discharge of conditions? If so, should this be refundable where a decision has not been made within a set period of time?
We do not consider that a fee should necessarily be payable to discharge conditions, unless a great deal of work is involved in this formal process. Our experience is that work is incurred at an earlier stage – the purification and implementation of the conditions prior to seeking formal discharge. We feel there should be charges for these earlier stages of work.
Q17. Do you think there should be a fee payable on the conclusion of a planning agreement? If so, how should this be calculated?
We support the charging of a fee on the conclusion of a planning agreement, as we are aware of the work which can go into concluding such agreements, including our own advice. We have no comments to offer on how the fee should be calculated, except that it should include the costs of any specialist advice, including our own, necessary to conclude the agreement.
Q18. Do you consider that the fee regime should include the ability to offer a tailored service for certain developments?
Q19. Do you consider that fees for windfarms should be altered to reflect the nature of this industry? If so, do you agree with developing a scheme similar to that in operation in England, or are there alternative options?
We are aware that processing windfarm applications takes up a great deal of officer time, including our own. For example, the larger the windfarm proposal, the more work there is liable to be in terms of assessing the impacts on the settings of significant archaeological sites. We would therefore support adoption of the English model for fee charging, which is related to footprint.
Mineral and Landfill Sites
Q20. Should the Scottish Government take forward previous proposals to introduce a set fee payable by the operator for each visit subject to a maximum number of visits per annum or do you consider that monitoring costs should be borne by the planning authorities?
We are surprised that this question about charges for monitoring visits is tied to mineral and landfill sites only. There are other types of large scale developments, for example, golf courses, which can have major archaeological impacts and which can require many site visits to monitor implementation of archaeological conditions attached to planning consent – the Carrick Golf Course at Mid Ross in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park is an example. The burden of paying for necessary monitoring visits should not be borne by the planning authority, as it was at the Carrick, and should be recovered from the developer. Some of our members have been involved with the use of Section 75 Agreements to secure independent monitoring funded by the developer, mainly for windfarms, and we support this approach.
Aquaculture / Fish Farming
Q21. Do you consider that a single level fee based only on the equipment above the surface, including feed barges and any associated equipment, is appropriate? If so, how should this be calculated?
Q22. Do consider that a fee charged for the testing of areas for potential shellfish farms is appropriate?
Q23. Where an application for an agricultural development under 465 m2 is not subject to permitted development should a fee be required to be paid based on the development size? Should this be a full fee or part fee?
Q24. Should fees be reduced for agricultural developments above a certain size?
Any other comments
Q25. We welcome any other views and comments that you might have on Resourcing a High Quality Planning System that have not already been covered within this consultation.
We wish to reiterate that the obtaining of specialist advice, such as archaeological advice, involves a cost to the planning authorities, whether it is obtained in-house, shared, or outsourced. Where that advice is shared or outsourced, its cost may not always be visible as a cost of the development management process. For example we are not certain that such costs were fully included in the two research studies (2005 and 2009), which both tended to concentrate on the costs of directly employed staff and which may not have included the costs of shared or outsourced services, or the work done by consultees. We would ask that any adjustment of planning application fees takes into consideration the full range of costs which planning authorities have in processing planning applications, so that they may continue to procure adequate specialist advice by whatever model they may choose to adopt.