22. Development management is a key part of the planning system and should operate in support of the Government's central purpose of increasing sustainable economic growth. This means providing greater certainty and speed of decision making as a means of creating good quality sustainable places. Development management services should operate within a climate of continuous improvement. Processes should be responsive, reliable, transparent and efficient. Decisions should be taken against a framework of up to date and effective development plans and supplementary guidance.
23. The planning system operates in the long term public interest. It does not exist to protect the interests of one person or business against the activities of another. It is important that stakeholders understand their role in the planning process and how decisions have been arrived at. There should be clear but concise reports of the considerations that have been taken into account in reaching decisions on all planning applications. The Scottish Government's expectation is that schemes of delegation provide maximum scope for officials to determine planning applications, thus ensuring elected members focus on complex or controversial issues.
Determining Planning Applications
24. Prospective applicants are required by legislation 6 to consult communities before submitting planning applications for major and national developments 7. The purpose of pre-application consultation is to allow meaningful consultation to take place before development proposals are finalised and applications for planning permission are submitted. Pre-application discussions between prospective applicants, key agencies and planning authorities are vital to ensure all parties have a shared understanding of the nature of a proposed development, information requirements and the likely timescales for determination. The Scottish Government supports the use of processing agreements to manage the delivery of decisions on major and national developments to agreed timescales. Authorities and key agencies should respond positively to requests for such agreements.
25. The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 requires decisions to be made in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Material considerations should be related to the development and use of land. More information on material considerations is provided in Annex A of Circular 4/2009 Development Management Procedures. Where a proposal is in accordance with the development plan, the principle of development should be taken as established and the process of assessment should not be used by the planning authority or key agencies to revisit that.
26. Conditions imposed on the grant of planning permission can enable development proposals to proceed where it would otherwise have been necessary to withhold planning permission. While the power to impose conditions is wide, it must be exercised in a manner which is fair, reasonable and practicable and the conditions imposed must accord with the established tests set out in Circular 4/1998 The Use of Conditions in Planning Permissions.
27. Planning agreements can be used to overcome obstacles to the grant of planning permission but they should not be used to obtain a benefit which is unrelated to the nature or scale of the proposed development. Planning authorities should use the development plan and supplementary guidance to set out their approach to planning agreements and should not seek to introduce agreements late in the development management process. Planning agreements should only be used where the obligation cannot be secured by condition or by other means. More information on planning agreements is provided in Circular 1/2010 Planning Agreements.
28. Effective enforcement is important as a means of maintaining public confidence in the planning system. The 2006 Act contains a range of additional powers on enforcement and planning authorities should use the full range of powers available to them to ensure that enforcement action is appropriate, speedy and effective. More information on enforcement is provided in Circular 10/2009 Planning Enforcement.
Role of the Scottish Government
29. Scottish Ministers have a general power to call-in planning applications for their own determination. Circular 3/2009 Notification of Planning Applications provides guidance on the circumstances in which planning authorities must notify Scottish Ministers where they propose to grant planning permission. It also sets out the circumstances in which Scottish Ministers may call in a planning application from the planning authority, thereby taking over the role of decision maker.
Appeals and Local Reviews
30. The 2006 Act introduced important changes to the appeal process aimed at improving efficiency and ensuring that decisions are made at an appropriate level through an appeal to Scottish Ministers or review by the planning authority's local review body. Central to maintaining an efficient system is the frontloading of the planning process by ensuring all parties state their full cases at the outset. The appeal and review procedures also involve taking a proportionate approach so that the person or body making the decision follows an examination process that is appropriate to the complexity of the case. All parties should be clear that new material should not be introduced late in the process except in exceptional circumstances. More information on appeals is provided in Circular 6/2009 Planning Appeals. Information on local reviews is provided in Circular 7/2009 Schemes of Delegation and Local Reviews.