SCOTTISH MINISTERS' ROLE AND APPROACH TO CALL-IN
40. There can be a number of reasons why Scottish Ministers will intervene by calling in a planning application for their own determination. Ministers' general approach to doing so is explained in SEDD Planning Circular 5/2007. Local authority interest developments, notified to Scottish Ministers in the circumstances set out above, can also raise some procedural or handling issues which might lead Ministers to conclude that they should call in an application to decide it themselves. This is explained further below.
41. In considering what action to take, Scottish Ministers will continue to respect the role of local authorities as the planning authorities for their areas. Even where the authority has an interest in a development, it is not Ministers' intention to remove the decision-making responsibility for planning matters from local authorities where the decision should clearly be taken at a local level and where the council's proposed decision is reasonable. For this reason, it is not appropriate for Scottish Ministers to call in and decide every planning application where the local authority has an interest. However, Scottish Ministers have a responsibility for the statutory land use planning system, and they are determined that the system's reputation for fairness and impartial decision-making is maintained.
42. The manner of the planning authority's handling of local authority interest applications and the quality of its assessments will be important factors. In considering these notified applications, Scottish Ministers will want to be satisfied that a thorough planning assessment has been carried out and recorded, that the development plan and all material considerations have been reasonably applied, that local consultation has been sufficient and that all relevant views expressed have been suitably taken into account, and that the council's decision appears to be a logical conclusion on the basis of all relevant issues. If these matters do not appear to Ministers to have been appropriately dealt with, it could potentially lead to a conclusion that the local authority's conflict of interests may have unduly influenced its assessment and decision. This could certainly lead to Scottish Ministers calling in the planning application for their own determination. In exceptional circumstances, where Scottish Ministers consider that the level of financial (or any other) gain on offer to the local authority or any of its members would make it impossible for the authority to reach an impartial view, a planning application might be called in for that reason alone to ensure there is fair and transparent scrutiny of the proposed development.
43. In reaching a decision whether or not to call in an application where they have some concerns along the lines of the issues noted above, Scottish Ministers may also take account of the extent or severity of any possible failure of process, alongside the likely prospects for the application to ultimately be approved, and perhaps also the need or urgency for the proposed development to be carried out. It would not be appropriate for Ministers to call in an application for what appeared to them to be a reasonable or necessary development, simply to close what might be perceived as a minor gap in process. Doing so might be an inappropriate use of public funds and an unnecessary delay to development.