WHEN DOES A LOCAL AUTHORITY HAVE AN INTEREST?
7. There are different ways in which local authorities might have an "interest" in a development, and therefore stand to benefit in some way from development proceeding. For example:
- Where the council, as well as being the planning authority, is also the developer. 1
- Where the council is the landowner, and so would gain a capital receipt for sale or lease of its land.
- Where the authority is working in partnership with other bodies.
- Where the authority is likely, in future, to enter into a contract or be a future operator in relation to the development.
- Where the developer is financially supported or sponsored by the local authority.
8. Sometimes a local authority can obtain some benefit through planning gain as part of the terms of a planning permission. For example, this might be the case in circumstances where necessary infrastructure improvements (for example to roads, sewerage, educational facilities etc.) are provided or paid for by the applicant. It can be reasonable that such benefits are secured by local authorities where the need for new or improved facilities are a necessary and direct consequence of the proposed development and where they are proportionate to the scale and impact of the development. In general, situations like this are unlikely to lead to any conflict of interests at the planning authority and the achievement of such forms of gain need not necessarily mean that the development should be treated as a local authority interest case for the purposes of the notification arrangements set out later in this note.
9. However, any planning gain on offer should only be considered if essential to enable the development to proceed, and should not be excessive in terms of the scale or impact of the development. Otherwise, this might carry the appearance to some people of an attempt to secure planning permission by offering some benefit to the local authority. In circumstances such as these, planning authorities will need to consider whether they might be viewed as having an interest in the development proceeding.
10. Not all developments require to be the subject of planning applications. Some have the benefit of 'permitted development rights' - which grant a general planning permission for certain developments across Scotland, removing the need for a planning application - and some of these rights will apply to local authority interest developments. The advice in this note is not relevant to proposals which carry permitted development rights.