SCOTTISH MINISTERS' ROLE IN PLANNING APPLICATIONS
5. Scottish Ministers have a general power to intervene by calling in any planning application for their own determination. In practice though, Ministers will exercise this power very sparingly, recognising and respecting the important role of local authorities in making decisions on the future development of their areas. It is not the Scottish Government's role or intention to micro-manage planning authority decision-making.
6. However, there can be circumstances where proposed development raises issues of such national importance that it is reasonable for Scottish Ministers to call in a planning application from the local authority; in effect to take over the role of decision-maker. It is at Ministers' discretion whether to do so. For example, Ministers might choose to intervene in circumstances where a Government agency has expressed strong concerns about the impact of development on their national interests, or where the possible impacts or benefits of a proposed development extend well beyond the area of the local authority to the extent that they become of national importance. However, simply because a particular development proposal may be complex or controversial does not make it of strategic importance or of national interest. The existence of a substantial number of objections is not in itself sufficient ground to merit call-in for decision at a national level.
7. Sometimes, as well as being the decision-maker on a planning application, a planning authority will have some other interest in the proposed development, for example as the developer or the owner of the land. This in itself is not unreasonable; in fact it is quite normal and occurs regularly. In these circumstances though, it is essential that the planning authority does not allow any possible conflict of interests to have an undue influence on its planning assessment. Planning authorities generally exercise their duties fairly in such matters, recognising how essential it is that probity is scrupulously observed. But to protect the integrity of the planning system, Ministers may sometimes feel the need to become involved where a planning authority seeks to make a decision on a development in which it has an interest, where that proposed development would involve a significant departure from the authority's own development plan and in which the authority has not provided a reasonable or convincing argument to substantiate its decision.