NOTIFICATION OF APPLICATIONS DIRECTION
11. The new Notification Direction (attached Annex) comes into effect on 1 April 2009. The provisions of the 2007 Notification Direction (as amended) will remain in force until that date.
12. The Schedule to the new Direction sets out the categories of planning applications and circumstances in which planning authorities must notify Scottish Ministers before they can grant planning permission. The following paragraphs explain the categories.
Category 1: Development in which planning authorities have an interest
13. The requirement to notify Scottish Ministers where a planning authority has some interest in a development proceeding, and where the proposal involves a significant departure from the authority's own development plan, provides important checks and balances integral to the fair operation of the planning system. In previous directions, notification to Scottish Ministers has been required in wider circumstances, to include where the development involves a departure from the development plan, irrespective of the scale of departure, and where there has been a substantial body of objections. In practice, this has led to a great many applications being notified to Ministers, in respect of developments which are largely in line with the approved and adopted development plan for the area. The Scottish Government considers it reasonable for planning authorities to make decisions which do not depart, to any significant scale, from their development plans. So the notification requirement relating to applications where the authority has an interest is now limited to those occasions where the development would involve a significant departure from the development plan. In these circumstances, planning authorities will be expected to demonstrate when notifying applications to Ministers, that they have carefully considered the development plan and there is reasonable justification for departing from its terms.
14. The 2007 Notification Direction required planning authorities to inform objectors of their intention to grant planning permission and their reasons for doing so, and to invite further comment, prior to notifying Ministers. Experience has shown this to be largely a paper exercise, causing additional administrative burden and delay to the planning process, while adding little value to the scrutiny of these applications. Therefore the requirement to re-consult those who have already given their views on an application has been removed from the new direction. Also removed are the requirements for planning authorities to explain why a proposed development had not been planned in advance through the development plan process, and what alternative developments to that proposed had been considered for the site in question. Again, experience has shown that these requirements have not added value to the process and are not necessary or particularly relevant when assessing a proposed development alongside the terms of the development plan and material considerations, as required by planning legislation.
Category 2: Objection by government agency
15. The national interest can sometimes be engaged in planning applications where central government departments or agencies have raised objections to a proposed development, due to potential implications for their interests. The notification requirements relating to objections by such government interests, in the terms set out in the schedule to the direction, have been retained.
16. A commitment has been made by Transport Scotland, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Historic Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage to ensure more proportionate consultation and to focus their responses on matters of genuine national interest. It is therefore quite likely that the number of applications required to be notified to Scottish Ministers as a result of objections from government agencies will fall.
Category 3: Opencast coal and related minerals
17. The Scottish Government has no intention to routinely require notification of applications which do not accord with matters of national planning policy, that mostly being a matter for planning authorities to apply, taking account of local circumstances. However, one area of particular and ongoing concern is where opencast coal workings would occur within 500 metres from the edge of an existing community or sensitive establishment. Therefore, this notification requirement is retained.