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Investing in Planning: A consultation on resourcing Scotland’s planning system  

Solar Energy Scotland welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Scottish Governments consultation on resourcing Scotland’s planning system. Our response sets out recommendations to improve the capacity of Local Authorities, aiming to deliver net zero by 2045. 

One of our recommendations is to improve the basic and consistent understanding of solar and storage technologies across the planning regime, ensuring all members of local planning committees are sufficiently educated on the specifics of planning applications for solar. Creating a Planning Hub with experts that can offer technical planning advice to Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) on processing renewable energy applications could help to address this issue 

There is a specific shortfall in expertise within ecology and biodiversity, landscape, and archaeology, this is particularly concerning given the National Planning Framework 4’s (NPF4) requirements for developments to deliver positive impacts for diversity. Additional financing mechanisms that support appropriate skills and training for planners is crucial for the successful implementation of NPF4 policies and informed decisions for solar applications. We recommend ringfencing income from planning fees within the planning department as an effective mechanism to resource, retain and upskill the current workforce. 

Solar Energy Scotland suggested retaining the current threshold of 50MW for applications for electricity generation projects which are determined by Local Authorities. Increasing the scope for planning authorities to determine more applications could further constrain LPAs and delay project lead times. Our view is that, in general, local planning authorities do not have the capacity to take on the full cost of determining more applications.  

Considering very few solar farms are built in the range of 50 -200MW, due to the additional costs of the DCO process, we recommend that an increase to the 50MW threshold is reviewed for the circumstances of solar generation as appropriate.  

For detailed information, download our full response to this consultation below.