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RTPI Scotland's response to the proposed changes to fees under the Electricity Act 1989

  1. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed application fees as set out at Table A?




Please say why you have arrived at this view:

At a strategic and local level, planning has a key role to play in identifying, developing and approving suitable developments, integrating and empowering key stakeholders and enabling communities to deliver low carbon, resilient and affordable energy networks. To support the transition towards a decarbonised energy system, the planning system needs the appropriate support including up to date and clear policy; suitable resources; and fit for purpose consenting procedures. We are therefore disappointed to see no consideration in the consultation of the voluntary fee arrangements currently in place to planning authorities (PAs).

PAs currently carry out an extensive amount of technical planning work on S.36 and S.37 consultations. This includes their assessment, the drafting of decision and agreements, monitoring and enforcement – all of which are crucial to fostering approval from local communities. RTPI Scotland understands that onshore wind developments can pose a particular challenge balancing the need to protect Scotland’s landscape quality and peatlands, deliver wider community benefits and deploy sufficient electricity generation capacity to meet net-zero targets. With existing consented schemes having been completed on less sensitive sites, it is likely that there will be further public concern as new developments are proposed on more sensitive local landscapes.

To process S.36 & S.37 applications responses effectively and to enhance community engagement at the Local Development Plan preparation and planning application stage, PAs need to be fully remunerated for this work. Through current voluntary arrangements, PAs receive a lesser fee than if they determine an application themselves, especially if considering the recent increases to planning application fees[1]. RTPI Scotland believes that current arrangements should be reviewed to ensure that the fee income received by PAs achieves full cost recovery. The need to remunerate planning authorities fully for their work on S.36 & S.37 applications is particularly important when considered against the diminished resourcing context of planning authorities with recent research from RTPI Scotland[2] showing that:

  • Nearly a third of planning department staff have been cut since 2009
  • Planning authorities’ budgets have diminished in real terms by 42% since 2009
  • In 2020 local authorities only spent 0.38% of their total net revenue budgets
  • Planning application fees only cover 66% of their processing costs
  • There are 91 new and unfunded duties in the Planning (Scotland) Act, which could cost between £12.1m and £59.1m over 10 years

Research has also showed that planning has demographic and succession challenges with a limited pipeline. Only around 9% of staff in planning authorities are under 30 and there is an estimated replacement demand of around 500 planners over the next 15 years. There is a need to make sure that we have enough planners to process S.36 & S.37 applications and to engage with communities on LPD preparation. Handling onshore wind applications requires particular skills-sets for planners, with their height and movement making them very different to other forms of development. This includes being able to evaluate Landscape Capacity studies, Zones of Visual Influence (ZVI), Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments (LVIA), alongside relatively unique considerations of ecological impacts, construction on peatlands and aviation concerns. Therefore, RTPI Scotland calls on Scottish Government to ensure that resource is also made available to increasing the pipeline of planners and develop the necessary skills in our existing workforce.   

  1. Do you agree or disagree with the new bandings for developments with a capacity greater than 500MW as set out at Table A?




Please say why you have arrived at this view:

The additional bandings reflect the growing scale of offshore renewable energy generating stations and RTPI Scotland supports the need to continue to review our energy consenting processes. Both onshore and offshore wind energy deployment will be vital if we are to reach our target of a 75% emissions reduction by 2030 as set out in Scotland’s 2018-2032 Climate Change Plan[3]. However RTPI Scotland notes that PAs do not receive any fees for consultation on offshore wind development proposals, but undertake a wide range of work, especially with the complex process of aligning such developments with corresponding onshore works.

  1. Do the proposed application fees set out in this consultation have any financial, regulatory or resource implications for you and/or your business (if applicable)?



Don’t know

As discussed in response to Q1, RTPI Scotland does not believe that PAs are fully compensated for their work around S.36 and S.37 applications, especially if a Public Inquiry is triggered.  RTPI Scotland would therefore advocate for a formal agreement for fee payment to PAs be set-out that achieves full cost recovery.

  1. Do you have any other comments?

Please give us your views:

Although not within the scope of this consultation, RTPI Scotland wishes to see the threshold of applications of over 50MW, which are currently dealt with by Scottish Government Energy Consents Unit, reviewed with scope to increasing the threshold and therefore allowing PAs to determine more applications for onshore wind. This could allow for a more planned approach to onshore wind, a greater involvement of communities in decision making and would reduce any double handling that currently happens through the consenting process. RTPI Scotland are aware of energy storage facilities proposal regularly being scoped at 49.9MW to avoid energy consent costs and processes which in many cases does not represent an optimum use of land.



[2] RTPI Scotland (2021) Resourcing the Planning Service: Key Trends and Findings 2021. June. Available here:

[3] Scottish Government (2020) Securing a green recovery on a path to net zero: climate change plan 2018–2032 – update. December. Available here:

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