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Digital planning could benefit Scottish economy by £200m, says RTPI report

The Scottish economy could benefit to the tune of more than £200m over the next ten years by introducing digital planning services, according to a study by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) in Scotland.

The Benefits of Investing in a Digital Planning Service research series was commissioned by the Scottish Government to inform its forthcoming Digital Planning Strategy, “Transforming Places Together: Scotland’s Digital Strategy for Planning”, which will be launched on 24 November 2020.

The RTPI is proud to have informed the strategy by coordinating a programme of work analysing the need, demand and possible impacts of digital planning. The Institute also welcomes the proposed £35m investment in it over the next five years.

Craig McLaren, director of RTPI Scotland, said: “Our research demonstrates not only the economic and societal benefits arising from digital transformation but also the efficiencies that can be realised within the planning system from investment in new technology.

“One of the standout findings is that by introducing a digital planning system, savings of up to 28 per cent could be made in terms of a planner’s time. We have seen a 25 per cent reduction in planning staff across local authorities over the last 10 years, so this potential increase in capacity would be very welcome indeed.

“Our economic, customer and policy impact analyses have also revealed the positive benefits a digital approach could have on Scottish government aspirations on its net zero carbon targets, in tackling health inequalities and as part of a post-Covid19 recovery.”

The key benefits over the next 10 years include:

  • up to £200m generated in economic benefits directly to users of the planning system.
  • up to 1,600 jobs in the construction and development sectors and their supply chains.
  • up to £50.5m generated in economic benefits for the broader construction sector.
  • avoidance of up to £23.7m of “Do Nothing costs” to the Scottish economy.
  • estimated £20.4m savings to local authorities on the costs of introducing the new duties arising from the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019.
  • potential of £5.5m income generated over 10 years through charging for submitting planning applications through the e-Development service.
  • Support Scottish Government ambitions on Economic Recovery Post Covid-19, the net zero carbon emission target by 2045 Improving Health and Wellbeing and at least 16 Scottish Government strategies.
  • Individuals and communities will be better able to engage with the planning process to further reinforce data available to planners to compound better data benefits.
  • Applicants will face a much more streamlined application process, which will incentivise investment through delivering more efficient engagement with the planning system.
  • Planners will have access to more and better data and from greater levels of supported engagement of a useable quality
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