The construction industry has hit out at the “unacceptable” time it takes for new housing developments to get the green light, as figures showed an average wait of more than a year to win planning permission.
Homes for Scotland, which represents the house building industry, said the waiting time for applications to be approved shows more resources need to be put into council planning departments.
Planning authorities dealt with 24,448 local planning applications and 272 major planning applications in 2020-21, Scottish Government figures show.
For those major applications, it took an average of 41.3 weeks for a decision to be reached.
The figures include 121 major housing developments – which have either 50 homes or more on them or where the site exceeds more than two hectares.
These took an average of 54.8 weeks to be determined – but the report revealed there were five cases than had taken more than three years to be determined, including one which took almost a decade.
Tammy Swift-Adams, director of planning for Homes for Scotland, said it is “unacceptable that any applications take more than a year”.
She conceded processing planning applications would have been be affected by the pandemic, but she added the increase in time taken to deal with them is still “difficult to understand”, particularly as there has been a fall of more than 40% in applications.
Ms Swift-Adams continued: “In light of the economic lifeline that has been delivered by construction over the last year or so, and with demand for new homes of all tenures remaining high, why should this crucial sector take more than double the length of time to determine when compared to applications for business and industry?
“Such delays only exacerbate existing supply problems and do not bode well for new affordable housing targets.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Due to the low numbers involved, determination timescales for major applications are volatile and can be negatively affected by a few lengthy cases.
“Overall, 68% (52 of 77) of major housing applications were decided in a time quicker than the average of 54.8 weeks and 27% (21 of 77) were decided within four months.
“Planning services are going to have a vital role in supporting our recovery and we need to make sure they are sufficiently resourced to play their part. But the performance of the planning system is the responsibility of everyone involved.
“Previous research shows the most common primary reason for the delay in an application meeting its determination timescale is the delayed response by an applicant to a request for additional information.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the work of local authorities and other bodies involved in the planning process. To address this the Scottish Government has encouraged greater use of digital technology like remote meetings.
“In the latter half of the year, as these measures bedded in, we have seen positive signs of application numbers and timescales improving towards pre-Covid levels.”
He also stated: “Despite all of these obstacles, over 94% of applications have been approved.”