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Scottish Planning Policy



10. The development plan comprises a local development plan supported by supplementary guidance. In the 4 largest city regions, the development plan also comprises a strategic development plan which addresses land use issues that cross local authority boundaries or involve strategic infrastructure.

11. Development plans guide the future use of land and the appearance of cities, towns and rural areas. They should indicate where development, including regeneration, should happen and where it should not. Development plans must be accessible to the communities they serve and should be concise and written in plain language. There is a statutory duty on development plans to contribute to sustainable development. Guidance on this duty is provided in paragraphs 34 to 40.


12. The development plan scheme sets out the programme for plan preparation. The first schemes were published by planning authorities in 2009 and they will be updated annually. The emphasis should be on the actions needed to ensure that an up to date development plan is in place as swiftly as possible.

13. The processes of engagement, information gathering, analysis and assessment should be geared towards the date of submission of the plan to Ministers. These processes should be proportionate and fit for purpose. Contracting out parts of plan preparation may offer scope for effective management of the process.


14. Development plans should be concerned primarily with land and infrastructure. The efficient use of land and good infrastructure are important for the wellbeing of an area, particularly where they are supported by the commitment to the creation and maintenance of high quality places. Development plans should provide clear guidance on what will or will not be permitted and where. This should be very clear from the proposals map. Only policies that provide a clear indication of how a decision maker will react to a development proposal should be included in the plan. Plans should therefore provide opportunity and stability.

15. Development plans should be aspirational but realistic. They should address the spatial implications of economic, social and environmental change, in particular opportunities for development. They should be clear about the scale of anticipated change and demonstrate the underlying reasons for the preferred location and the likely sequence of development.

16. Investment in infrastructure may be required as a consequence of existing under provision and/or planned growth. These issues should be addressed in development plans and not left to be resolved through the development management process.

17. The Scottish Government expects development plans to:

  • have a sharp focus on land and infrastructure,
  • concentrate on what will happen, where and why,
  • make more use of maps and plans to explain and justify the long-term settlement strategy, and
  • contain policies and proposals that will achieve predictable outcomes.

Implementation, Monitoring and Review

18. The action programme is a key means of delivering the objectives of a plan. It should set out how the plan is to be implemented, in particular what should happen over the following two years.

19. A key element of implementation will be the programme of supplementary guidance. Where this is to form part of the development plan, authorities should ensure the guidance:

  • is derived from the plan, and
  • has been the subject of discussion and engagement.

Supplementary guidance should not be applied in the consideration of development proposals until it has been formally agreed by the authority following consideration of comments and representations on the draft.

20. Monitoring should focus on what has changed, for example the extent to which key assumptions remain valid, whether land allocations have proved viable and investment in infrastructure has been forthcoming. Monitoring should set the direction for the future review of the plan.

21. The review, which must take place at least every 5 years, should focus on what has to change rather than invite the re-opening of settled issues.