If representations have been made to a planning authority about a proposed plan, and the issues raised have not been resolved, the planning authority must submit the plan to Scottish Ministers for examination. Ministers will appoint a reporter to carry out the examination. The reporter will decide how to conduct the examination and, for each issue, whether he or she requires further information. For most issues, no further information should be required, but if it is, the reporter will decide who will be asked to provide it.
The reporter may decide to hold a hearing to explore the issue further, and will decide who to invite to participate in the discussion at the hearing. Only exceptionally will an inquiry session be necessary to test the information through cross-examination.
The reporter will submit a report of the examination to the planning authority, containing his or her conclusions and recommendations on each issue. Any modifications to the plan that are recommended by the reporter are binding on the planning authority except in a limited number of circumstances.
In response to users’ concerns about their experience of the examination process the Scottish Government issued Development Plan Examinations Consultation 2012 which sought views on possible refinements to the development plan examination process, and in particular on the binding nature of reporter's recommendations.
Few respondents (2%) were in favour of removing independent examinations.
50% supported retaining the current system with a few improvements. Respondents were divided with regard to the binding nature of the reporters’ findings; however, overall slightly more respondents felt the binding nature ensured plans were impartial, met government policy and maintained confidence in the system.
In response we have refined the examination process to allow examinations to be completed and plans adopted in a timely manner.
- Reporters will continue to complete the examination into all issues raised and propose modifications to the plan where appropriate and achievable within a reasonable time frame.
- In limited, exceptional circumstances, the reporter may identify a serious policy omission or deficiency in the plan, such as inconsistency with the National Planning Framework or Scottish Planning Policy. If this deficiency is not capable of being resolved through the Examination process due to a lack of sufficient information, or if the information required could not be provided within the normal timescale for an Examination the reporter will highlight the deficiency in the Examination Report. In such circumstances the reporter will provide recommendation(s) on actions that could be taken to remedy the deficiency, more details are available in the Development Plan Examinations
- These changes are set out in Circular 6/2013 - Development Planning and a revised guidance note for reporters.