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Scottish Planning Policy



1. The Scottish Government's planning policies are set out in the National Planning Framework, this SPP, Designing Places, Designing Streets 1 and Circulars 2. This SPP is a statement of Scottish Government policy on land use planning and contains:

  • the Scottish Government's view of the purpose of planning,
  • the core principles for the operation of the system and the objectives for key parts of the system,
  • statutory guidance on sustainable development and planning under Section 3E of the Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006,
  • concise subject planning policies, including the implications for development planning and development management, and
  • the Scottish Government's expectations of the intended outcomes of the planning system.

2. This approach places planning in the wider context of Scottish Government aims and policies and clarifies the Government's expectations of the system and planning services. It is a brief statement of policy and does not attempt to provide a comprehensive summary or explanation of the planning system in Scotland or to describe the full and diverse range of objectives to which planning may contribute. This SPP does not restate policy and guidance expressed elsewhere. The wider policy framework including the National Planning Framework, Designing Places, Designing Streets and Circulars, should be taken into account in decision making. Policy linked to direct legislative requirements is expressed in terms of what must be done. Policy linked to Scottish Ministers' requirements for an efficient and effective planning system is expressed in terms of what should be done. The policies expressed in this SPP should inform the content of development plans, should be a consideration in decisions on planning applications and should be used to inform development proposals from initial concept to implementation.

The Purpose of Planning

3. Planning guides the future development and use of land. Planning is about where development should happen, where it should not and how it interacts with it's surroundings. This involves promoting and facilitating development while protecting and enhancing the natural and built environment in which we live, work and spend our leisure time. Careful attention to layout, design and construction should result in places where people want to be.

4. The Scottish Government believes that a properly functioning planning system is essential to achieving its central purpose of increasing sustainable economic growth. The way in which the planning system is structured and operated should be directed towards that purpose and to supporting the Scottish Government's five strategic objectives and fifteen national outcomes 3.

5. The Government believes strongly in the value of forward-looking, visionary and ambitious plans that will guide development. These plans provide guidance to potential developers and investors; provide various interests with the opportunity to participate in shaping the future of their nation and their communities; and give public authorities a structure within which decisions can be made with confidence. Development plans should lead and guide change. The statutory requirement to keep development plans up to date 4 will ensure that they reflect and respond to emerging pressures and issues.

6. The planning system has a critical balancing role to play when competing interests emerge in the consideration of future development. It is essential to recognise that planning issues, by their very nature, will often bring differing interests into opposition and disagreement and the resolution of those issues will inevitably disappoint some parties. The planning system cannot satisfy all interests all of the time. It should, however, enable speedy decision making in ways which are transparent and demonstrably fair.

Core Principles

7. The legislative framework for the planning system in Scotland has recently undergone a major change through the Planning etc (Scotland) Act 2006. Secondary legislation implementing key parts of the Act came into force in 2009 5.

8. The Government believes that the following broad principles should underpin the modernised planning system:

  • The system should be genuinely plan-led, with succinct development plans setting out ambitious, long-term visions for their area. They must be kept up to date, and provide a practical framework within which decisions on planning applications can be made with a degree of certainty and efficiency.
  • The primary responsibility for the operation of the planning system and service is with local and national park authorities.
  • Confidence in the planning system needs to be reinforced through: the efficient and predictable preparation of plans and handling of applications; transparency in decision-making and reliable enforcement of the law and planning decisions.
  • The constraints and requirements that planning imposes should be necessary and proportionate.
  • The system should operate to engage all interests as early and as fully as possible to inform decisions and allow issues of contention and controversy to be identified and tackled quickly and smoothly.
  • There should be a clear focus on the quality of outcomes, with due attention given to the sustainable use of land, good design and the protection and enhancement of the built and natural environment.

9. Successful operation of the planning system will only be achieved if all those involved - applicants, planning authorities, agencies and other statutory consultees, communities, representative organisations, public bodies, the Government and the general public - commit themselves to engaging as constructively as possible in development planning and development management, so that the planning system contributes effectively to increasing sustainable economic growth. Partnership working and dialogue with the private sector is an important contributor to the delivery of business, development and conservation opportunities. A range of government and non-governmental organisations can offer expert advice on specialist matters and this expertise should be utilised wherever relevant.