Development management

Development management is the process of deciding whether to grant or refuse planning permission and other related consents. Applications are determined in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. We work to ensure that the process is responsive, reliable, transparent and efficient.

Planning authorities normally deal with applications for planning permission but, in a small minority of cases, Scottish Ministers can become involved if they relate to a matter of genuine national interest. We have provided a list of planning proposals currently under consideration.


An explanation of the planning application procedures can be found in Circular 3/2022: Development Management Procedures. Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) explains our main development management principles.

Applications for planning permission can be made on the ePlanning Scot  website. 

Role of planning authorities

Planning authorities will usually determine applications for planning permission and must also produce development plans. They must also ensure development is carried out correctly and take action when it is not. Enforcement action procedures are set out in Circular 10/2009.

Authorities also have to produce an enforcement charter at least every two years, which sets out when and how enforcement action will be taken. We have published an example enforcement charter.

Change of use

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Scotland) Order 1997 (UCO) groups together certain similar types of uses of land or buildings into classes. Where a building or land is used for a purpose in a particular class, using it for any other purpose in the same class does not involve development and would therefore not need planning permission (depending on the specific conditions and circumstances).

If a change in the use of a building or land means that it falls within another class of use then planning permission may be required. This could be because of the impact on local amenity, for example traffic generation, noise and visual appearance.

Permitted development rights

Where the scale and nature of a development is considered to be minor and non-contentious then it may benefit from permitted development rights.

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992 details 'permitted development' types. This Order was amended in 2014.

Householder permitted development

We produced the following guidance to explain more about permitted development rights relating to residential property:

Non-householder permitted development

Circular 2/2015: Consolidated Circular on Non-Domestic Permitted Development Rights provides further information on some of the permitted development rights available for non-householder development, including those electronic communications code operators (for example, communications masts, cabinets and antennas).

Processing agreements

We encourage authorities to use processing agreements for complex or contentious local developments.

A processing agreement is a project management tool. Processing agreements can set out the key processes involved in determining an application, identify what information is required and from whom, and set the timescales for the delivery of various stages of the process.

We have published a report on the benefits of using processing agreements and a processing agreement template.

Section 75 Planning Obligations

Circular 3/2012 sets out Government policy on the use of Planning obligations and Good Neighbour agreements.

We are carrying out a targeted improvement project involving a small number of authorities to improve timescales for concluding Section 75 obligations. This builds on earlier work which developed the 10 good practice principles, and will develop, test, measure and put in place changes which reduce the timescales for planning obligations. The aim is to share lessons learned more widely across the country.

Updates on the improvement project are available as a newsletter on our blog.

Planning assessments

In 'Planning Reform: Next Steps', we identified the need to improve the information and assessments used to support planning applications.

We are working in collaboration with stakeholders to develop aims and test, measure and implement changes using the three-step improvement framework for public services. This approach supports action at a local level and aims to create the conditions to enable change to happen. In collaboration with stakeholders we have published Streamlining planning assessments: a summary template and Streamlining planning assessments: guiding principles to help improve supporting information.

Updates on the project are available via Planning reform project updates: stakeholder newsletters.

Planning permission and road consents

'Designing Streets' was the first policy statement in Scotland for street design and marks a change in emphasis towards placemaking and away from a system focused upon the dominance of motor vehicles. This policy states that 'planning permission and Roads Construction Consent (RCC) processes should be run in parallel'. We have a Designing Streets Toolkit to assist with this.

We encourage all authorities to follow a consistent approach for housing developments and align timescales for decisions on both consents. More information on this is in the Letter from the Chief Planner. The Joint Housing Delivery Plan for Scotland included a commitment to 'improve timescales and processes associated with development consents'.

Planning appeals

Where an application for planning permission is for a local development and designated to a planning officer (rather than a committee) for decision, then the applicant has a right to a local review. Circular 5/2013 has more information on Schemes of Delegation and Local Reviews.

In all other applications for planning permission, the applicant has the right to apply for a planning appeal from Scottish Ministers

Environmental Impact Assessment

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a systematic means of assessing the likely significant environmental effects arising from a proposed development.

Developments falling within a description in Schedule 1 to the 2017 EIA Regulations always require EIA. Development of a type listed in Schedule 2 to the 2017 EIA Regulations will require EIA if it is likely to have a significant effect on the environment perhaps due to its size, nature or location.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive (2014/52/EU) came into force in May 2014. Regulations to implement the Directive came into force by 16 May 2017.

Useful information can be found in the following documents:

Planning Hazardous Substances

The Planning Hazardous Substances regime implements the planning requirements of the European Directive on the control of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances.

The main relevant Scottish legislation is the Planning (Hazardous Substances) (Scotland) Act 1997 and the Town and Country Planning (Hazardous Substances) (Scotland) Regulations 2015.

Guidance on the legislation can be found in Circular 3/2015 on Planning Controls for Hazardous Substances.

Development Management Forum

We hold an annual Development Management Forum which brings together authorities, the private sector, agencies and central government to discuss and share ideas of best practice. More information is on the Planning and Architecture blog.

Key documents


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