Planning and architecture

Development management

Development management is the process of deciding whether to grant or refuse planning permission and other related consents. 

Planning authorities have primary responsibility for making decisions on applications for planning permission but, in a small minority of cases Scottish Ministers can become involved if a proposed development raises matters where there could be implications in respect of national planning policy. We have published a Statement on the call-in of planning applications by the Scottish Ministers. You can view such planning cases which are under consideration, and previous cases, on our Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) website.

Applications for planning permission and related appeals can be made on the website.

Find out more about development management:


Under planning legislation, applications are determined in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.
Circular 3/2022: Development Management Procedures explains the statutory planning application procedures. 

Planning enforcement

Planning authorities ensure development is carried out correctly and can take appropriate action when it is not. Enforcement action procedures are set out in Circular 10/2009. Authorities also produce an enforcement charter at least every two years which sets out when and how enforcement action will be taken. See this example enforcement charter.

Change of use

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Scotland) Order 1997 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 would not need planning permission (depending on any restrictions regarding changes of use in a current planning permission for the property, or physical changes required to the property that would need planning permission).

If a change in the use of a building or land would mean that it fell outwith the class of use that the building or land is currently under, then planning permission may be required. This could be because of the impact on local amenity, for example traffic generation or noise.

Permitted development rights

PDR refer to those forms of development which are granted planning permission by legislation, meaning they can be carried out without a planning application. Specifically, PDR are contained within the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992 ("the GPDO").

We are carrying out a substantial review of permitted development rights. Find out more and keep up-to-date about the review at

We have produced guidance explains more about permitted development rights relating to residential property.

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.

Processing agreements

There is a hierarchy of development in the planning system: national, major and local developments – see Circular 5/2009 on The Hierarchy of Developments. We encourage planning authorities and applicants to use processing agreements for national or major development or complex or contentious developments.

A processing agreement is a project management tool. It sets out the key processes involved in determining an application, identifies what information is required and from whom, and sets agreed timescales for the delivery of various stages of the process.

More information can be found in Circular 3/2022.

Section 75 planning obligations

Planning obligations are legal agreements, often referred to as ‘section 75 agreements’, entered into mitigate the impacts of proposed developments in order to make them acceptable in planning terms. In certain circumstances, planning obligations can be used to secure financial contributions, or in-kind provision, for infrastructure and affordable housing. Circular 3/2012 sets out policy on the use of Planning obligations. 

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 request a local review by the planning authority. Circular 5/2013 has more information on Schemes of Delegation and Local Reviews.

In all other decisions by planning authorities on applications for planning permission, the applicant has the right to make a planning appeal to the Scottish Ministers against the terms of the authority’s decision. Circular 4/2013 and the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals website have more information on Planning Appeals.

Environmental impact assessment

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a systematic means of assessing the likely significant environmental effects arising from a proposed development and seek opportunities to avoid or mitigate adverse effects or enhance positive ones.
Developments falling within a description in Schedule 1 to the 2017 EIA Regulations always requires an EIA. Development of a type listed in Schedule 2 to the 2017 EIA Regulations will require an EIA if it is found through the screening process that it’s likely to have a significant effect on the environment.

Useful information can be found in the following documents:

Planning hazardous 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



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