Development plans

Development plans set out the long term vision for where development should and shouldn't happen in the places they cover. 

We are changing the way development plans are produced as part of our implementation of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019. You can find out more about this and keep up-to-date on progress at

Each of Scotland's 32 council areas, two national parks and four largest city regions are required to produce a development plan. These plans are the starting point for making decisions on planning applications and they help us to deliver the strategy and policy set out in the National Planning Framework and Scottish Planning Policy.

Development plans should be up to date, succinct and map-based, reflecting the unique characteristics of the places and communities they cover and enabling planning authorities to deliver the right development in the right place.

Find out more about development planning:


Development plans can consist of up to three parts:

  • a Strategic Development Plan (SDP) – these cover  the four largest city regions – Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. These deal with region-wide issues that cross boundaries of council areas. 
  • a Local Development Plan (LDP) – these cover each council area across Scotland. They allocate sites, either for new development, such as housing, or sites to be protected. They guide decisions on all planning applications.
  • Supplementary Guidance can be part of the Development Plan and can provide further information or detail on the polices or proposals that are in the development plan.

Scottish Government involvement in development plans

Our Development Plan Service Standard sets out how the Planning and Architecture Division will support planning authorities in preparing development plans. When the Service Standard was published in August 2016 a letter was sent to all Heads of Planning across Scotland  and development plan teams. This was accompanied by a development plan preparation guide for authorities on the matters regularly raised by us. Although the Service Standard was published in 2016, it still guides how we handle development plans and related correspondence through the development plan gateway.

Development plan correspondence: see this list of all the development plans for which Scottish Government documentation and correspondence is available.

Development plan schemes

Every year all planning authorities in Scotland produce a development plan scheme. This scheme sets out the programme for preparing and reviewing their local development plans. These can be found on planning authorities' websites.

Public engagement in development plans

We encourage public engagement in the planning process. More information is available on the community involvement page.

Planning authorities are required by law to provide opportunities for people to get involved in development plans, and are expected to go beyond the statutory minimum set out in Circular 6/2013.

Development Plan Schemes must include a Participation Statement. This Statement should say how, and with whom, consultation on the plan will take place. It should also say how they intend to involve the public and stakeholders in the preparation of the plan.

Planning authorities must include a Report of Conformity with their Participation Statement when submitting their plan to Scottish Ministers for examination. This should show how they have carried out their planned community engagement.

Examination of development plans

If there are still unresolved issues (representations) after consultation on Proposed Plans then the planning authority must submit the plan to Scottish Ministers for examination. We will appoint a reporter, who acts independently, to carry out the examination and they may make requests for further information, or they may decide to hold a hearing to explore issues further.

The reporter will submit a report of the examination containing conclusions and recommendations to the planning authority. Any recommended modifications must be carried out by the planning authority (with limited exceptions).

Environmental assessments

Scottish strategies, plans, programmes and projects need to be assessed for the potential effects on our environment. Development plans are therefore normally subject to a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and potentially a Habits Regulation Assessment (HRA).

Strategic Environmental Assessment

Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) helps to identify and define impacts on the environment of development plans. During the early preparation stage SEA also considers potential methods for protecting the environment where possible. SEA also provides an early opportunity for the public to get involved in decision making by providing a better understanding of the likely environmental effects. SEA can do this by:

  • ensuring expert views and opinions are sought from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), Historic Environment Scotland and the public at various points in the process

  • considering reasonable alternatives within the Development Plan

  • considering methods to avoid, limit and/or reduce adverse environmental effects

Habitats Regulations Appraisal

The Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations 1994 require those Development Plans that potentially could have an effect on a European-designated site e.g. Special Protection Area (SPA) must be subject to an 'Appropriate Assessment' by the plan-making authority. The assessment process and the assessment itself is known as 'Habitats Regulations Appraisal'(HRA).

See these Habitats Regulations Appraisal – Development plans: Advice sheets to complement the NatureScot guidance for plan-making bodies in Scotland.

Find out more about HRA at the NatureScot website



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