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Development plans

Development plans set out the long term vision for where development should and shouldn't happen in the places they cover. Each of Scotland's 32 council areas, two national parks and four largest city regions are required to produce a development plan.

See overseeing the planning system for more information on planning authorities.

Planning authorities are responsible for the development plan in their area, but they have to consult with us and other stakeholders during the plan preparation process. Development plans help us to deliver the strategy and policy set out in the National Planning Framework and Scottish Planning Policy. They are also the starting point for making decisions on planning applications.

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 using the links below:


Development plans can consist of up to three parts:

  • a Strategic Development Plan (SDP) is required for the four largest city regions – Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. These deal with region-wide issues that cross boundaries of council areas, for example the scale of housing and the transport and water and connections needed. SDPs must be submitted to Scottish Ministers within four years of approval of the existing plan.

  • a Local Development Plan (LDP) is required for each council area across Scotland. It allocates sites, either for new development, such as housing, or sites to be protected. It also includes policies that guide decisions on all planning applications. LDPs must be adopted within five years of the previous plan. LDPs in SDP areas should be adopted within two years of the approval of the SDP.

  • Supplementary Guidance can be part of the Development Plan when it has met legal requirements, including carrying out a public consultation. It 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.

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 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.

The time around the publication of the Main Issues Report, the planning consultation document, provides the main opportunity for early engagement to inform the plan content. The Proposed Plan – the settled view of the Council after taking account of the views made so far – is then consulted on. Planning authorities must include a Report of Conformity with their Participation Statement with their Participation Statement when submitting their plan to Scottish Ministers. This should show how they have carried out their planned community engagement.

Examination of development plans

If there are still unresolved issues after consultation on Proposed Plans then the planning authority must submit the plan to Scottish Ministers for examination. We will appoint a reporter 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).

Development plan correspondence

We have compiled a list of all the local development plans for which documentation and correspondence is available.

Development Planning Forum

We hold a regular Development Planning Forum which brings together planning authorities and agencies to discuss and share ideas on best practice. The Planning and Architecture blog provides more information on this event.

Gateway review

It's important that the development plan process is managed well. We published development plan project management guidance to encourage planning authorities to carry out gateway reviews of their development plan preparation process. An independent review team should advise on project progress as part of the process. We piloted this process with with Orkney Islands Council and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority, and published the results in a development plan project management review.

Environmental assessments

Scottish 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 Aganecy (SEPA), Historic 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).

We have produced some Habitats Regulations Appraisal – Development plans: Advice sheets to complement the Scottish Natural Heritage guidance for plan-making bodies in Scotland.

Find out more about HRA at the Scottish Natural Heritage website

The HRA Databank for Development Plans provides an opportunity to share HRA Records and make it easier to find relevant records.

Key documents