Planning and architecture

Overseeing the planning system

We oversee Scotland's planning system and we are responsible for the development and implementation of legislation and national planning policy. We are currently carrying out a wide reform of the planning system.

Our aim is for a planning service that is efficient, inclusive, fit for purpose and sustainable. The planning system plays a key role in delivering high-quality places for Scotland. It balances competing demands to make sure that land is used and developed in the public's long-term interest.

There are implications for Scotland's planning system as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the resultant need for physical distancing. A series of letters from the Chief Planner and the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning since March 2020 have outlined steps and actions we have been taking to ensure planning can continue to operate and play a vital role in economic and societal recovery. Find out more about how the planning system has been adapting to implications of COVID-19.

We also provide the front-line service: Applications for planning permission and related appeals can be made on the  website. 

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Planning authorities

The primary responsibility for the delivery of the planning service in Scotland lies with the 32 local authorities and the two national park authorities: Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.

Planning authorities are responsible for administering the three main parts of the planning system:

  • development planning – setting out how places should change in the future using plans
  • development management – making decisions on planning applications. Decisions must be guided by policies in the development plan
  • enforcement – making sure development is carried out correctly and taking appropriate action when it is not

There are also four Strategic Development Planning Authorities (SDPAs):


Scottish agencies, such as Scottish Water, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Transport Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland, have a duty to engage in the development plan process at different stages (such as the writing of both the main issues report and proposed plan and the preparation of the action programme). The Key Agencies Group encourages agencies and authorities to work together on the preparation of development plans, providing specialist knowledge and expertise.

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