Planning - pre-application consultation requirements - proposed changes: consultation analysis

Analysis of consultation to obtain the views and opinions of stakeholders on the proposed changes to the Pre-application Consultation (PAC) regulations and other matters relating to PAC.

1. Introduction

1.1 Pre-Application Consultation

1.1.1 Optimal Economics has been appointed by the Scottish Government – Local Government and Communities Directorate - Planning and Architecture Division (PAD) to undertake an analysis of the responses to the public consultation on Proposed Changes to Pre-Application Consultation requirements in planning.

1.1.2 Pre-application consultation (PAC) with local communities on national and major developments was introduced in 2009 with the aim of making communities aware of proposals at an early stage so they have the opportunity to comment to the prospective applicant before the proposal is finalised and the planning application is made.

1.1.3 The basic PAC requirements currently are that the prospective applicant must:

  • Serve a proposal of application notice (PAN) on the planning authority describing the proposal, location and indicating what consultation they intend carrying out as part of PAC.
  • Consult the community councils in whose area the proposal site is located or whose area adjoins the proposal site.
  • Hold a public event.
  • Publish a notice in a local newspaper indicating: where information on the proposal can be obtained; how to make views known to the prospective applicant; and the details of the public event (the notice must be published at least seven days prior to the public event.
  • Carry out any further PAC measures required by the planning authority.

1.1.4 The planning application to which the PAC relates cannot be submitted until at least 12 weeks have passed since the PAN was served on the planning authority. The application must be accompanied by a report on PAC, although the content of the report is the subject of guidance rather than a statutory requirement.

1.1.5 There is currently no maximum time limit for the application for which PAC relates to be submitted. However, the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 introduced an 18-month time limit for the application to be made to ensure that the views given during PAC are still relevant when the application is made.

1.1.6 Following an independent review of the Scottish planning system in 2016, concerns were raised that PAC could be a "tick box" exercise and that there was a lack of feedback to communities on their views in the pre-application phase. The review recommended an additional public event to allow for greater discussion of the proposals and subsequent consultation indicated a need for transparency and clarity around the process. There have also been concerns about the need for a second PAC where a developer seeks to make a subsequent application for the same basic development.

1.1.7 Given these concerns about PAC, the following changes are being proposed to PAC regulations:

  • To require information about the proposal to be available both in hard copy and electronic (online) versions.
  • To hold an additional public event so there will be a minimum of two public events.
  • To specify the requirements on the contents of PAC reports.
  • For some applications to be exempt from PAC in certain circumstances.

1.1.8 These proposed changes to the regulations and some other related matters formed the consultation on PAC requirements in planning. The consultation ran for twelve weeks from the 13th August 2020 to the 6th November 2020. The questions in the consultation can be divided into two sets:

  • Detailed questions on the proposed changes to the PAC regulations to improve the PAC process; and
  • A range of questions on other related matters including timing and transitional arrangements, PAC with disabled people, guidance and impact assessments.

1.2 Methodology

1.2.1 The approach to the analysis is shown in Figure 1. The first stage of the review was to validate the responses to determine that they are relevant to the PAC analysis and whether there were any duplicate responses or campaign responses. There were a number of responses to some questions where comments replicated the comments of another organisation's response, but as other aspects of the submission were different, they are not being treated as campaign responses.

Figure 1: Methodology
Diagram outlining Methodology - Validation, Review and Analysis and Reporting

1.2.2 The validation stage also developed a typology to reflect the respondent and their relationship to PAC in the planning system. This is set out in paragraph 1.3.2 below.

1.2.3 Stage 2 was focused on establishing an appropriate framework for the analysis. The consultation combined quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection and while the quantitative responses provided a good overview of opinion, it was the qualitative comments that provided a far greater depth of response.

1.2.4 A coding framework was established of the main themes arising from the open-ended questions. The framework was kept under continuous review to ensure it was fit-for-purpose and that the responses mapped effectively on to it. After the initial themes were identified, a more detailed coding of each main theme was undertaken to allow responses to be grouped to reflect key issues/views by the typology developed in Stage 1.

1.2.5 Stage 3 was the analysis of all questions and reporting of results which took account of client feedback at all stages of the reporting process.

1.2.6 Almost all "closed" questions asked for a yes/no/no view answer and the analysis presents the number of responses by group providing yes/no/no view and those who did not answer the question. The overall proportion of responses answering yes/no/no view is also provided.

1.2.7 All responses to the "open" questions have been given an equal weighting, allowing every idea presented to be considered equally. Where possible we have used a number of simple bands to provide an indication of the frequency of an idea, although it is noted that this treats the response from an individual with the same weight as the response from a professional body which may have many members. Nevertheless, the following bands have been used to indicate the frequency with which a point was raised:

  • Few: up to 3 responses.
  • Several: 4 to 9 responses.
  • Many: 10 and over responses.

1.3 Overview of Responses

1.3.1 At the close of the consultation period 91 on-line responses had been received with a further 18 responses submitted to PAD in an alternative format. These additional responses were input into the Scottish Government's consultation hub which takes the total number of responses to 109.

1.3.2 To assist with the analysis, respondents were categorised into the following groups:

  • Community bodies: community groups such as community trusts, residents associations.
  • Community councils: community councils who have a statutory role in PAC.
  • Developers: applicants who pay for the application and who are responsible for the PAC.
  • Individuals: individual members of the public.
  • Planning authorities: planning authorities who have a role in deciding PAC exemption criteria and can specify if additional PAC measures are required.
  • Planning/other consultants: consultants who may undertake the PAC on behalf of the developer or others who have general views on the planning system.
  • Public and representative bodies: this includes statutory consultees, membership organisations and other respondents to the consultation.

1.3.3 A summary of the number of responses by group is shown in the Table below with a list of respondents by group in Appendix A.

Summary of Responses by Group

Yes (%)

  • Community Bodies: 3 (2.8%)
  • Community Councils: 30 (27.5%)
  • Developers: 16 (14.7%)
  • Individuals: 22 (20.2%)
  • Planning Authorities:17 (15.6%)
  • Planning/Other Consultants: 6 (5.5%)
  • Public and representative Bodies: 15 (13.8%)
  • Total: 109 (100%)



Back to top