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Planning circular 1/2022: Local Place Plans

Planning circular 1/2022: Local Place Plan provides guidance to communities and planning authorities on the preparation, submission and registration of Local Place Plans.

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Circular 1/2022: Local Place Plans

Guidance on the preparation, submission and registration of Local Place Plans

1. This circular provides guidance to Community Bodies and planning authorities on the legislative requirements for the preparation, submission and registration of Local Place Plans, as set out in:

  • the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 (the 1997 Act) as amended by the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019[1]; and
  • the Town and Country Planning (Local Place Plans) (Scotland) Regulations 2021[2] (the 2021 Regulations).

2. The circular also includes some guidance on matters which are not explicitly required by legislation, but which can support the process and help to ensure the legal requirements can be met.

Background

3. Local Place Plans are part of the Government’s wider work on planning reform and implementation of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 (the 2019 Act), including steps to reduce conflict, improve community engagement and build public trust in planning matters. They offer the opportunity for a community-led, collaborative approach to creating great local places. Local Place Plans can support community aspirations on the big challenges for a future Scotland, such as responding to the global climate emergency and tackling inequalities. It is vital that local people have the opportunity to engage meaningfully and have a positive influence in the future planning of development in their areas. The aim is to significantly enhance engagement in development planning, effectively empowering communities to play a proactive role in defining the future of their places.

4. Local Place Plans are community-led plans setting out proposals for the development and use of land. Introduced by the 2019 Act, these plans will set out a community’s aspirations for its future development. Once completed and then registered by the planning authority, they are to be taken into account in the preparation of the relevant local development plan.

5. Local Place Plans are a way for communities, working with local authorities and other public sector organisations, to bring forward proposals that reflect National and Local Outcomes. Also, by reflecting those wider policies and plans in Local Place Plans, communities should find it easier to make change happen. In addition, the Place Principle promotes a shared understanding of place, and the need to take a more collaborative approach to a place's services and assets to achieve better outcomes for people and communities. The principle requests that all those responsible for providing services and looking after assets in a place need to work and plan together, and with local communities, to improve the lives of people, support inclusive and sustainable economic growth and create more successful places.

6. The framework of legislation for Local Place Plans is to be found in the 1997 Act as amended by the 2019 Act. A number of matters relating to the preparation, submission and registration of Local Place Plans have been set out in the 2021 Regulations. Not all parts of section 14 of the 2019 Act are yet in force. Sections 14(2) relating to the planning authority invitation to prepare Local Place Plans, plus sections 14(4) and (6) relating to the taking into account of registered Local Place Plans in the Local Development Plan, will be brought into force in line with new Local Development Plan regulations and guidance[3]. Further guidance will be prepared in due course on these and other matters, including relating to the later removal of Local Place Plans from planning authority registers.

7. This guidance contains four sections:

  • Getting ready to prepare a Local Place Plan;
  • Preparing a Local Place Plan;
  • Submitting a Local Place Plan; and
  • Registering a Local Place Plan.

Getting ready to prepare a Local Place Plan

8. Many communities have experience of preparing their own plans. Examples cover urban, island and rural Scotland. Scottish communities have used community-led plans to:

  • express a community-led vision for the future development of their area;
  • tackle a particular issue or issues that impact on the community, or even wider Scotland; or
  • see the Local Development Plan support or prioritise particular policies or developments.

9. The fundamental requirements for a Local Place Plan are that it must fulfil the following criteria. It must:

  • be prepared by a Community Body;
  • be a proposal as to the development or use of land; and
  • fulfil the legal requirements set out in the 1997 Act and the 2021 Regulations.

10. The general way of preparing a Local Place Plan will not be fundamentally different from how communities have been preparing community-led plans. However, for a community-led plan to be considered as a Local Place Plan and therefore, once registered, to be taken into account by the planning authority in preparing its Local Development Plan, the Community Body preparing the plan must fulfil a number of legal criteria. Guidance on fulfilling those criteria is set out below.

11. Whilst there are no legislative requirements at this early stage of preparation, there are some key considerations which will help the Community Body as it progresses to developing a Local Place Plan in line with the legal requirements.

Prepared by a Community Body

12. Before getting started on preparing a Local Place Plan you should consider whether your organisation is a Community Body and what role you might play.

Text Box 1: Definition of a Community Body

(a) a community-controlled body within the definition given in section 19 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, or

(b) a community council established in accordance with Part 4 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973.

13. Local Place Plans are community-led. The Community Body will have an important role in bringing together and considering differing interests, defining the area of the Local Place Plan, setting the process and timetable, identifying and bringing together the relevant resources, assessing and prioritising evidence, engaging the local community and public bodies, considering and balancing what may be different priorities and aspirations, all leading to a coherent proposal for the community’s future development. While the legislation does not prevent multiple Local Place Plans for an area, the Scottish Government encourages people and organisations considering preparing a Local Place Plan to work collaboratively and in a joined-up way where possible.

14. Text Box 1 sets out which organisations are defined by the legislation to be Community Bodies for the purpose of local place planning. Broadly speaking, the definition covers established community councils, and bodies[4] which must have a written constitution, but may not necessarily be incorporated.

15. Your organisation may already be a Community Body, for example there are in the region of 1200 community councils in Scotland. Or it may have already been set up to support community-focussed activity in your area and can be defined as a community-controlled body.

16. If your organisation is not a Community Body, you might want to consider becoming a community-controlled body[5] or work with an organisation which is already a Community Body. Again, the Scottish Government encourages people and organisations considering preparing a Local Place Plan to work collaboratively.

17. On submitting your Local Place Plan, you will be asked to provide certain information, such as your contact details and a copy of your written constitution if you are a community-controlled body.

Proposal as to the development or use of land

18. Sometimes new buildings, changes to the use and appearance of existing buildings, and other changes in the way land is used are needed. These activities are called 'development'. The planning system makes decisions about future development and the use of land in our towns, cities and countryside. It decides where development should happen, where it should not and how development affects its surroundings.

19. Though not an exhaustive list, examples of what could be considered as development or use of land which might feature in a Local Place Plan could include things like:

  • sites which support climate change adaptation, such as renewable energy or flood mitigation;
  • local initiatives for the promotion of active travel and community food growing;
  • sites for housing, including for affordable housing, new or retained local employment or new tourism/community facilities;
  • retaining, improving, and expanding quality open space and green/blue infrastructure and play facilities;
  • conservation of the natural/built environment;
  • improvements in the town/neighbourhood centre;
  • support for a national development, as featured in the National Planning Framework.

20. Matters which may not be defined as ‘development’ may nevertheless also be important for a community. Again, though not an exhaustive list, examples of what would not normally be considered as development include:

  • litter management and dog fouling;
  • improvements to public transport (routes and timetables); and
  • proposals which do not fundamentally impact on the long-term use of land, such as occasional activities/events using existing facilities, spaces and places.

21. Community Bodies will want to consider how these issues can be appropriately expressed in their Local Place Plans. For example, issues relating to litter and dog fouling could be raised as part of a general concern around the amenity of an area. There could also be scope for these issues to form an element of the additional information submitted by the Community Body.

Fulfilling the legal requirements

22. The legal requirements on a Community Body in preparing and submitting a Local Place Plan are set out in the amended 1997 Act and in the 2021 Regulations. In short, the requirements for a valid Local Place Plan are satisfied if the requirements under paragraphs 1(4) and 2(1) of Schedule 19 of the 1997 Act are complied with.

23. It is important that the Community Body keeps these requirements in mind when preparing and later submitting its Local Place Plan. Failure to comply would lead to the Local Place Plan not being registered.

Preparing the Local Place Plan

24. The legislation requires that the Community Body must take certain steps in preparing the Local Place Plan. These are set out in Text Box 2.

Having regard to certain documents

25. In preparing the Local Place Plan, the Community Body must have regard to certain other plans. The list of plans is set out in legislation. These are:

(i) the Local Development Plan for the land, or any part of the land, to which the Local Place Plan relates;

(ii) the National Planning Framework; and

(iii) a Locality Plan[6] published for the area to which a proposed Local Place Plan relates.

26. These plans are readily available online. Any adopted Local Development Plan relevant to that area will be published on the relevant local authority or national park authority website. Community Bodies may want to confirm with the relevant authority whether the Local Place Plan area is covered by more than one Local Development Plan. The National Planning Framework is available on the Scottish Government’s website.

27. There is a significant opportunity to link Local Place Plans with wider Locality Plans that have emerged in some areas. This could create efficiencies, reduce duplication and prioritise resources to areas where there could be particularly significant benefits for communities and inclusive growth. Locality Plans should be available from the relevant local authority’s website. However, not all areas are covered by a Locality Plan, so the Community Body will want to confirm with the relevant Community Planning Partnership whether one covers the proposed area of the Local Place Plan.

28. When submitting the Local Place Plan, the Community Body will be required to set out in a statement how it has had regard to these documents.

Text Box 2 – paragraph 1(4) of Schedule 19

In preparing a Local Place Plan, a Community Body must—

(a) have regard to—

(i) the Local Development Plan for the land, or any part of the land, to which the Local Place Plan relates,

(ii) the National Planning Framework,

(iii) a Locality Plan published for the area to which a proposed Local Place Plan relates,

(b) set out reasons for considering that the Local Development Plan should be amended, and

(c) comply with any prescribed requirements as to—

(i) the form and content of the plan, and

(ii) steps which must be taken before preparing the plan.

29. We would suggest that to comply with this requirement, the Community Body should:

  • identify the appropriate plans it must ‘have regard to’, whether it is the National Planning Framework, Local Development Plan or, if available, any Locality Plan;
  • consider the contents of the Plans in the context of the Local Place Plan area;
  • think about how Local Place Plan proposals might generally align with the relevant policies and development proposals in the National Planning Framework, Local Development Plan and, if available, any Locality Plan; and
  • if the community feels strongly that the Local Place Plan should diverge from any relevant policies or developments, set out clear reasons why the Local Place Plan is departing from it.

30. The reference in the legislation requires that the Community Body must have regard to, as of January 2022, National Planning Framework 3[7], the adopted Local Development Plan and where one is in place, the Locality Plan. There will be circumstances where the Community Body is preparing its Local Place Plan and is having to have regard to a Plan which is under review. Where this is the case, the Community Body may also have regard to the draft National Planning Framework, any proposed Local Development Plan or emerging revised Locality Plan. Where that is the case, the Community Body could consider that, due to the age of the existing Plan, the policies emerging may also influence the Community Body’s thinking.

31. Though not a legal requirement, the Community Body may want to refer to a range of other documents which can provide context and evidence for the Local Place Plan. Such documents (not an exhaustive list) might include:

  • community-led plans which have been previously prepared;
  • where no Locality Plan is in place, the Local Outcome Improvement Plan;
  • other national/regional plans and strategies which may be relevant, such as the National Islands Plan or a National Park Plan; and
  • planning permissions which may have a significant impact on the Local Place Plan area.

Setting out reasons for amending the Local Development Plan

32. Through a statement accompanying the Local Place Plan, the Community Body must set out why it considers that the Local Development Plan should be amended.

33. One of the key aspects of the Local Place Plan will be the potential influence it has on shaping future local planning policies for the area.

34. By having regard to the Local Development Plan, the Community Body will have already considered the local policies contained in the Local Development Plan which are relevant to the Local Place Plan area. It may have come to an initial view as to the issues and areas where the community wants to influence local planning policies and development opportunities. This view may be supplemented by engagement with the wider community.

35. Community councils, and other community organisations may already have experience of identifying issues and making representations on changes to the Local Development Plan.

Form and Content of the Local Place Plan

36. A Local Place Plan can be a short, clear and visual document which sets out the Community Body’s proposals and priorities.

37. Regulation 3 of the 2021 Regulations requires that the Local Place Plan contains three elements. It is to:

(a) identify the Community Body who prepared the Local Place Plan;

(b) contain a map that shows the land to which the Local Place Plan relates; and

(c) contain a statement of the Community Body’s proposals as to the development or use of land within the Local Place Plan area.

38. These requirements should provide for a Local Place Plan which sets out clearly the Community Body’s proposals in a way that is easily communicated to the community and the planning authority.

39. The legislation, intentionally, does not over-prescribe how the Community Body presents its proposals to the wider community and the planning authority. Instead, it provides for a wide scope for Community Bodies to consider how they wish to represent their proposals in the statement and map.

Identifying the Community Body

40. This may be a simple statement or note on the Local Place Plan which identifies the Community Body.

Local Place Plan map

41. The map of the Local Place Plan shows the wider community and planning authority the extent and boundary of the Local Place Plan area. It can map land and buildings that the community sees as being particularly significant, and also identify location-specific proposals.

Text Box 3: Form and content of a Local Place Plan

(1) A Local Place Plan is to—

(a) identify the Community Body by whom it is prepared,

(b) contain a map that shows the land to which the Local Place Plan relates,

(c) contain a statement of the Community Body’s proposals as to the development or use of land within the Local Place Plan area.

(2) Where—

(a) that statement contains a proposal as to the development or use of land which relates to a specific area of land or particular building,

(b) the Local Place Plan identifies land or building that the community body considers to be of particular significance to the local area,

the Local Place Plan is to contain a map or maps which identify the location of the land or building.

(3) The map showing the Local Place Plan area is to be sufficiently detailed so as to enable the boundaries of the Local Place Plan area to be identified.

42. A clear definition of the boundary is important as it will set out some administrative matters relating to engagement with local authorities, councillors and adjoining community councils. It will also allow the planning authority to accurately plot the Local Place Plan area. Should the Local Place Plan area cover more than one planning authority, then the boundary between the authorities could helpfully be included.

43. The map must identify the location of any land or buildings which the Community Body wishes to identify as being of particular significance to the local area. While there is no obligation to do so, identifying such land or buildings within a Local Place Plan can help recognise their importance within the community and make sure that they are considered within planning decisions. What may be ‘locally significant’ will be a matter for the Community Body, but should be based on the evidence coming from engagement with the community. Community Bodies might seek to include land or buildings which, for example:

  • support and develop tourism/heritage by making more of local assets;
  • recognise or enhance informal open spaces and play areas;
  • commemorate major events that shape a community’s identity or mark a place in its history;
  • improve, increase and make better use of community buildings and spaces; or
  • are special in some other way.

44. Where the Local Place Plan statement contains a proposal which relates to a specific area of land or a particular building, these must also be identified on the map.

45. Where the number of proposals which need to be identified causes the map to lose clarity, then the Community Body may wish to use additional maps, inserts or an accompanying key to assist in clarity.

Statement of proposals

46. The Local Place Plan is to contain a statement of the Community Body’s proposals as to the development or use of land within the Local Place Plan area.

47. It will be for the Community Body to consider how to present these proposals. It may wish to illustrate the statement of proposals, for example with maps showing the location, or include relevant photographs, sketches or drawings.

Steps which must be taken before submitting the Local Place Plan

48. Regulation 4 of the 2021 Regulations sets out what the Community Body must do before submitting its Local Place Plan. At this point, the Community Body will be ready to share its proposed Local Place Plan with the wider community and will have decided on how it intends to seek their views on its contents.

Sending the Information Notice

49. Regulation 4 requires that a copy of the proposed Local Place Plan and an information notice is sent to:

(a) each councillor for the Local Place Plan area; and

(b) a community council any part of whose area is within, or adjoins, the Local Place Plan area.

50. The Community Body should maintain clear records of how it has complied with this requirement.

51. It might be that the Community Body had already been engaging with councillors for the Local Place Plan area, while developing the Local Place Plan. It is a statutory requirement that the Community Body ensures that it contacts all councillors within the Local Place Plan area at this pre-submission stage, even if it had previously engaged with those councillors earlier in the process. It must also ensure, where the Local Place Plan area covers more than one ward or extends into another local authority area, that those councillors are also sent the proposed Local Place Plan and the information notice. Contact details for relevant councillors should be available from the relevant local authority website.

52. The Community Body must also send the information notice to a community council any part of whose area is within, or adjoins, the Local Place Plan area. The Community Body must send to community councils within the same local authority and also adjoining local authorities as relevant. Contact details for community councils are available on local authority websites.

53. Community Bodies may in the first instance wish to use electronic means, such as email, to send the information notice. However, not all community councils may be contactable in this way. Local authority planning departments are in regular contact with community councils and so may be able to advise. In addition, each local authority has a Community Council Liaison Officer who may also be able to assist in contacting such community councils.

Contents of the Information Notice

54. The information contained in the notice which accompanies the proposed Local Place Plan must include:

(a) a brief description of the content and purpose of the proposed Local Place Plan; and

(b) information as to how and to whom any representations on the content of the proposed Local Place Plan should be made and the date by which they should be made.

55. The description of the content and purpose need not be exhaustive as the notice will be sent alongside the proposed Local Place Plan. The description should be in writing and include the following:

  • a description of the general area that the Local Place Plan covers; and
  • the key proposals contained in the Local Place Plan statement.

56. Setting out the information on how and to whom representations are to be made provides the Community Body with the opportunity to seek the wider community’s views on the proposed Local Place Plan. The level and range of engagement opportunities provided will depend on the circumstances and resources available.

57. The Community Body should consider:

  • how to bring in the voices of all sectors of the community;
  • who the proposals affect, either directly, or indirectly;
  • what methods of engagement are fit for purpose and appropriate for the community.

58. It is for the Community Body to decide how long a period to allow for representations to be made, although this cannot be less than 28 days after the date on which the notice is sent.

Submitting the Local Place Plan

59. Once the Community Body has prepared the Local Place Plan and accompanying information as set out in legislation, it can then be submitted to the planning authority. The Community Body may wish to contact the planning authority to arrange a pre-submission meeting. The Local Place Plan and associated information should preferably be submitted to the planning authority electronically, or by hard copy if that is not possible. Unless there is a pressing need, the Community Body should ensure that the planning authority has copies of the documents available electronically.

60. For a planning authority to accept a Local Place Plan as valid, the Community Body must be able to provide evidence that it has complied with the legal requirements. Details of how a Community Body might do this are set out below.

Confirmation of the Community Body’s status

61. The 1997 Act as amended states that a Community Body may prepare a Local Place Plan. The planning authority must ensure that the Local Place Plan is being submitted by a Community Body as defined in the 1997 Act.

62. Where an established community council is acting as the Community Body, there is no requirement for it to submit information confirming its status.

63. Where the Community Body submitting the Local Place Plan, is a community-controlled body (as defined in Section 19 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015), a copy of the written constitution of the Community Body must be provided.

64. This requirement should provide sufficient evidence to satisfy the planning authority that the group submitting the Local Place Plan is a Community Body. If the organisation submitting the Local Place Plan cannot provide evidence that it is a Community Body, then the planning authority cannot validate the Local Place Plan.

Contact details

65. The Community Body is to provide details of the address (including any email address) where it wants correspondence from the planning authority to be sent. The contact details may consist of an address of the Community Body or the address of an individual who is acting as the Community Body’s representative.

Evidence of compliance with the requirements of regulation 4

66. Regulation 4 of the 2021 Regulations sets out what the Community Body must do before submitting its Local Place Plan. It must include evidence as to how it has complied with the requirement to send a copy of the proposed Local Place Plan and an information notice to:

(a) each councillor for the Local Place Plan area; and

(b) a community council any part of whose area is within, or adjoins, the Local Place Plan area.

and also that the information notice contains the prescribed information.

67. Evidence showing compliance should include:

  • a list of the councillors contacted;
  • a list of the community councils contacted;
  • a copy of the proposed Local Place Plan; and
  • a copy of the information notice.

Having regard to certain plans

68. The Community Body is required to explain in a statement how it has, in preparing the Local Place Plan, had regard to:

(i) the Local Development Plan for the Local Place Plan area;

(ii) the National Planning Framework; and

(iii) (if applicable) any Locality Plan for the Local Place Plan area.

These documents will be readily available from the Scottish Government or relevant authorities’ websites.

69. The statement does not need to be long but should provide a clear explanation as to how the Community Body has had regard to the documents above. The Community Body may wish to:

  • set out references to the documents it has had regard to – this could include hyperlinks to the relevant documents; and
  • express how the Local Place Plan proposals might align with, or differ from, the relevant policies and development proposals in the National Planning Framework, Local Development Plan and Locality Plan.

Setting out why the Local Development Plan should be changed

70. The Community Body is to include a statement setting out why it considers that the Local Development Plan should be amended. The statement should be based on the considerations that the Community Body made in preparing its Local Place Plan.

Community support for the Local Place Plan

71. While there is no legal requirement for the Community Body to engage with its wider community, it is however required to include a statement setting out:

(i) its view of the level and nature of support for the Local Place Plan; and

(ii) the basis on which it has reached that view, including a description of any consultation in respect of the proposed Local Place Plan.

72. Engaging the wider community will provide key evidence of people’s views of the proposals in the Local Place Plan.

73. This statement should be based on evidence obtained from any activities undertaken by the Community Body to find out the views of people or organisations. The Community Body should give a brief description of the activity or activities, an estimation of the number and interests of people/organisations involved, and a brief summary of what views were expressed, both in support or where they were in opposition to the proposals. There are often differences of opinion within communities and if concerns are raised during the engagement with the community and others, the Community Body may wish to show how it has tried to resolve these.

Copies of additional documents

74. The Community Body is to include a copy of any document which is referred to in the Local Place Plan. This excludes documents which are prepared or published by the relevant planning authority.

75. Such documents may include evidence and data referred to in the development of the Local Place Plan, and how the proposals in the Local Place Plan might be delivered.

76. Where a document is publically available online and free of charge, the Community Body can submit sufficient information (for example a hyperlink). This will enable the planning authority to access the document(s).

Registering the Local Place Plan

For the Community Body

77. Having prepared the Local Place Plan and brought together the additional information required, this is the opportunity to submit the Local Place Plan and additional information to the relevant planning authority for registration.

78. When the planning authority receives the Local Place Plan and accompanying information, it will check it contains all the required information, and that the organisation qualifies as a Community Body.

79. If the organisation is a Community Body and has complied with the legal requirements, then the planning authority must accept the Local Place Plan and proceed to register it.

80. If the organisation is not a Community Body under the terms of the legislation, or if the information provided is incomplete, then the planning authority cannot register the Local Place Plan. It is required to advise that it is not valid, giving its reasons for reaching that view.

81. Depending on the nature of the authority’s reasons for reaching that view, there may be scope for an amended plan to be resubmitted to the authority for further consideration.

For the planning authority

82. When the planning authority receives the Local Place Plan and additional information, it should acknowledge initial receipt of the Local Place Plan.

83. The authority should check it contains all the required information, and that the organisation submitting the Local Place Plan qualifies as a Community Body.

84. A Local Place Plan is valid if the requirements under paragraphs 1(4) and 2(1) of the 1997 Act have been complied with. It is not the role of the planning authority at this point to assess the proposals contained within the Local Place Plan for their planning merit or deliverability.

85. If the organisation submitting the Local Place Plan is a Community Body, and has complied with the legal requirements then the planning authority must accept the Local Place Plan as valid and proceed to register it.

86. The planning authority is to inform the Community Body that it has registered the Local Place Plan.

87. If a planning authority decides not to register a Local Place Plan on the basis that it is not valid, the authority must give their reasons for reaching that view to the Community Body that submitted the Local Place Plan. Planning authorities are encouraged to provide clear reasons behind their decision, so that where possible, the Community Body can rectify any issues and re-submit the Local Place Plan.

The Local Place Plan and decision-making

88. As noted at Paragraph 5, sections 14(4) and (6) of the 2019 Act relating to the taking into account of registered Local Place Plans in the Local Development Plan, will be brought into force in line with new Local Development Plan regulations and guidance. Whilst this will be the primary way for Local Place Plans to influence local planning policies, Community Bodies may wish to consider whether the proposals contained within the Local Place Plan may reasonably form a part of representations on individual planning applications.

Contact

Email: Chief.Planner@gov.scot

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