Current workstreams: Chief Planner letter August 2018

Letter from the Chief Planner providing an update on current workstreams being taken forward by Planning and Architecture Division.

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Dear Colleague

I am writing to you to provide an update on our on-going work supporting the review of planning and other key workstreams we are currently progressing within Planning and Architecture Division.

Planning Bill

The Local Government and Communities Committee has now published its Stage 1 report and the Scottish Government has responded to its recommendations.  As noted in our response, we are currently exploring scope for amendments to the Bill to strengthen provisions including in relation to: the purpose of planning;  strategic planning; community engagement and simplified development zones.  The Stage 2 committee consideration will commence in September 2018. 

Digital Planning

In August 2017 the Minister established a taskforce to oversee a programme of digital transformation for Scotland’s planning system. This ambitious programme has been progressing at pace, with continuing engagement, dialogue and collaboration with a wide range of stakeholder groups.  We are currently working towards publication of a Digital Strategy for Planning in November 2018. This key document will set out our collective vision for a digitally transformed planning system, and how we intend to work together to achieve this. It will begin to identify projects to deliver the digital transformation, that will consider not only technology and data components, but also skills, culture and business process change. 

If you would like to be kept up to date with progress on shaping our digital future of planning in Scotland, please contact


We convened the second meeting of the Infrastructure Delivery Group in June.  At the meeting the group discussed their remit and shared their thinking on a future work programme.  The group, involving a wide range of public and private infrastructure providers will play a key role in more effectively linking planning with infrastructure and strengthening development delivery.  We are also progressing a programme of work on infrastructure and planning in collaboration with the Scottish Futures Trust. 

This will focus on several workstreams including simplified development zones, finance and funding, activating housing sites, and infrastructure and development planning..


We have recently published further research in support of the on-going programme of planning reform.  Eleven completed research papers have been published to date on the planning reform webpage, with more to be made available as they are finalised. Recently published reports include research findings on: the main reasons for delay with applications for housing; monitoring the outcomes from planning; and customer service and the planning system. 

Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning 2018

The 56 applications for SAQP2018 were considered by judges in early June.  This included a number of applications in our new award category for children and young people.

The shortlist has been announced and is available on our blog..

Engagement with Gypsy / Traveller Community 

We have developed a programme setting out actions that planning can take to ensure that Gypsy / Travellers have safe and secure places to stop or settle.  We have discussed this with CoSLA, HoPS, PAS and community representatives and will continue to work with them as we take forward the actions. 

As part of this,  we have commissioned research to ensure we have clearer evidence on the location of sites and issues arising during decision making.  We will also be working to raise awareness and propose piloting a local place plan in collaboration with a Gypsy / Traveller community.

Business Plan

In 2017-18 we delivered a wide range of priorities to help achieve our vision of creating a world class planning system which does all it can to support  inclusive economic growth and create great places for people and communities in Scotland, including introducing the Planning (Scotland) Bill  to Parliament. Our 2017-18 Annual Report can be viewed in full on the Scottish Government website.

In 2018-19, we will focus on delivering the on-going programme of Planning reform including the Planning Bill, commencing work on National Planning Framework 4 incorporating the Scottish Planning Policy, transforming Digital Planning services and reforming Compulsory Purchase Orders while continuing to lead the delivery of Scottish Ministers’ statutory responsibilities and policies for the operation of the planning system.   Our Business Plan for 2018-19 can be viewed in full on the Scottish Government website.

Should you wish for further information on any of the points raised above, please contact us at You can also read our regular updates on the Planning & Architecture blog.

Yours faithfully

John McNairney Chief Planner



Tel: 0131 244 7528

Area 2-F (South)
Planning and Architecture Division
The Scottish Government
Victoria Quay

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