Effective community engagement in local development planning guidance: consultation

This consultation is about guidance on effective community engagement in the local development planning process. It is for planning authorities and communities. It supports the local development planning approach of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, associated new regulations and guidance.

Section 2 – Consultation Draft Guidance

Effective Community Engagement in Local Development Planning Guidance

Purpose and scope of this guidance

1. Effective community engagement is an essential part of local development plan preparation. This guidance sets out the Scottish Government's high-level expectations on how planning authorities can comply with their legal duty to engage with the public when preparing their local development plans. It sets out the levels of engagement that could be applied at different stages of the development plan process.

2. The guidance is intended to be used by planning authorities as a sense check when planning their engagement to support the preparation of local development plans.

3. It will also be helpful to communities, organisations and individuals in understanding when they can engage in the local development plan process, and what influence on the plan making that engagement may have.

4. This guidance is not intended to detail the approaches to or methods of engagement that may be taken at any particular stage in the local development plan process. Approaches and methods for engagement are in place and will continue to develop over time. It remains important that those undertaking engagement exercises consider methods that are appropriate to the subject, context and groups being engaged.

5. To complement this guidance, we will consider opportunities to signpost examples of engagement practice, including through the Our Place website.

6. The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997[28] Section 16C (introduced by the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019[29]) gives the Scottish Ministers the power to prepare this guidance. It also requires planning authorities to have regard to this guidance.

7. Ongoing planning reform aims to enhance engagement in the planning system and this guidance aims to support this.

8. National Planning Framework 4[30] contains a cross-cutting outcome for 'a fair and inclusive planning system'. This includes the expectation that everyone involved in planning takes steps to ensure that a wide range of people are involved in shaping their future places. Opportunities for engagement in development planning 'should be early, collaborative, meaningful and proportionate'.

9. It is recognised that some people can find it more challenging to engage with planning. It is essential that people with 'protected characteristics'[31] (including disability, race, age, sex, and sexual orientation) as well as people from a range of socio-economic backgrounds are given particular support to express their views on plans and decisions. Consultations are to be designed to meet the communication needs of people.

10. In designing engagement approaches and methods, those undertaking engagement should take into account the potential for those to be directly or indirectly discriminatory through factors including language barriers, confidence of people who desire to be engaged with, and the impact of dominant characters within engagement exercises. The discrimination may be felt in particular by individuals and groups due to characteristics relating to age, sex, and race. Some groups may need particular physical aspects to be considered, such as seating for in-person events including for those who are pregnant.

Question 1 – Do you agree that the purpose and scope of the guidance is clear?

  • Yes
  • No
  • No view
  • Please comment on your answer (particularly if you do not agree).

Levels of engagement

11. Different levels of engagement are appropriate to policy preparation activity. Terms used by the International Association for Public Engagement[32] and the National Standards for Community Engagement[33] help clarify how different forms of engagement offer participants different levels of influence. The International Association for Public Engagement terms these levels the 'Spectrum of Participation' ((c) International Association for Public Participation www.iap2.org). This is replicated in Table 1 below along with additional information on the purpose and degree of influence these levels enable. The term 'consult' in this context should not be confused with references to consultation requirements in the Planning Act.

Table 1: Levels of Engagement / Spectrum of Participation
Activity Offer to participants Purpose / degree of influence
Inform / Informing To provide the public with balanced and objective information.
  • we will keep you informed;
  • we will provide information openly and transparently; and
  • we will not withhold relevant information.
To inform those with an interest in the outcome (i.e. the public and stakeholder groups).
Consult / Consulting To obtain feedback on analysis, alternatives, proposals and / or decisions.
  • we will keep you informed;
  • we will listen to and acknowledge your concerns and aspirations;
  • we will give serious consideration to your contributions;
  • we will be open to your influence; and
  • we will provide feedback on how your input has influenced the outcome.
To inform those making the decision or developing proposals.
Involve / Involving To work directly with participants throughout the policy / decision-making process to ensure that their concerns and aspirations are consistently understood and considered.
  • we will keep you informed;
  • we will work with you to ensure that your concerns and aspirations are directly reflected in the outcome / alternatives developed; and
  • we will provide feedback on how your input has influenced the outcome.
To enable participants to directly influence the decision / options developed.
Collaborate / Collaborating To partner with participants in each aspect of the decision, including defining the issue, developing alternatives and identifying preferred solutions.
  • we will look to you for advice and innovation in formulating solutions; and
  • we will incorporate your advice and recommendations into decision / implementation to the maximum extent possible.
To share the development and decision-making process (as much as possible).
Empower / Empowering To place final decision-making in the hands of the participants - to delegate.
  • we will implement what you decide.
To hand over the ability to make decisions and / or take action.

12. All the levels of engagement are a form of empowerment for communities and planning authorities will work towards different levels of engagement depending on the stage of the local development plan. Communicating clearly about the level of engagement, the offer, and purpose, will help clarify and manage expectations for everyone involved.

Question 2 – Do you agree that the terms inform, consult, involve, collaborate and empower, as described in the table, are helpful terms to support understanding of different levels of engagement and the influence that results from it?

  • Yes
  • No
  • No view
  • Please comment on your answer (particularly if you do not agree).

Local development plan

13. A local development plan sets out how places will change, importantly identifying where and what development should and should not happen. Planning authorities are required by law to prepare a local development plan.

14. The development plan is the starting point for making decisions on whether to approve or refuse planning applications. The National Planning Framework and the local development plan together make up the 'statutory development plan' which forms the basis of decisions on planning applications.

15. There are three key stages in the process of preparing a local development plan:

  • evidence gathering;
  • plan preparation; and
  • delivery.

16. The evidence gathering stage is about informing people about the process and involving them. Through consultation, stakeholders provide planning authorities with information about the area. By preparing local place plans, communities may also be empowered to set out their proposals for their area, to be taken into account in the local development plan as it is being prepared.

17. The plan preparation stage is about involving and collaborating with participants in preparing the spatial strategy and policy approach. Formal consultation is also required by the planning legislation to provide people with an opportunity to give feedback on the proposed local development plan.

18. The delivery stage is about informing people about the finalised local development plan approach and collaborating with people to take forward identified actions in the delivery programme. People are also consulted on decision-making for individual planning applications, but this is beyond the scope of this guidance.

19. Table 2 identifies the key stages in the preparation of a local development plan and the associated anticipated level of engagement. This is provided here to help communities identify when they may have most influence on the plan making process and therefore most effective engagement.

20. Communities will have most influence on the local development plan at the stages where the engagement levels are consult, involve, collaborate or empower. This is because at these levels planning authorities commit to being influenced by the engagement. The reporting mechanisms set out in legislation mean that people are given feedback on how their input has affected the approach taken.

Table 2: Local development plan preparation stages and level of engagement
Stage Activity Engagement Level Statutory Timing
Evidence Gathering Publishing the Development Plan Scheme and Participation Statement Inform, Involve Annual
Inviting communities to prepare a local place plan Inform, Involve, Empower 28 day period for community bodies to seek comments before submitting it for validation and registration.
Evidence report Inform, Involve -
Gate check Consult (where necessary) -
Plan Preparation Preparing the proposed local development plan Involve, Collaborate -
Consulting on the proposed local development plan Inform, Consult -
Modifying the proposed local development plan including examination Inform, Consult Involve -
Delivery Adopting the local development plan Inform Minimum 28 day period between submitting the plan to be adopted to Scottish Ministers and adopting it locally.
Delivery programme Inform, Collaborate Within 3 months of local development plan adoption and then every 2 years.

21. The remainder of this guidance gives some further details on the local development plan stages of preparation as set out in the table above. In addition, associated impact assessments are considered at stage 10.


Email: communityengagementguidance@gov.scot

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