Effective community engagement in local development planning guidance: impact assessments

These impact assessments have informed the preparation the effective community engagement in local development planning consultation draft guidance. The assessments are being made available for comment in advance of their finalisation and finalisation of the guidance.

4. Overview / Framing

4.1. Once finalised the ECEG will be the Scottish Government’s high-level expectations on how planning authorities can comply with their legal duties to engage with the public when developing their local development plans.

4.2. The ECEG will:

  • set a framework for and influence the level of engagement pursued by planning authorities at different stages in the local development plan process;
  • clarify the stages of the local development plan process where communities and stakeholders are more or less likely to be involved; and by doing so
  • highlight where community and stakeholder engagement (time and contribution) may be most effective.

4.3. The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019[2] (The 2019 Act) includes enhanced opportunities for engagement of the public and identifies that certain groups should be engaged with in development planning. The strategic decision to enable production of the ECEG was taken as part of the 2019 Act and the relevant legislation is implemented through Section 16C of the 1997 Act.

4.4. Engagement undertaken through the review of the planning system and onward into the Planning Act preparation, preparation of National Planning Framework 4, and preparation of local development plan regulations and guidance has highlighted that people wish to engage in shaping the places they live in, that engagement can lead to better outcomes for people, that there is a desire for engagement practice to be improved and that different groups in society have different levels of engagement with the planning system. Whilst the ECEG is not a major piece of guidance, it is anticipated by some stakeholders who have responded to earlier engagement on planning legislation, national planning policy, and guidance.

4.5. In preparing the ECEG consideration has been given to the impacts within the framing already provided by the associated impact assessments[3] undertaken for the Town and Country Planning (Development Planning) (Scotland) Regulations and associated guidance, as well as reported impact assessments undertaken for the 2019 Act (which provides the overarching statutory framework for engagement in the planning system). The Local Development Planning Guidance[4] refers to the ECEG and its focus on the levels of engagement.

4.6. As such the ECEG can be considered to be a sub-set of the Local Development Planning Guidance as it applies to the preparation of local development plans rather than engagement across the wider planning system. The ECEG is narrowly focused on identifying the levels of engagement anticipated to be pursued by planning authorities at the different stages of local development plan preparation to help ensure that the statutory duties of the planning authority, and where relevant the community body, have been met.

4.7. Importantly, this guidance is intended to be of positive benefit to people and organisations. It helps establish a common framework for expectations of the levels of engagement between planning authorities and in particular communities, but in practice also including organisations, at the different stages of local development plan preparation.

4.8. The ECEG does not have an influence on defining which groups of people should be included in legislation for the purposes of engagement. It does highlight those groups that must be engaged with to accord with the Planning Act (the 1997 Act contains duties for planning authorities to engage with children and young people, Gypsies and Travellers, disabled people, and community councils) and includes a non-exhaustive list of groups that may be engaged with beyond the statutory requirements.

4.9. While guidance is provided on the statutory requirements for who may be engaged with in the preparation of a local development plan, the ECEG does not contain or intend to contain guidance on the detailed methods of engagement that may be necessary. It is intended that over time the Scottish Government will signpost examples of practice on community engagement as they emerge. Furthermore, the guidance does not contain policy or guidance on thematic topics that will be included in local development plans.

4.10. The ECEG will contribute to the following performance indicators contained in the National Performance Framework:

  • we live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient, and safe; and
  • we respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination.

4.11. Although the planning system has a role to play in the development and use of land in the long-term public interest, including the future development of communities, and so may have a relevance to each of the considerations listed for ICIA, this guidance is about engagement and so it really focuses on the community empowerment aspect.

4.12. Whilst the guidance itself has no resource implications for planning authorities as engagement is required to be undertaken in any case, it should help to inform deployment of resources for engagement appropriately throughout the preparation of the local development plan.

4.13. Although applying to planning authorities and anyone else involved in preparing local development plans wherever they are in Scotland, evidence suggests that some groups of people face challenges in engaging with the planning system, including disabled people, children and young people, women, and black and ethnic minority groups. The challenges include those that relate to physical mobility and access, caring responsibilities, or language and communication.

4.14. The context set here applies to the impact assessments that follow and won’t be repeated for each assessment. The assessments will focus on areas where the ECEG goes beyond the content that was assessed in the local development plans regulations and guidance. The degree to which the ECEG goes beyond the local development plans regulations and guidance is focused on the levels of engagement (otherwise known as the spectrum of participation). The assessments build from and advance, where possible, the relevant evidence linked to participation in the planning system which has been used in informing previous relevant impact assessments.

4.15. These impact assessments consider the potential impacts of the ECEG which is aimed at planning authorities, communities, and community bodies in particular - but can apply to anyone involved in or seeking to engage in the preparation of local development plans across Scotland.

4.16. Unless otherwise stated, evidence supporting the assessments is captured in Annex B – Data Bank. Evidence in Annex B addresses the protected characteristics set out in equality legislation, supported by the Public Sector Equality Duty, of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex (gender) and sexual orientation. The data-capture exercise was largely undertaken in 2022, with modest updating in 2023 ahead of finalising the consultation draft guidance.

4.17. In relation to the Child Rights and Wellbeing; Equalities; and Human Rights Impact Assessments, supporting information was considered using the Scottish Government’s Evidence Finder[5] as well as additional information considered relevant.

4.18. The 1997 Act requires local development plans to be prepared on a 10-year cycle. It is anticipated that new local development plans prepared in response to changes to the planning system will be in place within 5 years from the adoption of National Planning Framework 4 (2023). Using the experience built over those five years may be an appropriate time to review the ECEG. In the meantime, it is intended that the Scottish Government will signpost examples of engagement practice.

4.19. The Scottish Government is currently considering the future format and role of Planning Performance Frameworks with regards to implementing the 2019 Act provisions, which places annual reporting by authorities on a statutory basis. We will actively consider how a planning authority’s approach to community engagement can be measured and the outcomes achieved can be assessed through these statutory reports.


Email: communityengagementguidance@gov.scot

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