3 The Planning System
3.1 A review of the planning system began in 2015, supported by a report from an independent panel, and subsequent public consultation on proposals for change. The Planning (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 4 December 2017 and received Royal Assent on 25 July 2019. A work programme for implementing the Act is currently being progressed, after much of this work had been paused due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and need for physical distancing.
3.2 The 2017 consultation Places, People and Planning invited views on whether Section 3F should be removed. Whilst there was general support for removing section 3F, there was also concern at the time that this would be inconsistent with the then emerging third Climate Change Plan. As every policy area needs to contribute to reducing emissions, the Scottish Government decided not to remove Section 3F through the Planning Bill.
3.3 The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 includes new provisions for a stronger National Planning Framework, incorporating Scottish Planning Policy. It also includes provision for a restructured system of development plans, consisting of the National Planning Framework alongside local development plans, all to be informed by new regional spatial strategies. This means that local development plans prepared by planning authorities across Scotland, would not need to repeat the content of the revised National Planning Framework, but would focus only on policy where the planning authority considers a different approach to be needed locally, assuming that consideration is supported by appropriate justification and evidence.
3.4 The 2019 Act has introduced a statutory Purpose of Planning which underpins the preparation of the National Planning Framework and local development plans, "to manage the development and use of land in the long-term public interest". Anything which contributes to sustainable development or achieves the national outcomes is to be considered as being in the long term public interest. Further information about the provisions of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 can be found in the legislation as enacted and on the Scottish Government's Transforming Planning website.
3.5 The 2019 Act also lengthens the review cycle for the National Planning Framework and local development plans to 10 years, although there would be scope for amendments within that time. This will have implications for the annual reporting requirements placed on the Scottish Government by Section 3F, as there will potentially be less change over the period than under the current system of five yearly reviews of local development plans. Any changes identified will continue to be reported.