Key Agencies Group minutes: June 2021

Minutes from the Key Agencies Group meeting held on 17 June 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Katherine Lakeman, SEPA (KAG Chair) 
  • Tim Moss, Architecture and Design Scotland (KAG Secretariat)
  • Alison Baisden, Historic Environment Scotland
  • Alan Farquhar, SEPA
  • Kate Givan, Architecture and Design Scotland
  • David Hall, Scottish Government Digital Planning Team
  • Heather Holland, HOPS 
  • Lorraine Jones, Sport Scotland
  • Debbie Livingstone, Systra Transport Scotland 
  • Trevor Moffat, Planning Improvement Service    
  • Peter Noad, Scottish Enterprise
  • Fiona Rice, Nature Scot 
  • Graham Saunders, Historic Environment Scotland
  • David Stewart, Scottish Land Commission


  • Helen Fallas, British Geological Survey
  • Louise Morrall, Scottish Water
  • David Wood, Planning Aid for Scotland (PAS)
  • Morag Mackay, Transport Scotland
  • Sasha Laing, Forestry Scotland
  • Matt Lowther, NHS 
  • Andrew McAllister, Forestry and Land Commission

Items and actions


Members of the Key Agencies Group met online on Thursday 17th June 2021. Katherine Lakeman chaired the meeting. Several topics were discussed including the response to NPF4, high level planning performance and a request from A&DS for the new Climate Action Towns work. We were also pleased to hear from Fiona Rice, Nature Scot, who gave a presentation Local Place Plans. David Hall, of Scottish Government’s Digital Planning Programme Director also provided a presentation.

Forthcoming KAG meeting dates 

  • 16th September 2021
  • 25th November 2021
  • 24th March 2022
  • 23rd June 2022


  • welcome, introductions and apologies
  • Planning Act and other updates (Chair) - High Level Planning Performance Group update, NPF4 – iRSS workshops feedback, Development Planning Subgroups update
  • sub-group updates - skills and training/Partner in Planning (Fiona Rice, SNH), placemaking/Green Recovery (Katherine Lakeman, SEPA), environmental evidence (Helen Fallas, BGS), Vacant and Derelict Land (David Stewart, SLC)
  • draft terms of reference including update to the purpose of KAG –Tim Moss (A and DS) and Katherine Lakeman (SEPA)
  • Climate Action Towns – Karen Ridgewell (A and DS)
  • comfort break
  • Local Place Plans regulations and draft ‘How to guide’ – Fiona Rice (NatureScot)
  • Enforcement – Sharing experience and potential KA sub-group – Graham Saunders (HES)
  • Digital Planning Change Network – Diane Rennie (Digital Planning Programme Director, Scottish Government) 
  • AOB
  • meeting close

Welcome, introduction and apologies

Planning Act and other updates

High Level Planning Performance Group updates 

No updates but due to meet before the next meeting. 

NPF4 – iRSS workshops feedback

The iRSS workshops were a chance for KAG members engage in discussions around the spatial strategy for NPF4 based upon the collated information from the iRSSs. Feedback was on the whole positive, with members praising the discussions and useful ideas arising from the workshops. 

Fiona Rice mentions positive feedback from colleagues regarding the approach and expressed support in the collaborative support and place based approach being carried forward into legislation. Graham Saunders expressed support through notes caution over how this will be formed into policy and stressed the importance of consulting over the iRSS workshops and suggested presenting a KAG position to SG moving forward. 

Heather Holland, acting as HOPS rep and rep for Clyde Plan, invited wider discussion on iRSS. Deborah Livingstone noted we were not cited as statutory consultees and discussed how it has been difficult to confirm our role on this. KAG has not been involved in the same was as Strategic Development Plans. Regardless, the form of the iRSS was praised by Fiona Rice who was pleased to see nature-based solutions coming to the fore. Kate Givan stressed the need to ensure the primacy of the maps of the strategies and clarity of how these line up on the ground. Peter Noad proposed the group share its key points together, possibly in a live document. 


  • it was agreed that the KAG shares our collective thoughts on the outputs of the workshops and how we can add value moving forwards with the SG. ALL to share feedback on the workshops with KL. KL to draft a letter and circulate for comments before sending to the SG

Development Planning Subgroup update

The workshops were set up to consider the needs for the new guidance and regulation in conjunction with the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, more information is available at the Transform Planning Website. The three groups within this are: Scope and contents, Process; and evidence from groups should be online soon and will be shared with the rest of the group.

The workshops were completed and there has been no further liaison since purdah. All outputs from the workshops are available on Scottish Government website. Graham Saunders stressed the need to use this ‘breathing space’ to allow the subgroup to be more proactive and suggested the forming of a new meeting to achieve this.


  • it was agreed to set up a meeting later in the summer to reflect on the outputs of the sub-group workshops and to help develop shared Key Agency thoughts on an updated development plan process prior to the formal consultation on regulations later this year

Digital Planning Change Network

Sub-group updates

Skills and training / Partner in Planning (Fiona Rice, Nature Scot)

RTPI Scotland invited Fiona Rice to a focus group to look at new approaches to digital planning, with research from ECOS being discussed. 

Placemaking/Green Recovery (Katherine Lakeman, SEPA)

KL reported that there had been lots of activity since the last meeting including two successful workshops with Fife Council and East Ayrshire Council. We are actively continuing discussions with three other Councils – Highland, Edinburgh and Glasgow. 
Following the workshop with Fife Council in May a draft report has been prepared and is being shared with the Council and KA attendees for feedback. The focus is around supporting a place based approach to their next LDP which will one of the first to go through the updated development plan system. 

The focus in East Ayrshire is through support for their LDP in 2 key areas of change with a number of complex issues – Stewarton and Kilmarnock. A workshop was held for Stewarton last month and a draft report has been shared with the Council and Agencies involved. We are discussing next steps with the Council and this is likely to include a focus on how a 20 minute neighbourhood approach could be applied. A meeting is being held with the Scottish Government on Friday to discuss the potential to use this as a pilot for 20 minute neighbourhoods and data needs. 

A workshop is being programmed for Kilmarnock in the summer with a focus on innovative approaches to blue green infrastructure and flooding. 

A reflection session on Perth West was held in April to focus on lessons learned. 

As we approach the first anniversary of the Green Recovery offer a wider reflection session on engagement to date is being scheduled. 


  • KL to share project summary table of green recovery projects once updates have been completed 

Environmental evidence (Helen Fallas, BGS, in absentia)

Helen was not present at the meeting but KL gave an updated on her behalf. Things are progressing well with the project with SG Digital Planning team, and there have been some useful forward looking discussions around evidence needs. This is an evolving space with evidence needs, and hopefully once the LDP evidence reporting process is published in regulations, we will have more of a line of sight as to future needs under these, and NPF4. The project with SG Digital planning, is giving us an opportunity to signpost the potential new data needs looking forward and the lead-in time which will be required to develop these (e.g. opportunity mapping can definitely be done, but it’s not a quick and simple task, but needs careful consideration). 

Through this KAG were invited to discuss issues related to the Digital Planning Platform. 

Vacant and Derelict Land (David Stewart, SLC)

David Stewart shared how the last meeting was held in March, facilitated by Daniel McKendry. Discussions were on sharing good practice, policy approaches and priorities moving forward. Next steps are to draft a terms of reference document for the group. A shift in the way public land is sold needs to be rethought so that public bodies can give more attention to re-use of land. Peter Noad offered to provide support from Scottish Enterprise. 

Draft terms of reference including update to the purpose of KAG – Katherine Lakeman (SEPA) and Tim Moss (A and DS)

Katherine Lakeman briefed the group on the draft updates to the Terms of Reference document. She explained that the draft ToR had been produced by the previous chair Alasdair, and, following discussion around the need for a KAG Communications Plan it was agreed that this should be preceeded by agreed ToR. The ToR can then be used as a basis for updating the communications plan and to help improve our accountability. The circulated draft has already been commented on by members of the Communications Plan sub-group and further thoughts are now being sought from the wider group. KL also highlighted that it will be important to engage with the Scottish Government to get their thoughts and buy-in on the role of the KAG moving forwards. 

Key points for discussion are to review our core commitments (page 2) to ensure we are covering aspects of our work such as the Green Recovery. A question remains over how we describe our service and to what extent this should be expanded. Elsewhere, some adjustments to the structure. Aspects of the document such as a list of members may need to be put in an ‘internal’ section out of GDPR concerns. 

Graham Saunders suggested that if a quarterly report on the work of KAG could be shared. Fiona Rice agreed the need to put this to Scottish Government to synthesise the objects with the Green Recovery project and around. Kate Givan asked if the terms of reference should refer to the sub group activities. Trevor Moffat, mentioned the potential of holding quarterly meetings with the Chief Planner. Kate Givan mentioned how the PPF could be a useful space for these more regular meetings.


  • all to provide comments on the draft Terms of Reference to KL by 12 July
  • KL to bring together small group of reps from the KAG (3/4 folk) and arrange a meeting with PAD at SG to discuss future role

Climate Action Towns – Karen Ridgewell (A&DS)

Karen Ridgewell is briefing the group of the new Climate Action Towns project to introduce the project to the group. The Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2020-21: Protecting Scotland, Renewing Scotland outlined a commitment to develop a network of climate action towns, as part of its wider efforts to address the climate emergency. The aim of the project is to target small towns with little historical involvement in climate action and work with them to develop creative but deliverable ways of achieving zero carbon.

SG asked to look at small towns across which were under engaged with climate change reform. A shortlist of 26 towns has been drawn up, which was shared with group with the ask of sharing knowledge of any ongoing projects, areas where ongoing investment is happening, with a view to discounting them in favour of the most under-engaged towns. 


  • KR to share list of shortlisted towns and project overview with group
  • all to get back to KR with any projects/initiatives that we are aware of by 25 June

Local Place Plans regulations and draft ‘How to guide’ – Fiona Rice (NatureScot)

Fiona Rice briefed members on the current Scottish Government consultation for Local Place Plan Regulations . The group has also received a draft ‘how to’ guide and the Scottish Government are also seeking views on this by 25 June . It is plain English, features case studies, cartoons and easy read guidance. Key question would be, how do we manage expectations of the role and capacity of Key Agencies in the preparation of local place plans. 

Alison Baisden noted a misalignment between the secondary legislation consultation and the guidance, to be rectified going forward. Graham Saunders has offered to help to continue to shape the document. Trevor Moffat has put together a short response from HOPS, resources and a potential lack of funding streams for local place plans are concerns raised. Graham Saunders mentioned experiences in England how the need to manage expectations while putting out a positive message is needed. Kate Givan discussed how the support for local place plans can help reduce rather than entrench inequalities. KL highlighted that the SG are keen to work with KAG to help further develop the ‘How to’ guidance later this year and this will provide an opportunity for us to further engage. 


  • all to share responses to the consultation with other Agencies and HoPS

David Hall, Deputy Head of Digital Planning (SG)

David Hall from the Digital Planning Team at the SG joined the meeting to discuss the formation of a Change Network, an opportunity for stakeholders, including the Key Agencies, to act as a ‘sounding board’/’constructive friend’ on the Digital Planning work streams. 

Transforming Places Strategy was published last year, which sets out the holistic transformation of digital planning. Taking a new approach through the change network. The strategy thinks about the user needs first rather than upgrading pre-existing infrastructure. The strategy will look at both development management, reforming planning applications beyond a ‘paper but online’ approach, and development planning, making the process more accessible and engaging (referred to by Kevin Stewart MSP as ‘digital democracy’).

Reforms will include making applications 3D, measures to broaden participations, investments in place builder, a ‘national data framework’ that harnesses and unifies the way we manage all data across Scotland. The systems will manage over 2,300 datasets in one platform. Key part of strategy looks at how people can be upskilled to meet the needs of the users, working with RTPI. 

Another key focus is innovation, looking at how we can identify new technologies to be built into the new platform for the future. There are plans for a potential innovation lab, where this can be planned for and developed.

Creation of a business change network to help work with all stakeholders. The change network revolves around a range of delivery partners and an early adopter network to test the initial processes of the digital platform. 

Graham Saunders asked about how complimentary the strategy is for people digital literate. David Hall stressed the importance of bringing people along the journey through the process. Kate Givan asked about how the strategic planning and 20 minute neighbourhoods can be harnessed into the process. David Hall stated how this plays a role but also stressed that both of these need to be at the fore of all departments. 


  • all to put forward a named person from your Agency to become the point of contact for the Change Network. Forward names to KL who will collate and send onto the Digital Planning team

Enforcement – sharing experience and potential KA sub-group - Graham Saunders (HES)

Graham Saunders is offering to share knowledge and experience on how other agencies can work with the courts on enforcement with a view on holding a forum for exchanging ideas. This involves working with the courts and police to improve collective good practice. Trevor Moffat suggested this could be shared with the Scottish Planning Enforcement Forum. Some members expressed interest and were invited to get in touch with Graham.


Planning Performance Framework: A proposal for a joint response to be drafted in the summer. Graham Saunders offered to share their document with a view for a catch up on this after the summer holidays.

Appendices: appendix 1 - action log from last meeting

  • all Agencies to begin the process of considering what are the key information/data requirements which they require during the review and assessment of land allocations or planning application assessment, to inform the further development of the Planning Gateway tool as being developed by the Scottish Government - all - ongoing
  • Sarah Shaw (HoPS) to enquire if Scottish Government attending next HoPS Development Management meeting and will advise KAG of their response to questions raised - Sarah Shaw - ongoing
  • all to complete table as circulated by Anna regarding individual agency role, remit, functions and staff for Matt Lowther at Public Health Scotland to inform understanding of KAG input and role in planning system - all - ongoing
  • Katherine to circulate Service Level Agreement for Agencies to update as appropriate - all - ongoing
  • Tim to publish individual agency responses to NPF4 on the Key Agencies website - all/Tim Moss - ASAP
  • Hellen Fallas to circulate a report from the Data Pathfinder project to the KAG group - Hellen Fallas - ASAP


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