Local development planning guidance

Guidance setting out the Scottish Ministers' expectations for implementing the system of local development plans - so that they deliver new-style, place-based, people-centred and delivery-focussed plans. It brings together requirements from the Act and Regulations and advice in relation to National Planning Framework 4.

Development planning introduction

Development plans

1. The planning system in Scotland is plan-led. Development planning is required to manage the development and use of land in the long-term public interest. To achieve this, development should contribute to sustainable development and seek to achieve the national outcomes.

2. Development plans set out how places will change into the future, including where development should and shouldn't happen. Development plans show where new homes and workplaces will be built, how services and facilities such as schools and travel will be provided, and identify the places and buildings we value and want to protect. Plans bring together many different sectors and interests to achieve the desired change for places and communities.

3. Development plans guide decisions on applications for planning permission, as set out in section 25 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, as amended (the Act). Decisions on planning applications are to be made in accordance with the development plan, unless there are material considerations that indicate otherwise.

4. The statutory 'development plan' comprises the National Planning Framework (NPF) which covers all of the country, and the local development plan (LDP) for each planning authority area.

Figure 1: Statutory development plan and related plans
Diagram illustrating how the Development Plan comprises the National Planning Framework and Local Development Plan.

5. The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, as amended, prescribes four different plans, at different scales:

National Planning Framework (NPF):

The NPF sets out the Scottish Ministers' policies and proposals for the development and use of land.

The Scottish Ministers must have regard to any adopted regional spatial strategy (RSS) when preparing, revising or amending the NPF.

NPF4 is part of the statutory development plan.

Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS):

The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 introduces a duty requiring the preparation of RSS.

A planning authority, or authorities acting jointly will prepare these long-term spatial strategies for the strategic development of an area.

RSS are not part of the statutory development plan, but have an important role to play in informing future versions of the NPF and LDPs.

Local Development Plans (LDPs):

Planning authorities must prepare one or more LDP for their area. This shows how local places will change into the future, including where development should and should not happen.

Planning authorities must take into account the National Planning Framework and any registered local place plan/s (LPPs) for the area the LDP covers. Planning authorities, when preparing the LDP, must have regard to their adopted RSS and any local outcomes improvement plan (LOIP) (within the meaning of section 6 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015) for the area it covers.

LDPs are part of the statutory development plan.

Local Place Plans (LPPs):

LPPs are community-led plans setting out proposals for the development and use of land. In preparing LPPs, community bodies must have regard to the NPF, any LDP which covers the same area, and also any locality plan which covers the same area.

LPPs are not part of the statutory development plan, but have an important role to play in informing LDPs. See Annex B for further details.

Legislative framework

6. The legislative framework for development planning is set out in the table below.

Primary legislation

The Act

The Act provides the framework for LDPs and includes detail on many of the procedures to be followed in preparing plans.

It also gives the Scottish Ministers powers to prepare secondary legislation - regulations - concerning a range of matters.

Secondary legislation

The Regulations

Regulation is necessary to provide additional detail to the requirements set out in primary legislation.

Regulations are kept to the minimum necessary, with more detailed matters covered in guidance.

The Town and Country Planning (Development Planning) (Scotland) Regulations 2008 are revoked, subject to saving and transitional provisions, by the 2023 Regulations (Regulations 26 and 27).

Status of guidance

7. This guidance sets out much of the detail of the Scottish Ministers' expectations for implementing LDPs. It brings together requirements from National Planning Framework 4, the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, as amended, and the Regulations.

8. This guidance replaces and repeals Scottish Government Planning Circular 6/2013 which provided guidance on the requirements relating to development planning under the previous legislation. This guidance should be given the same weight as the now repealed Circular.

9. This guidance is clear on the Scottish Ministers' intentions and expectations for the new system so that they deliver new style plans, and will be 'live guidance' updated to reflect best practice and lessons learned once the new system is in operation. Creative solutions and innovation, led by planning authorities and others, will be shared as they emerge.

Format of guidance

10. This guidance is in four sections, as shown below:


Covers the role of development plans, what constitutes the development plan, the legislative framework and status of this guidance.

Aims and expectations of place-based LDPs:

How LDPs can contribute to the purpose for planning, and the expectations of plans for the future.

3 overarching aims for LDPs to be:

  • delivery-focused;
  • place-based; and
  • people-centred.

Step by Step Guide:

Process guidance

including the legislative requirements, how these are met and responsibilities of stakeholders -



on how new style plans can support implementation of National Planning Framework 4.

Transitional Arrangements and Supporting Resources and Annexes:

Details of transitional arrangements.


(LPPs, Self-Build Lists, Impact Assessments, Section 15(5) matters)

Glossary and details of Acronyms used.

11. This structure aims to provide different types of information for different audiences.

12. This guidance should be considered together with National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) and relevant legislation to give a full understanding of all requirements and expectations for LDPs. The guidance will assist and support planning authorities and others with an interest in LDPs, rather than creating requirements in addition to those in legislation. Authorities are expected to consider how the guidance can be applied in a proportionate and place-based way and to use their discretion in deciding which components of the advice are relevant to their plan preparation.

Amendment of development plans

13. Section 20AA of the 2019 Act introduces the ability to amend LDPs. This part of the Act has not yet been commenced. We will bring forward a consultation on regulations and guidance for amending LDPs and the National Planning Framework once the new development planning system is in place.


Email: ldpregsandguidance@gov.scot

Back to top