Island Communities Impact Assessment (ICIA)
129. This assessment relates to proposed secondary legislation and guidance relating to changes made to local development planning through the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, which amended the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997. It covers both proposals for regulations and draft guidance on implementing legislative requirements and policy expectations.
130. Local Development Plans (LDPs) set out how our local places will change into the future, including where development should and shouldn't happen. It is a legal requirement for planning authorities to prepare LDPs. They form part of the statutory 'development plan' and will, alongside the National Planning Framework (NPF), be the main basis for all decisions on planning applications. Further background is set out in the accompanying consultation paper.
The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018
131. Scottish Ministers are required by the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 to have regard to island communities in exercising their functions and in the development of legislation. An Island Communities Impact Assessment (ICIA) must be prepared where the policy, strategy or service is likely to have an effect on an island community which is significantly different from its effect on other communities. Guidance and a toolkit have been published to support this requirement.
132. The National Islands Plan (December 2019) provides a framework for action in order to meaningfully improve outcomes for island communities. It is underpinned by four key values: fairness, integration, environmental protection (green) and inclusiveness. The plan contains 13 Strategic Objectives, many of which the local development planning regulations and guidance can contribute to achieving.
Objectives and Intended Outcomes
133. The proposed Local Development Planning Regulations and Draft Guidance are part of our wider work on planning reform and implementing the Planning (Scotland) Act, 2019 (the 2019 Act). They should be viewed within the context of the overarching provisions on LDPs as set out in the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, as amended by the 2019 Act.
134. There is strong support for a plan-led planning system in Scotland. Our ongoing programme of planning reform seeks to strengthen and simplify LDPs. We want to refocus plans on the outcomes that they deliver for people and places, rather than the preparation process. We want plans to be informed by consultation and collaboration so that they are relevant, accessible and interest people. We want this new approach to LDPs to result in new style plans which support the management and use of land in the long term public interest.
135. The regulations and guidance will apply across Scotland as a whole. The regulations will provide detail on the procedural framework for LDPs and will apply consistently across Scotland. The guidance will support that consistency whilst providing for flexibility for local circumstances, including island locations.
Consultation & Engagement
136. Previous consultation and engagement on the Planning Bill included an island proofing exercise undertaken through a collaborative workshop, held on 29 September 2017. It informed the Island Communities Impact Assessment, which was updated following Stage 2 of the Planning (Scotland) Bill. That assessment indicated the main theme from discussions was the need to allow flexibility for the islands – acknowledging that their needs were very different to that of towns and cities.
137. There were a number of emerging views from the Planning Bill engagement that has relevance to LDPs. Those related to 'stronger local development plans' are considered below.
138. Timescales for plan preparation were noted and that the logistics of site visits and the small size of island authority planning teams may have an impact. Timescales for plan preparation are expected to vary for each planning authority across Scotland and there is an appreciation it will be subject to the circumstances and resources of particular authorities. We anticipate further discussion on this through the consultation.
139. Views were set out on the role of the gatecheck process in justifying and agreeing departures from national policy. It was considered beneficial to design the gatecheck so that it could have a different approach that was tailored to island specific issues. A report to the gatecheck could outline the specific island circumstances involved. It was recommended that further consideration of the gatecheck in an island context would be useful, to ensure that an independent reporter understands the special circumstances of island authorities when considering departures from national policy.
140. The gatecheck is an assessment of whether the Evidence Report contains sufficient information to enable a planning authority to prepare a Proposed Plan. There is significant variation across Scotland of specific local circumstances, including the islands, therefore the proposals for the Evidence Report and gatecheck reflect this and provide for flexibility in approach. Whilst a template is proposed for the Evidence Report it can be tailored to the relevant matters for an area and the proposals for the gatecheck are similarly flexible, in that it will be for the appointed person to determine how the assessment is carried out appropriate to the matters being considered.
141. The engagement considered views on retaining or abolishing supplementary guidance. The current provision for statutory guidance to be part of the local development plan has been removed by the 2019 Act.
142. It was recommended that further consideration be given to links between marine and terrestrial planning. The guidance outlines the legislative requirements for giving regard to national and regional marine plans, the level of involvement of Marine Scotland, and the expectations for implementing policy on sustainable aquaculture through the Evidence Report and Proposed Plan.
143. Reference was made in the recommendations to island authorities defining their own triggers for plan updates, to allow them to respond to local issues and pressures. The 2019 Act introduced the ability to amend LDPs however regulations and guidance for this are not part of this consultation and will be considered once the new development planning system is in place.
144. The workshop also considered matters related to 'making plans that deliver' and in particular, housing sites. The different situation is noted, with regard to volume house builders, and it was recommended that the very different housing markets in island authority areas should be recognised. The guidance reflects the content of Draft National Planning Framework (NPF4), which affords flexibility in that 'in rural and island areas, authorities are encouraged to set out tailored approaches to housing which reflect locally specific market circumstances and delivery approaches'.
145. Views were expressed in relation to proposals for 'getting more people involved in planning'. It was noted that many island communities are already very engaged but that it can still be difficult to involve people at the development plan stage. With regards to 'digital' aspects, the authorities called for newspaper advertising requirements to be removed given the significant costs they generate. However, across Scotland local newspapers remain a relevant and additional route to raise awareness, particularly amongst those with limited digital access or digital skills.
Transforming Planning Working Groups
146. Following Royal Assent of the 2019 Act, four working groups were convened to support the Transforming Planning in Practice programme. This included a group focused on Development Planning, which was that divided into subgroups to consider:
- Scope and content of future LDPs,
- Procedures for preparing LDPS, and
- The detail of the Evidence Report & Gate Check.
147. Members of the sub-groups generally represented organisations with a Scotland wide remit. Heads of Planning Scotland (HoPS) were asked to nominate a representative for each sub-group however none of these were from island authorities. The three subgroups met in the Autumn of 2020 and draft outputs were provided at the end of 2020. Final outputs were presented at a meeting of the subgroups in February 2021. These outputs have been used to inform the preparation of the proposals.
148. The proposed regulations and guidance will be subject to public consultation. It will be available on the Scottish Government website and will run for at least 12 weeks. The introduction to the consultation highlights this partial ICIA and ask for views on the content, as well as for any information that would assist in finalising the assessment. We would expect the local authorities covering the islands to respond.
149. The assessment process requires that the Scottish Government must determine whether in its opinion the policy, strategy or service is likely to have an effect on an island community which is significantly different from its effect on other communities (including other island communities).
150. The proposed regulations are necessary to provide additional detail to the requirements set out in primary legislation. We consider there to be benefit in working to the principle that regulations are kept to the minimum necessary, and that much of the detail of Scottish Ministers' expectations for implementation of the 2019 Act should be set out in guidance. This will provide for maximum flexibility or all authorities, including the islands.
151. Areas of the guidance where there is particular flexibility for island areas include: application of the 20 minute neighbour principle; approaches to housing to reflect market circumstances and delivery approaches; network of centres; coastal impacts; and the active promotion of supporting community resilience for living and working in the islands. The guidance also highlights the need for Island Communities Impact Assessment of plans and the availability of the guidance and toolkit.
152. The proposals, as noted above, offer flexibility for local circumstances, including island communities. We do not envisage that the wider changes proposed will have significant, or different effects on island communities, though views are invited as part of the current consultation process.
Planning and Architecture Division
8 December 2021