Places, People and Planning consultation: Scottish Ministers' position statement

Ministerial response to the views expressed on the proposals set out in the Places, People and Planning consultation.

Making Plans For The Future

1. Aligning community planning and spatial planning.

We suggested that this can be achieved by introducing a requirement for development plans to take account of wider community planning and can be supported through future guidance.

  • Most consultees are broadly supportive of this proposal.
  • Some have suggested that a two-way dialogue or genuine partnership between community planning and spatial planning would be needed.
  • Others feel that the local development plan should have primacy.
  • There are also concerns about any such requirement slowing down the local development plan preparation process.

We continue to recognise this as a priority for securing stronger collaboration and alignment with a focus on positive outcomes for places. We are minded to propose a statutory link between development planning and community planning in the Planning Bill. We agree with views that spatial planning should also be better recognised by community planning, and believe this would be supported where local authority Chief Executives 'sign off' local development plans. Whilst other partners have a role in community planning, this would underline the importance of recognising the links between spatial policy and community planning outcomes.

2. Regional partnership working.

We suggested that strategic development plans should be removed from the system so that planning can better support more proactive regional partnership working. We want to enable wider and more flexible collaborative planning which responds to the different models and partnerships that are emerging in different places. By using the National Planning Framework as a vehicle to support strategic planning, our view was that procedure, overlap and complexity in the system of development plans could be significantly reduced.

  • Views on this proposal vary between stakeholders and in different parts of the country.
  • There is some concern that such a change would amount to centralisation.
  • Potential loss of expertise in strategic planning has also been raised.
  • Many feel that a move to more discretionary powers could weaken, rather than strengthen strategic planning and there have been calls for clear statutory duties needed to replace the current duty to prepare a strategic development plan.
  • Others agree that regional partnerships could provide a more flexible and delivery-driven vehicle for co-ordinating development and infrastructure investment.
  • There is also a wide recognition that one size does not fit all, suggesting that changes which better reflect distinctive local circumstances would be welcome.

Having reflected on the consultation responses, we expect to bring forward changes to remove current requirements for strategic development plans to be prepared and replace them with more flexible, but clearly defined duties and powers at this scale.

We will develop an approach which allows all areas to undertake strategic planning where it will add value and in a way which is sufficiently flexible to allow partnerships to respond to, and build on, local circumstances and relationships. To achieve this, a number of duties could be introduced, including:

  • A duty to work together to address nationally and regionally significant spatial planning and development issues.
  • A duty to undertake joint evidence gathering including on delivery of cross-boundary infrastructure requirements.
  • A duty to contribute to the preparation and implementation of a National Planning Framework delivery programme.

We will also consider additional powers for local authorities to work individually or in partnership with others on a more discretionary basis, focusing on issues with a cross-boundary dimension including infrastructure delivery and housing. Authorities would still be free to work together to prepare spatial strategies for their areas to support wider regional partnership working. Although they would not form a statutory development plan, they could contribute to the evidence base for the National Planning Framework.

Chart: National Planning Framework - Current and Proposed

3. Improving national spatial planning and policy.

We suggested that the National Planning Framework and the Scottish Planning Policy could play a different role in the system, with enhanced status helping to streamline the system as a whole and enabling local development plans to focus on places and development delivery.

  • This has been welcomed by some. There is a good level of agreement with proposed changes to the way national policy is prepared.
  • Many recognise that this provides an opportunity to streamline local development plans.
  • There are some concerns that a loss of detail could weaken confidence in the plans. Respondents from communities have emphasised that this should not be a top-down 'imposed' policy, but should allow for local circumstances to be taken into account.

It is important that plans are purposeful and accessible to all those with an interest in them. Re-stating national policy in local development plans adds time and complexity. An enhanced National Planning Framework ( NPF) and Scottish Planning Policy, which together provide an effective strategic perspective to all of Scotland, can help simplify our system. We also have the potential to establish a stronger model of shared responsibility and co-production in delivering the National Planning Framework, whilst promoting development of national importance.

Given the need to deliver the Planning Bill, Scottish Ministers do not expect to adopt the next version, NPF4, within 5 years of NPF3 being produced (by June 2019). We will issue a fuller, collaborative programme for preparing NPF4 in due course, but currently expect its preparation to commence in 2018 with a view to adoption in 2020, and for the Scottish Planning Policy to be reviewed in parallel. We will also ensure that the review of the National Planning Framework is aligned and where possible integrated with the review of the National Transport Strategy, Strategic Transport Projects Review and Infrastructure Investment Plan.

4. Stronger local development plans.

We suggested that the plan period should be extended to 10 years, that the development plan main issues report and supplementary guidance should be removed, and a new gatecheck could be introduced to better frontload scrutiny within plan examinations.

  • There is considerable support for these proposals, with many agreeing that local development plans should be strengthened and made more visionary, providing a clearer picture of how an area should develop in the future and improving the link to delivery of development.
  • Many stakeholders agree with the proposal to replace the main issues report with a draft plan, and for the proposed frontloading of plan examinations by introducing a gatecheck.
  • There are some concerns, particularly from businesses and the development industry, that a 10 year timescale will lead to plans becoming outdated.
  • Consequently there is strong support for allowing plans to be updated between review cycles.

A key element in our proposals has been the need to shift towards a focus on delivery and implementation of plans rather than continuous review and plan-writing. We therefore expect to bring forward changes to procedures for local development plans as part of the Planning Bill.

We remain of the view that main issues reports should be replaced with a draft plan, and that supplementary guidance should be removed. We will provide greater clarity on how a 10 year timescale could operate, including through provisions for plans to be amended or updated between full review cycles. We are looking closely at how this can be achieved in a way which is proportionate and avoids delay, whilst ensuring significant change is subjected to robust scrutiny. We will define the specific circumstances where updates may be triggered within the ten year period. We will also develop guidance to support any such change which provides clarity on the relationship between the plan review cycle, plan preparation period, updates and delivery programme. The key objective is that allocations within plans attract greater confidence in delivery and that planning authorities focus more proactively on implementation.

Proposed process of development plan preparation (2-3 years)

Chart: Proposed process of development plan preparation (2-3 years)

Examination and Gatecheck

We recognise that fuller information on the issues which could be covered by a gatecheck within the examination process would also be helpful. The purpose of this change is to achieve a more project-managed approach to development planning, where key issues are addressed early on in an open and inclusive way, and there is clarity and shared ownership of the outcomes being sought. We expect to include a series of more detailed requirements in the Planning Bill and / or related secondary legislation. Matters which could be tested within the gatecheck could focus on:

  • whether there is an adequate evidence base (e.g. infrastructure capacity, environmental assets and constraints, housing land assessments and audits);
  • outcomes to be sought from the plan (housing requirements, targets for other development types, reuse of vacant and derelict land);
  • proposed departures from national policy on the basis of local circumstances;
  • methods for the plan preparation including the approach to engaging delivery bodies and the public, alignment with community planning and the scope of the accompanying environmental assessment.

The purpose of the gatecheck would be to provide reassurance on the evidence base and approach early enough in the process to take remedial action, rather than at the end of the process through the current examination process. Whilst we will look to clarify Ministers' powers for intervention in the local development plan process, our aspiration is that future arrangements will see more straightforward examinations as a result of the early gatecheck.

We continue to recognise that mediation has potential to support development planning, as well as wider aspects of the system, and will explore this further in future guidance rather than in the legislation.

5. Making plans that deliver.

We suggested measures for ensuring that allocating development land in a plan attracts more confidence in development delivery. This included setting a minimum level of information to be provided alongside development proposals in the local development plan, greater leadership from planning authorities in zoning land for development, and a stronger commitment from the key agencies to the development plan, to reduce the likelihood of objections arising at the consenting stage.

We also proposed that requirements for public involvement should be increased for sites which have not been allocated within the plan, and that conversely there may be scope for reduced consultation in the case of sites which are already confirmed as part of the plan.

  • There is broad support for moving from relatively theoretical action planning towards a stronger delivery programme.
  • Some respondents have emphasised that planning cannot deliver development on its own, and that buy-in from delivery partners is crucial.
  • Concerns have been expressed, largely by the development industry, about introducing requirements for more information on viability at the site allocation stage and the proposal for enhanced engagement in the case of non-allocated sites. However, many other respondents, including communities, support this change.

We expect to bring forward measures to strengthen local development plan delivery programmes in the Planning Bill and through changes to secondary legislation.

There is strong support for a plan-led system. We therefore maintain our view that there should be enhanced engagement where a site that has not been allocated in a development plan is brought forward as an application. Equally, we recognise the view that there could be greater flexibility in engagement requirements and scope where the principle of development of a site has already been fully debated and established at the development plan stage. We will therefore develop more specific proposals for adjusting pre-application consultation requirements which are more proportionate for allocated sites. These proposals are expected to involve future legislative change, as well as being supported by guidance.

The commitment to a plan led system needs to be accompanied by some confidence that allocated sites will be brought forward. Where site allocations are not being delivered over time, infrastructure providers face uncertainty and pressure can increase for sites to be de-allocated in favour of more effective land allocations. We will work with stakeholders to explore a proportionate framework to provide clarity on delivery whilst minimising additional investment in assessment. We expect to support this proposal through secondary legislation and guidance.


Email: Chris Sinclair,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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