Planning Advice Note 77: designing safer places

Planning Advice Note (PAN) 77 provides advice on how planning can help to create attractive well-managed environments which help to discourage antisocial and criminal behaviour.

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Roles in the Planning Process

Those Involved


Secured by Design logoPolice forces throughout Scotland have teams of specialist Architectural Liaison Officers ( ALO) who provide advice and guidance on how the built environment can reduce opportunities for criminal activity. As well as advising on the location, layout and design of projects, ALOs can provide vital information on the crime profile of an area so that appropriate crime prevention measures can be taken at an early stage. In certain cases, it may also be beneficial to discuss proposals with the Counter Terrorist Security Advisor ( CTSA). ALOs can provide further guidance on cases which CTSA advice would be beneficial.

Secured by Design is a UK police initiative designed to help create safer, more secure environments. To be awarded Secured by Design status, developments must meet a set of core principles:

  • environmental quality and sense of ownership;
  • natural surveillance;
  • access and footpaths;
  • lighting; and
  • open space provision and management.

Further information about the initiative, along with details of the core principles and a range of detailed guidelines including play areas, new homes and Park Mark safer car parking can be found at

"Community safety is now a strategic priority for a range of key players who collectively can build safer, more inclusive, healthier and more vibrant, economically attractive communities "
Safer Communities in Scotland (Scottish Executive, 1999)

Local Authorities

Local authorities can contribute to the creation of safer communities through a number of processes. These include regeneration projects, antisocial behaviour strategies, licensing and housing strategies. Planning authorities play a direct role through the development plan process and the handling of planning applications and enforcement cases.

City of Light, Glasgow photo
City of Light, Glasgow

It is important that developers take a pro-active approach to minimise the opportunity for crime in their developments. Consideration of the principles of designing safer places is required early in the project planning stage.

The responsibility of the developer does not end when the development is complete. Developers must also consider the longer-term safety of the development. For example, this could include ensuring that an adequate management and maintenance plan for landscaping is in place.

Developers are encouraged to apply for Secured by Design status which, in addition to helping provide a safe environment, can represent a valuable marketing tool for new developments.

The Community

Falkland Fife photo
Falkland Fife
The role of community groups in designing safer places is vitally important. Their knowledge and understanding of the physical and social characteristics of the area can be utilised to ensure that problems and issues can be identified at an early stage and appropriate solutions implemented.

The involvement of the local community can also help them to develop a sense of ownership of their area, which can make them more environmentally aware and concerned about its appearance, upkeep and security.

successfully creating safer places requires a partnership approach from the main stakeholders


This section outlines the key stages in the planning process and describes the role of those involved at each stage.

Development Planning

It is not appropriate to cover specific crime prevention policies in structure plans. The local plan process usually provides the most appropriate mechanism for identifying policies and proposals which can help to create and sustain viable, vibrant and safe communities.

To reduce crime and antisocial behaviour, local plans should not only include policies and proposals for new developments but should identify opportunities to enhance existing places, which may benefit from physical or environmental enhancement.

publication photoThe police and local communities are encouraged to take an active involvement in the preparation of development plans, particularly where large-scale regeneration projects are proposed. Local authorities should ensure that they liaise with the police and local communities on any relevant issues during the preparation of the local plan.

Local authorities should also take into account the conclusions of community safety audits and the proposals identified by local strategic partnerships. The Executive's document "Safer Communities in Scotland: Guidance for Community Safety Partnerships" (available at ) provides detailed guidance on this subject.

Supplementary Planning Guidance

The preparation of supplementary planning guidance may provide a useful opportunity to consider safety aspects at an early stage and ensures that the principles of safer places are incorporated into future developments.

Designing Places outlines further details of the urban design toolkit which includes urban design frameworks, development briefs, master plans and design guides. The use of such design tools will ensure that crime prevention measures are a fundamental part of the development and not added at the last minute.

Development Management

With larger developments, or those that may have a high crime or antisocial behaviour risk, pre-application discussions between the local authority, developer and where appropriate, the police and local community, will provide an opportunity to consider safer design principles at the early project planning stage.

Ensuring an efficient and effective development management service, along with making best use of police resources, dictates that only a small proportion of planning applications will result in formal consultations with ALOs. These may include:

  • areas where crime is known to be high;
  • developments which may generate very high volumes of people at any particular time ( e.g. sports stadia, entertainment complexes and events and conference centres);
  • certain public buildings (including schools and hospitals);
  • developments which may be likely to generate crime or antisocial behaviour, or may be of interest to criminals; and
  • large-scale residential or mixed use developments.

Planning authorities and the police should establish, monitor and evaluate a protocol to determine which types of applications, and in which geographical areas, the police should be consulted. It is important, in the interests of efficient and effective consultation, that when planning authorities approach the police for advice on a planning application that they highlight any matters that they would particularly welcome comment on. It is also good practice to ensure that the ALO has access to the authority's weekly list of planning applications.

urban design toolkit
pre-application discussion


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