Planning and Architecture business plan 2017 to 2018: end year report

Planning and Architecture Division's end year report on the 2017 to 2018 business plan.


This Annual Report follows the Mid Year Review of Planning and Architecture Division's (PAD) 2017-18 Business Plan. It summarises the progress made and milestones achieved in delivering our key business priorities to support Scotland's Programme for Government from 2017 to 2018. It also reviews delivery of our wider commitments for the year ending 31 March 2018 and our vision for a world class planning system to support inclusive economic growth and create great places for people and communities.

This review also reports on PAD's corporate performance and management of resources.

Our 2017-2018 Priorities

Our key business priorities were to:

  • Manage delivery of Scottish Ministers' statutory responsibilities and policies across a range of Planning and Environmental interests and the sponsorship of Architecture and Design Scotland.
  • Manage the 2017 Programme for Government commitments to deliver Planning Reform
  • Support delivery of wider 2017 Programme for Government commitments by providing planning and other specialist advice.
  • Manage delivery of wider Ministerial commitments relating to Planning, Architecture, Place and the Environment.

Our achievements

In delivering Scottish Ministers' statutory responsibilities and policies we have:

  • Led in transposing the requirements of the cross-cutting EU Directive on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) through a dedicated delivery team jointly resourced by 8 separate SG partners on a fixed term basis. The team successfully laid nine sets of legislation in the Scottish Parliament which came into effect by the EU transposition deadline of 16 May 2017. To support implementation in practice, EIA Planning Guidance was updated and a conference held to help disseminate it.
  • Approved two strategic Development Plans; Clydeplan for the Glasgow City Region and Tayplan for the Dundee City Region. We enabled the following local development plans to be adopted by Planning authorities: South Ayrshire Local Development Plan, Orkney Local Development Plan, Fife Local Development Plan, Midlothian Local Development Plan and Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan. We have also continued to action other development plan casework to implement Ministerial policies and priorities, including making representations on 3 Proposed Plans, providing comments on 17 supplementary guidance consultations, and enabling planning authorities to adopt 48 supplementary guidance documents. In addition, we successfully defended a judicial review of the Clydeplan Strategic Development Plan.
  • Provided advice to colleagues across the Scottish Government on the implementation in practice of the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005.
  • Undertook statutory Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) on a re-charge basis across a range of policy areas including the Climate Change Plan, the Energy Strategy, the Planning Bill, and the Climate Change Bill and supported a range of SEA work underway within Marine Scotland.
  • Delivered decisions on planning/historic environment casework by processing 27 notified applications of which 67% were taken within 28 days and 81% within 2 months by end March 2018.
  • Delivered decisions on planning/historic environment applications and appeals by processing 17 cases by end March 2018, of which 41% were decided within 2 months and 71% within 3 months, on receipt of report from DPEA.

To manage delivery of the 2017 Programme for Government commitments to implement the next phase of Planning reform to unlock opportunities for development and housing supply, support inclusive growth and infrastructure investment we:

  • Introduced the Planning (Scotland) Bill into Parliament in December 2017 to make provision about how land is developed and used. The Local Government and Communities Committee has completed evidence gathering as part of Stage 1 Evidence with the Minister for Local Government and Housing gave oral evidence to the Committee in March 2018. In preparation we have:

    • Published the Analysis of Responses to the Planning Review Consultation in June 2017.
    • Published the Planning Bill Position Statement and consulted on the position statement and environmental report.
    • Published Analysis of Responses to the Position Statement of responses to the Position Statement and Environmental Report
    • Produced a Working Paper which set out how we envisage the proposed changes to the planning system would work in practice
    • Reconvened the working groups to discuss how planning Bill provisions could operate in practice.
    • Funded Heads of Planning Scotland to provide targeted advice on aspects of Bill development
    • Established a Ministerial-led Digital Taskforce to oversee an ambitious programme of digital transformation of Scotland's planning service
    • Convened the national SEA Forum to discuss next steps in achieving more efficient and effective SEA within a reformed planning process.
    • Established the National Infrastructure Delivery Group. This involves a wide range of infrastructure providers from both public and private sectors with the aim of strengthening the relationship between planning and infrastructure delivery.
    • Collaborated with SFT on infrastructure and planning – to support our commitment to the infrastructure first approach, we are looking ways of achieving a more co-ordinated relationship between the prioritisation, funding and delivery of infrastructure and the planning system.
    • Supported and produced 3 lead practice case studies to test Development Planning proposals in the Bill and shape their future implementation. These include working with West Dunbartonshire Council on aligning spatial and community planning; Moray Council on the development plan gate-check; and Fife Council on the delivery programme.

We have also:

We have contributed to delivery of wider Programme for Government commitments by providing Planning and other specialist support for:

  • Delivering and mapping 50,000 affordable new homes, including collaborating with Housing colleagues to develop options for a new approach to planning for housing and calculating housing figures to inform the new development planning process.
  • Delivering Scotland's Climate Change Plan highlighting synergies between planning policy and climate change action, as well as supporting the development of Scotland's Energy Strategy.
  • Improving the life experience and opportunities for our children and young people, including supporting PAS Young Placemakers Volunteer Programme and Bridging the Gap to help equip young people with the skills and tools of how to engage with placemaking and learn about decision making.
  • Transport Scotland's review of the National Transport Strategy to improve alignment with planning and future work on the review of the National Planning Framework.
  • The programme of research and consultation on unconventional oil and gas (UOG). We continue to provide specialist support on the ongoing SEA of the preferred policy position.
  • Leading on the national indicator on access to local greenspace and inputting into the review of the National Performance Framework.
  • Undertaking improvement work with 3 planning authorities (Aberdeenshire, East Dunbartonshire & Glasgow City) to improve implementation of Section 75, planning obligations.
  • Helping Scotland's aquaculture industry achieve Growth targets by 2030 while protecting our marine environment , including hosting the Planning and Aquaculture workshops in February 2018 to help understand the key challenges in consenting aquaculture developments and to look at actions to improve practice and share best practice.
  • Securing equality and empowerment for our island communities including by pioneering an assessment of the impact of the Planning Bill on the islands.

We have managed delivery of other Ministerial commitments including:

Promoting Scotland on the World Stage

  • Continued to promote Scotland on the world stage through delivering a Place Standard master-class in September 2017 to the World Health Organisation WHO Healthy Cities Network during their visit to Edinburgh. The tool was also used at a City Link festival in Copenhagen in September.
  • Organised a seminar on spatial planning at the Arctic Circle Assembly in October 2017 and followed up by presenting NPF3 and planning experiences in Glasgow and Orkney at the Arctic Circle Assembly in November 2017.
  • Participated in a study tour to Denmark exploring district heating.
  • Hosted visits from delegations from Austria, Iceland and Hong Kong.


  • Continuing to implement the Place Standard assessment tool to support and deliver:

    • Services fit for the future, by promoting prevention and early intervention
    • Better public health by developing better links between spatial planning, public health and community Planning.
    • Better places for active lifestyles and social interaction with access to walking, cycling and places to participate in physical activity and social activities.
    • Community empowerment to support local decision making, by helping communities and local authorities to share knowledge and experience.
  • Key achievements include:

    • Publishing a Year 1 evaluation report in May 2017. This estimated that the Place Standard had reached over 11,000 individuals in Scotland, with application being reported across 22 local authorities.
    • Receiving the RTPI Award for Planning Excellence in the 'Planning for Wellbeing' category.
    • Delivering the Place Alliance Event in June and publishing the Edinburgh Locality Plan pilot.

    • Launching the Making Places Community led design programme –and providing funding to 19 projects to support participative design.

    • Showcasing best practice in design and place and promoting the value of great places including:

      • Saltire Housing Awards in June 2017.
      • Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning Ceremony in November 2017 (Stromness Place Regeneration Overall Winner). Launched SAQP 2018, including new young person category to represent Year of Young People (March 2018).
      • RIAS Doolan Awards in November 2017 (Sponsorship and Judge).
      • RIAS Student Awards (Judge - July 2017).
      • SCT Trust My Place Awards in March 2018.
      • Designing Places Student Design Competition in March 2018.
    • Working with Transport Scotland to develop a stakeholder working group on Shared Space and Inclusive Design in order to co-produce future guidance.

    • Organising a 'Housing the Future' event as part of the Festival of Architecture in association with the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. The day was attended by Mr Stewart (MSP) and showcased both international and Scottish speakers who talked about housing design on a scale from urban to rural (September 2017).
    • Publishing Build to Rent Guidance (September 2017).
    • Organising a Ministerial visit to Polnoon to meet the developers and see the last phase of the development completed (May 2017).
    • Running 3 Smart Design Workshops (Arygll & Bute, North Ayrshire and Dumfries & Galloway) as part of the Simplified Development Zone pilot projects (October, December 2017 & March 2018).
    • Starting Activating Sites project to look at 'live housing applications' which have become stalled in the planning system (February 2018).
    • Organising Built to Rent Planning Delivery Advice Seminar to raise awareness of the key opportunities and challenges of the BTR sector (April 2018).
    • Launching the new Greenspace Map in July 2017 to help identify where there is a? lack of open space so local authorities, public sector partners and community groups can develop plans to improve local neighbourhoods and help support active travel.


Established and drove forward a programme of digital transformation across Scotland's planning sector. Key activities:

  • Defined Vision and Approach – gaining approval, support and funding to commence transformation programme.
  • Convened 4 Digital Taskforce meetings and met with around 100 different stakeholder groups to understand barriers to current service and opportunities to transform.
  • Concluded 2 of the 4 phases within the initial programme of digital transformation, and have clear roadmap to co-producing and launching Strategy later this year.
  • Continued to operate, oversee and grow the digital service on behalf of all Scottish local and planning authorities.
  • Over 128k planning applications have been made through the ePlanning portal since was relaunched in January 2016. This represents around 90% of total applications.
  • Over 165k submissions have been made through the eBuildingStandards portal since it was launched in August 2016, with 60% of building warrants now made through the service.
  • The eDevelopment Support Desk has continued to provide assistance to users and local and planning authorities alike. Since eDevelopment was launched we have had over 5000 calls or emails to our support desk.
  • The eDevelopment Operations team has engaged with our local authority stakeholders at All Partner Events in September and December 2017, and with members of the public and business communities at 3 Expo's.
  • We delivered several upgrades to the eDevelopment service in 2017 and 2018, relating to legislative changes such as fee changes for Building Standards and Planning, portal upgrades to improve the user experience, and specific changes to deliver additional benefits to local and planning authorities.


  • Published the Planning and Architecture Division Planning Performance Framework 2016-17 Annual Report in November 2017.
  • Provided feedback in December to the 34 planning authorities on their planning performance framework reports.
  • Convened the High Level Group on Planning Performance in October and February to discuss performance and the planning bill provisions on Statutory Reporting, National Planning Performance Co-ordinator and Assessment.

Other Policy, Regulations and Casework

  • Issued a letter from the Chief Planner providing guidance to planning authorities on implementing the Agent of Change principle through the planning system, to support continued cultural and economic benefits of live music and the night-time economy.
  • Produced amendment regulations creating a new category of development within the planning fee regulations for Hydro Developments following concerns raised by industry that the fee increase which came into effect in June 2017 was adversely impacting the viability of hydro developments.
  • Supported Transport Scotland as Secretariat to the Active Travel Task Force, to provide planning advice and link to planning reform.
  • Undertook the Chief Planner's brokerage and mediation role in the planning process
  • Started the 'Activating Sites' project to look at 'live housing applications' which have become stalled in the planning system
  • Supported the Snowsports strategic group to help bring down barriers to access to snow sports in Scotland.
  • Progressed relevant recommendations from the Opencast Coal task force by organising training to help address the skills gaps in minerals and coal across Scottish planning authorities; and bringing forward new regulations to enable planning authorities to charge operators for undertaking monitoring of surface coal mining permissions, and accompanying guidance.

    Corporate Performance

  • Freedom of Information/Environmental Information – 23/24 (96%) responses were issued within the statutory deadline exceeding the organisational commitment to achieve 85% of responses on time for April to December 2017, 90% in 2018 and 95% by 2020. We have contributed to work to support organisational improvement and provided wider support to other business areas including sharing our local guidance and slides as a model of good practice.

  • Parliamentary Questions – 47/53 (89%) on time. We are reviewing our approach to consider whether action can be taken to improve performance.
  • Ministerial Correspondence. 756/814 (93%) on time. Of the late responses 32 were outwith the control of our officials.
  • Payment Performance – 168/169 (99.5%) invoices were paid to suppliers within 10 working days.
  • SEA Gateway – 135/138(97.8%) responses on time:
    • Screening 86/87 (98.8%)responded on time.
    • Scoping 20/21 (95.2%) responded on time.
    • Environmental reports 29/30 (96.7%) responded on time.

Budget Management and Financial Governance

Taking account of payments which will be accrued as part of the end year accounts process our total out-turn against authorised spending financial out-turn was £130k (2%) over authorised spending limits. This overspend is set out below:

  • Operating Costs - £38k (1.4%).
  • Programme funding to support and improve the operations of the Planning system - £89k (5%).
  • Sponsorship of Architecture & Design Scotland and other Architecture programmes to promote the benefit of well-designed places and the value good architecture and design adds to our lives - 2.5k (0.1%).
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