Planning and Architecture business plan 2019 to 2020: in-year review

Sets out business priorities for Planning and Architecture Division and how they will deliver the vision for a world class planning system to support inclusive economic growth and create great places for people and communities.


Planning and Architecture Division’s 2019/20 Business Plan sets out our key business priorities and how we will work to support the Scottish Government’s 2019 Programme for Government and deliver our vision for a world class planning system to support inclusive economic growth and create great places for people and communities.

This In-Year Review is designed to take stock of how we have progressed delivery of that plan up to end September 2019 and to highlight the key achievements, milestones and priorities for the remainder of the reporting year. It also includes information about corporate performance:

Key achievements

As part of our programme to Transform Planning in Practice we

  • Supported the Planning Bill through Stage 3 in the Scottish Parliament and helped to ensure that the outcome reflected the original aspirations of the Bill.  The Planning Bill was passed on 20 June and received Royal Assent on 25 July with the enactment of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019
  • Published Transforming Planning in Practice on 30 September 2019 setting out our work programme for bringing the Act into force as well as our wider programme of reform, adopting a phased approach to help manage SG and stakeholder activity.
  • Commenced work to prepare Scotland’s Fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4) to deliver Scotland’s long term spatial response to the climate emergency and set out where development and infrastructure is needed to support sustainable and inclusive growth. This includes agreeing other high level outcomes which need to be addressed such as meeting housing needs, increasing health and  well-being, increasing rural population, improving equality and securing positive effects for biodiversity
  • Continued to progress work to digitally transform the Scottish planning system and create a world-leading planning system.  This includes
    • Delivering progressive refinements to the current service, and its ePlanning and eBuildingStandards portals, to deliver improved functionality for users, and ensure the current service remains well-supported of the future transition to the transformed system. This included the design, development, and release of three service improvement packages for the current service (Developments F, G and H between July and September 2019).
    • undertaking user research with those in the spatial planning profession to help identify common approaches and shared platforms.
    • facilitating workshops with Heads of Planning and local authorities across Scotland.
    • working with a range of everyday users of the system to identify key transformative areas and hear what they want from a future digital planning system.
  • Published an evaluation of community led design outcomes in July 2019 which sets out lessons learned from Scottish Government  funded programmes on community-led design processes that are focussed on place to help achieve best value in future. 
  • Supported an International Place making conference in Glasgow, hosted by NHS Health Scotland in June 2019 which saw the World Health Organisation (WHO) Healthy Cities Network endorse Scotland’s world leading approach to Place based working.  The planned accreditation of the Place Standard by the WHO will help to strengthen this link and support for the programme

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

  • Made decisions on planning/historic environment casework by processing 16 notified applications of which 87% were taken within 28 days and 100% within 2 months.
  • Issued a Ministerial decision to reject South East Scotland Strategic Development Plan Authority.
  • Enabled Inverclyde to adopt their Local Development Plans. 
  • Provided input to North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and Dumfries and Galloway’s proposed plans
  • Provided input to 19 Supplementary Guidance consultations and enabled 8 planning authorities to adopt 13 Supplementary Guidance documents. 
  • Helped Scottish Ministers’ to meet their statutory obligations on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) across a range of policy areas, including on Unconventional Oil and Gas, Cleaner air for Scotland Bill and Scotland’s National Transport Strategy
  • We continue to administer the SEA Gateway on behalf of the SEPA, SNH and HES as the SEA consultation authorities.  The Gateway has responded to 95% of SEA Gateway cases within deadline
    • Screening 24/25 responded on time.
    • Scoping 16/16 responded on time.
    • Environmental reports 12/14 responded on time.

To help deliver the wider implementation of the Programme for Government commitments by providing Planning and other specialist support we have:

  • Ensure that spatial planning is an integral part of economic and infrastructure planning being progressed across Government, including by actively contributing to the work of the Infrastructure Investment Board and Economy Steering Group and through alignment with the National Transport Strategy and Strategic Transport Projects Review 2.
  • Provided planning policy support and input to deliver net zero emissions by 2045 including collaborating across Government to ensure our work prioritises actions that pursues planning’s contribution to tackling the global climate emergency 
  • Support for Housing 2040 including continuing to progress the Self-Build Challenge.  By September 2019, 5 of the 7 pilots had been completed and we have commissioned a study to consider how expanding the delivery of self-provided homes can support the wider programme and the development of Scotland’s National Planning Framework.  We also supported Architecture and Design Scotland in their Summer Workshops to support Housing to 2040 workshops
  • Commissioned research on what our rural communities need from the planning system to support vibrant and sustainable rural communities and economies
  • Worked with Marine Scotland to develop a new spatial framework for Aquaculture and provided official Planning support to Ministers at National Aquaculture Industry meetings
  • Been working to ensure we meet the needs of the Gypsy / Traveller community. New provisions are contained within the Planning (Act) 2019 which will support the engagement of the Gypsy / Traveller community in the local development plan and we are supporting preparation of the Gypsy / Traveller Action Plan.

To manage the delivery of other Ministerial commitments we have :

  • Continued operation of the service enabling the submission of planning and building standards submissions online, and delivery of service improvements in line with changes in legislation. During this period the average number of weekly users was 4,913 and the number of total submissions was 103,538 (88% higher than same period last year), 39,024 (21% higher than same period last year) of which were fee paying. The 500,000th submission via the website was also received during the period this report covers.
  • Continued operation of the eDevelopment Support Desk in assisting both public and local authority users of the service, and its ePlanning and eBuildingStandards portals. In addition to providing assistance through the Support Desk, this has also included undertaking visits to council partners to identify shared opportunities to improve the current service, hosting several webinars, and hosting the eDevelopment Partnership Forum for our local authority partners in May 2019.
  • Launched the Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning 2019 - marking the 20th anniversary of the Award – to celebrate achievements in Planning.
  • Supported the launch of funding for Community-Led Design projects through the Investing in Communities Fund.
  • Hosted the 5 Administrations meeting in Edinburgh in May 2019 to meet and share good practice with  Chief Planning officers from the UK and Ireland administrations.
  • Supported the Scottish Government sponsored RIAS and Saltire architectural design awards for the best building in Scotland to incentivise excellence in design.
  • Continued to liaise with UK Government and other devolved administrations (DA) on developing a framework for managing arrangements and relationships for any potential divergence from existing EU directive requirements; work with Constitution colleagues to advise Ministers and Parliament accordingly. This led to publication of this draft framework on SG and the other UK Administration’s websites and we provided Ministers and Parliamentary committees with updates on framework.

Corporate Performance  (as at end September)

  • FOI/EIR – 15/15 (100%) requests were handled within statutory deadlines
  • PQs – 16/16 (100%)
  • MACCs – 63/72 (88%)
  • Payment Performance -  258/258 (100%)

Key priorities for the remainder of 2019-20 will be: 

  • Undertake engagement with a wide range of stakeholders, including bringing together four working groups to consider the forward work programme, to explore options and support the development of regulations and guidance, within the framework now agreed by the Scottish Parliament
  • Publish and consult on a sustainability appraisal of possible changes to Permitted Development Rights and a phased work programme for how changes for different development types will be considered
  • Host Heads of Planning Scotland in November to update on progress of Planning reform including implementation of the Planning Act, Digital Transformation and what Planning can do to support housing delivery, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and opportunities for rural communities
  • Reconvene the National Infrastructure Delivery Group to engage with stakeholders about priorities for an infrastructure first approach for Planning and are working with Scottish Futures Trust to progress a number of work-streams including funding & finance of infrastructure, co-ordination of infrastructure providers and key agencies; activating sites.
  • Offer an extensive  programme of early engagement in from January to March  2020 to help shape NPF4..  This programme will engage a wide range of stakeholders in the public, community, voluntary and private sectors together with academics, experts and professional bodies to ensure we reach out to as wide a range of stakeholders as possible.  Engagement will include a Scotland 2050 roadshow visiting 20 locations in Scotland and a call for ideas.
  • Provide funding to the RTPI to engage the planning profession in workshops and conversations across Scotland relating to NPF4
  • Offer community grants to support local communities to engage in NPF4.
  • Consult on NPF4 Integrated Impact Assessment (IIA) Scoping Reports
  • Publish an easy read guide to NPF4 Impact Assessment to help stakeholders understand the purpose and process for impact assessments
  • Develop a digital mapping tool, drawing together data from different parties into a single resource which can be leveraged across policy across including the National Planning Framework (NPF4).  
  • Publish research by Ironside Farrar on the effectiveness of Scottish Planning Policy in influencing the preparation of Local Development Plans and determining planning applications
  • Invite ideas for national developments that will help deliver the aims of the NPF4
  • Host an event for Planning Convenors to update them on planning reform and the National Planning Framework 4. 
  • Host an event to bring local authorities together to discuss their new duty to prepare regional spatial strategies
  • Publish findings from our research programme to inform our wider programme of reform, informing our approach to addressing the Climate Emergency, Diversification in Housing delivery, Improving air quality and Economic Benefits
  • Launch a new website bringing together information on place, including the Place Standard Tool.
  • Work with our local authority partners to collaboratively design, develop and release a service improvement package focused on achieving greater efficiencies for authorities in receiving planning and building applications and other submissions received through the current service (Development I).
  • Host an eDevelopment Partnership Forum with our local authority partners in February 2020 focused on sharing knowledge and experiences with the planning and building standards systems, and identifying further opportunities for improving the service.
  • Launch a new website bringing together information on our programme for the digital transformation of the Scottish planning system, and the fourth National Planning Framework
  • Convene a number of workshops to discuss possible changes to planning application fees and the fee structure, to inform a public consultation on changes to the planning fees and performance framework. 
  • Lay Regulations to bring 19 sections of the Act into effect between 1 December and 1 March.
  • To help deliver equality for disabled people introduce the requirement for large public buildings to include a Changing Places Toilet in any application for Planning permission.
  • Clarify Ministers role by laying a statement in Parliament by March 2020 setting out the circumstances in which Ministers may call-in applications
  • Host the 2019 Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning (SAQP) in November to celebrate 20 years of the awards and the achievements of the Planning system in the following categories:
    • Partnership - innovation in working collaboratively, at any stage, within the planning process.
    • Place - innovation in any architectural building or place (built or natural)
    • Plans - innovation in development planning ranging from strategic to settlements.
    • Process - innovation in improving, or simplifying, any type of processes.
  • Continue to progress research into Inclusive Design, working with Transport Scotland and UK Government Department for Transport
  • Continue to promote Scottish interests with UKG on the implications of EU Exit
  • Support the Scottish Civic Trust My Place Awards to celebrate the difference local communities can make to their built and natural environment.
  • Host the annual Student Design Competition on 4 October 2019 to mark the high standards of Scottish architectural education .



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