Planning, economy, place: literature review

Review of the publications and case studies regarding how planning can support the economy, and

how the economy can support creating great places.

1 Introduction

The Scottish Government's Research Brief

1.1 The Building Standards Division of the Scottish Government, on behalf of the Planning and Architecture Division, commissioned consultants Ryden LLP to deliver a literature review and case studies of planning, economy and place.

1.2 The research project seeks to explore through publications and case studies:

a) how planning can support the economy, and

b) how the economy can support creating great places.

The brief is wide-ranging. A diverse range of literature has been reviewed. In particular, reports which themselves assess multiple research studies have been reviewed. Readers wishing to explore particular themes in detail are directed to the reference section of this report, and for specific research evidence to the citations within those reference documents.

Report Structure

1.3 The remainder of this section introduces planning and planning reform in Scotland. Section 2 then provides an extensive literature review of planning, economy and place. References are annotated in the text and collated as end notes to the report.

1.4 Section 3 presents and summarises four case studies:

  • The Borders Railway, Edinburgh/Midlothian/Scottish Borders
  • Pennywell, Edinburgh
  • Clyde Gateway, Glasgow/South Lanarkshire
  • Stromness, Orkney Islands

1.5 Section 4 summarises the research findings in the context of the Scottish Government's brief, and draws conclusions.

Planning Acts

1.6 The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1947(i) provided for "planning the development and use of land and for other powers of control over the use of land". Its effect was to leave landowners with their existing use rights, while removing their rights to change that use without planning permission(ii). The Act made all development subject to the permission of local or central government, including certain powers to acquire and develop land.

1.7 Currently in Scotland, the 2006 Planning Act(iii) makes provisions for the National Planning Framework, including the objective of contributing to sustainable development[1]. That objective has positive economic and place implications.

Policy Context

1.8 The Scottish Government's central purpose, as set out in its economic strategy, is to increase the country's sustainable economic growth(iv). The benefits of delivering this include:

"creating a supportive business environment, achieving a low carbon economy, tackling health and social problems, maintaining a high-quality environment and passing on a sustainable legacy for future generations."

1.9 In terms of planning, the economic strategy highlights effective development planning, decision-making and development solutions as key to delivering sustainable economic growth. The strategy recognises the role of place and the individual contributions of Scotland's places to quality of life. Planning, economy and place are therefore mutually supportive at the highest level of policy in Scotland.

1.10 This central purpose of supporting sustainable economic growth flows into the planning system via The National Planning Framework (NPF)(v) and Scottish Planning Policy (SPP)(vi). The current planning framework, NPF3, is in effect the spatial expression of Scotland's economic strategy and guides the preparation of strategic and local development plans. SPP directs that the planning system should support economically, environmentally and socially sustainable places. This is to be achieved through the enabling of development which balances long run costs and benefits. Again, planning, economy and place are mutually supportive. This theme is returned to in the Section 2 literature review below.

1.11 SPP defines 'place' as:

"The environment in which we live; the people that inhabit these spaces; and the quality of life that comes from the interaction of people and their surroundings. Architecture, public space and landscape are central to this."

It sets out the six key qualities of successful places as:

  • Distinctive
  • Safe and pleasant
  • Easy to move around
  • Welcoming
  • Adaptable
  • Resource efficient

Place-making is described as a creative, collaborative process that includes design, development, renewal or regeneration.

1.12 This is amplified in Creating Places(vii), the Scottish Government's policy statement on architecture and place. The policy statement sets out the role of places in supporting healthy, sustainable lifestyles, identity, community, efficient public services, environmental goals and in attracting people and investment. The long run importance of appealing and well-functioning places is highlighted.

1.13 Consultations for the Scottish Government into Scotland's planning policy reveals broad support, but also a range of different views about how best to deliver planning's outcomes. An analysis of consultation responses for NPF3(viii) found a concern that the economic growth theme could become diluted. For SPP, the strongest consultation(ix) support for sustainable economic growth came from public bodies and businesses, while the greatest concern was expressed by the third sector, individuals, local authorities and professionals. Local authorities had a particular concern over attaching significant weight to the economic benefit of development proposals within the planning system.

Planning Reform

1.14 A 2017 position statement(x) by the Minister, cited in an article on inclusive growth in the Scottish Planner, sets a broad core purpose for planning, noting:-

"The quality of the places where we live can support health and wellbeing, help to overcome inequality, create jobs and stimulate investment, whilst ensuring that we minimise and adapt to the long term impacts of climate change. A stronger focus on planning and place can add value to all areas of policy making."

1.15 During the initial consultation call for evidence on current planning reform(xi), the developer and economic community sought a more 'streamlined' planning system. That community prefers an embedded presumption in favour of sustainable economic development (our underline), as opposed to simply sustainable development. By contrast, civil society groups sought a definition of the purpose of the planning system which would promote democracy above economic development. There were concerns about the speed and delivery of development, and a cautionary desire to see plans focus more on (good quality) place-making. There was a call for local authorities to have a stronger planning 'place leadership' role as a driver of sustainable economic development.

1.16 Responses(xii) to the Scottish Government's January 2017 consultation publication Places, People and Planning(xiii) recognised the focus of planning reform in promoting both economic development and place-making. There was however some concern within the development industry that the current reforms were more biased towards community engagement at the expense of sustainable economic growth. Following on from this consultation, the Scottish Government's position statement in June 2017(xiv) attracted a smaller response(xv)[2] and a broad range of opinions, even within sectors.

1.17 This current and emerging policy direction and these consultation responses highlight the need to consider the balancing of different priorities within sustainable economic growth, and thus within planning, economy and place.


Email: Eric Dawson

Back to top