Promoting the Plan-Led System
A key feature of the reforms has been the promotion of a plan-led system to guide actions and decisions in the long term public interest. This includes the National Planning Framework, Strategic and Local Development Plans.
National Planning Framework
Scotland's second National Planning Framework ( NPF) was published in 2009 following a period of Parliamentary scrutiny. Progress in implementing the strategy set out in NPF 2 is reported annually to Parliament in June and the Monitoring Report is published today.
The NPF is a key document in setting out the Scottish Government's aspirations for the long-term development of our country. Work will commence on NPF 3 in autumn 2012 when the Participation Statement will be published. We believe that the spatial strategy in NPF 2 remains relevant and that NPF 3 should focus strongly on economic recovery and the transition to a low carbon economy. The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring effective stakeholder engagement in drawing up NPF 3 and, where new national developments are proposed, we will seek early engagement with the communities which could be affected.
Strategic Development Plans
The 2006 Act introduced Strategic Development Plans ( SDPs) for the 4 largest city regions. The Scottish Government recognises the potential contribution cities and their regions make to sustainable economic growth. It wishes to ensure that the current procedural arrangements and approaches to the preparation of SDPs are fit for purpose and we will therefore review the experience with the first generation of these plans in 2013.
Local Development Plans
Local Development Plans ( LDPs) provide the vision for how communities will grow and develop in the future. The intention is that they provide certainty for communities and investors alike about where development should take place and where it should not and the supporting infrastructure required for growth. In the plan-led system that we aspire to, up to date coverage of plans is essential and the plans also need to be clear and accessible to all stakeholders. Substantial progress has been made on local planning. The first LDPs are now moving through the system with Aberdeen City LDP, the first to be adopted in February 2012. A number of other LDPs should be adopted shortly. A significant number of plans are, however, falling behind the programmes in development plan schemes and more pace is required to ensure full coverage of LDPs.
Increasingly we want development plans to be about place and people rather than policy compendia. We will identify and share best practice in development planning with Heads of Planning Scotland ( HOPS).
We also want to ensure that communities are fully involved in the process. One route to greater stakeholder ownership of place-making is to adopt the highly successful design charrette method into development plan preparation, involving people and their aspirations in leading future development of places of which we can be proud. We have supported this process for developments in a number of areas including Callander, Lochgelly, Dumfries and Aberdeen. Greater community influence can also carry the benefit of strengthening the primacy of development plans. We will explore our options to adapt the charrette process in this way.
We are also attracted to the idea of more support being made available to authorities to assist and advise on managing the process of preparing new plans. This could take the form of an informal Gateway Review process whereby a small group of practitioners would advise on how timescales for plan preparation can best be met and whether the emerging form and content is fit for purpose. The practitioners could include a representative from Scottish Government Planning, the development industry and Planning Aid Scotland. Overall, more effective management of the process is required.
Development Plan Examinations
The 2006 Planning Act introduced a series of changes to the procedures for the examination of LDPs. This is bringing some significant benefits. Whereas local plan inquiries took on average 70 weeks, recent plans have taken around 24 weeks. However, the examination of some more recent plans has taken considerably longer while the costs of the process are causing concern to planning authorities at a time when budgets are under pressure.
The "binding" nature of reporter's recommendations is proving to be a source of concern for some planning authorities who see some recommendations, particularly on housing land supply, as undermining the work they have done with stakeholders to the extent that the resultant plan is no longer seen as their plan.
We have today published a consultation paper seeking views on the future approach to development plan examinations.