Planning Circular 6/2013: development planning

Guidance on the legislative procedural requirements relating to the preparation of development plans in Scotland.

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16. Section 20B of the Act requires each planning authority and strategic development planning authority to prepare a Development Plan Scheme ( DPS) at least annually. The scheme is to set out the authority's programme for preparing and reviewing their SDP or LDP(s), and what is likely to be involved at each stage.

17. Strategic development planning authorities ( SDPAs) are required by section 4(1) of the Act to prepare and review strategic development plans ( SDPs), and submit these to Scottish Ministers within four years of the approval of the existing plan (section 10(8)).

18. Section 16 of the Act requires planning authorities to prepare one or more local development plans ( LDPs) for their area. Regardless of how many LDPs cover a local authority area, all must be replaced at least every five years. In SDP areas, section 16(6) requires the planning authority in preparing a LDP to ensure that the plan prepared is consistent with the SDP. To ensure SDP strategies are implemented quickly, Scottish Ministers expect LDPs to be adopted within two years of the approval of the SDP. To enable this there may be a degree of twin-tracking of the SDP and LDP preparation. LDP Main Issues Reports ( MIR) (see paragraph 65) may be published on the basis of a proposed SDP.

19. The timeous preparation of development plans requires rigorous and carefully planned project management, not least because of the diverse range of issues and interests involved. Planning authorities should use appropriate project management techniques to avoid slippage and ensure the plan is produced on track. The key tasks and milestones should be identified and progress towards them monitored and acted on as necessary. Tasks need to be sequenced around a critical path to prepare the plan in the shortest possible time. Risks to the timetable, such as elections and holiday periods, should be identified and actions taken to reduce the level of risk where necessary.

20. Ministers expect planning authorities to move swiftly from the Main Issues Report stage through to Proposed Plan and Examination. Indicative timings for various stages in the process are provided in Figures 1 and 2. Regulation 24 requires Development Plan Schemes to contain a timetable, specifying the months the authority proposes to publish its next Main Issues Report, to publish its next Proposed Plan and to submit the plan to Scottish Ministers. In setting the timetable and ensuring it can be adhered to planning authorities should consider a range of issues. These will include their own planning and administrative resources as well as the capacity of key agencies and other stakeholders to feed into the process at key stages. The potential need for research and appraisals to be carried out to inform the evidence base should also be factored in. Sound, well-documented evidence to inform the preparation of the plan can also be relied on by the planning authority to support its position at Examination, avoiding the need for reporters to extend the Examination timescale because of a lack of information. It is recommended that planning authorities discuss the timescale for the Examination with the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals at an early stage, to ensure the timescale set is realistic and that sufficient reporters can be allocated to deal with the Examination.

21. There should be meaningful consultation in the preparation of development plans. The DPS must include a Participation Statement stating when, how and with whom consultation on the plan will take place. Scottish Ministers expect Participation Statements to contain a range of innovative techniques and activities for consulting stakeholders, tailored to local circumstances and the issues being dealt with in the plan. There is no requirement to consult on the content of development plan schemes. However, it is good practice for planning authorities to discuss with key agencies how best to engage with them in preparing the plan. Scottish Ministers place importance on all those involved in or affected by development plans co-operating in the preparation process to avoid delays.

22. Authorities may usefully choose to include other information in the scheme, including the current components of the statutory development plan and their programme for preparing and adopting supplementary guidance. Where a mosaic of different plans is involved, a location map may be helpful.

23. After adopting the scheme, the Act requires the authority to publish it (including electronically), send two copies to Scottish Ministers and place copies in public libraries.

24. Planning authorities will be measured on their performance in preparing their development plans against two national headline indicators, as set out in the Planning Performance Framework:

  • The age of the strategic / local development plan(s)
    - requirement to be less than five years old.
  • Whether the programme to replace the plan, as set out in the DPS, is on track
    - planning authorities are expected to move quickly from the MIR through to the Proposed Plan and towards submission to Scottish Ministers and adoption.

25. Scottish Ministers have a power under the Act (section 16(7)) to direct a planning authority to prepare and submit a report as to why it has failed to replace its LDP within five years.


Email: Scottish Government Planning

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