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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26. In the four largest city region areas, the development plan includes a strategic development plan. These are to address land use issues which cross local authority boundaries or involve strategic infrastructure. The SDPA Designation Orders of 2008 established SDPAs in the Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow city regions. These Orders designate groups of planning authorities to work together to jointly prepare a Strategic Development Plan for the SDP area. Circular 1/2013: Strategic Development Plan Areas [15] shows Scottish Ministers' determination of the boundaries of the four Strategic Development Plan ( SDP) areas.

27. Circular 2/2008 Statutory Guidance on Strategic Development Planning Authorities [16] provides guidance on the governance arrangements for SDPs.

28. The normal process for preparing SDPs is set out in Figure 1 alongside the environmental assessment process and indicative timings.

Monitoring and the Evidence Base

29. An early task of the SDPA will be to monitor:

  • changes in the principal physical, economic, social and environmental characteristics of the SDP area; and
  • the impact of the policies and proposals of the existing plan(s).

30. As a product of this exercise, section 4(10) of the Act requires SDPAs to publish a Monitoring Statement. The SDPA are to publish the Monitoring Statement, including electronically, alongside the publication of any Main Issues Report. The guidance on monitoring and evidence given at paragraphs 59-64 below applies equally to SDPs.

31. SDPs require both a Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA) [17] and a Habitats Regulations Appraisal ( HRA).

Plan Preparation

32. SDPs should be properly integrated with other statutory plans and strategies affecting the development and use of land. In preparing a SDP or Main Issues Report, section 8(1) of the Act requires the SDPA to take into account the National Planning Framework. Regulation 3 (as amended) also requires it to have regard to:

  • the resources available for carrying out the policies and proposals in the plan;
  • any approved or proposed SDP for a neighbouring SDP area;
  • any adopted national marine plan or regional marine plan relating to areas adjoining the plan area
  • any regional transport strategy, approved flood risk management plan, finalised local flood risk management plan, river basin management plan or local housing strategy relating to the area;
  • the national waste management plan; and
  • issues arising out of the European directive on the control of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances.

In addition, section 14 of the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000, requires local authorities to have regard to the National Park Plan, in exercising functions so far as affecting a National Park.

Main Issues Report

33. With a view to facilitating and informing their work in preparing a SDP, section 9 of the Act first requires the SDPA to compile a Main Issues Report ( MIR). This must set out the authority's general proposals for development in the area and in particular proposals as to where development should and should not occur. The report must be sufficiently clear and precise to enable people to understand what is proposed and to make meaningful comments. The report must also contain one or more reasonable alternative sets of proposals. Finally, it must draw attention to the ways in which the favoured and alternative proposals differ from the spatial strategy of the existing approved SDP (if any). The discussion of MIRs and engagement at paragraphs 65-72 below also applies generally to SDP preparation..

34. SDPs should be fully co-ordinated with other important strategies from the earliest stage, with key infrastructure providers signed up to the delivery of the emerging proposals. Therefore, in preparing the Main Issues Report ( i.e. before its publication), section 9(4) of the Act and regulation 4 require SDPAs to consult with and have regard to the views of:

  • the key agencies (listed in paragraph 152 below);
  • neighbouring planning authorities; and
  • Scottish Ministers.


35. Regulation 5 applies the following minimum publication requirements to the Main Issues Report, Proposed Plan and modified plan stages:

  • Publication of a notice in one or more local newspapers circulating in the SDP area and on the internet, setting out:
    − that the document has been prepared, and where and when it may be viewed;
    − a brief description of the content and purpose of the document;
    − details of how further information may be obtained; and
    − a statement that representations may be made, and how, to whom and by when they should be made;
  • Sending this information to:
    − the key agencies;
    − adjoining planning authorities and SDPAs; and
    − community councils within the SDP area;
  • Making a copy of the document available to inspect at an office of each of the constituent planning authorities and in all public libraries in the plan area; and
  • Publication on the internet.

36. The Act also requires authorities to secure that people who may be expected to want to comment on the Main Issues Report are made aware that they can do so, and are given such an opportunity.

37. In publishing the Main Issues Report, the SDPA are to send a copy of the report and the Monitoring Statement to Scottish Ministers.

38. Engagement and publicity in the course of plan preparation is discussed more fully at paragraphs 70-76 below, which also generally applies to SDPs.

Proposed Plan

39. Section 10 of the Act and Regulations 5 and 6 deal with the proposed SDP. The SDPA are to have regard to the representations submitted on the Main Issues Report, and are then to prepare and publish a proposed SDP. The Proposed Action Programme should also be published alongside the Proposed Plan (further details on Action Programmes are set out in paragraphs 130-134).

40. Section 7(1) of the Act requires SDPs to contain:

(1) A vision statement. This is a broad statement of how the development of the area could and should occur and the matters that might be expected to affect that development, including:

  • the principal physical, economic, social and environmental characteristics of the area;
  • the principal land uses in the area;
  • the size, composition and distribution of population in the area;
  • the infrastructure of the area (including communications, transport and drainage systems and systems for the supply of water and energy);
  • how that infrastructure is used; and
  • any anticipated change in these matters.

(2) A spatial strategy. This is a broadly based statement of proposals as to the development and use of land in the area.

(3) An analysis of the relationship with development and land use proposals in neighbouring areas that are likely to affect the SDP area.

(4) Any other matter the SDPA consider appropriate.

41. Scottish Ministers expect SDPs to be concise visionary documents that set clear parameters for subsequent LDPs and inform decisions about strategic infrastructure investment. While the MIR discusses a range of alternatives, the Proposed Plan sets out the authority's settled view and will therefore be considerably shorter in length than the MIR. Vision statements should provide a realistic expression of what the plan area could be like in 20 years' time and a useful springboard for the spatial strategy of the plan. The spatial strategy should encapsulate the headline changes that the plan seeks to achieve, and provide a locational strategy for new development up to year 12 from plan approval and a broad indication of the scale and direction of growth up to year 20. The spatial strategy should be specific enough to limit the options available for subsequent LDPs to those that would have a broadly similar impact on: (a) other planning authorities in the SDPA; and (b) strategic infrastructure and greenspace networks. The principal topics for SDPs are expected to be land for housing, business, shopping and waste management development, strategic infrastructure (including transport, water supply and waste water) and strategic greenspace networks (including green belts). SDPs may be site specific, especially where there are no realistic alternative sites.

42. Section 7(2) and Regulation 2 require that the SDP contains a map or diagram describing the spatial strategy. Scottish Ministers also expect SDPs to contain, or be accompanied by, any maps, diagrams, illustrations, aerial photographs or other graphics and descriptive matter the SDPA thinks appropriate.

43. The Proposed Plan is to be published in the same way as the Main Issues Report (see paragraph 35 above), with at least six weeks being given for representations to be made. Copies of the plan are to be sent to the key agencies and neighbouring planning authorities, and people who commented on the Main Issues Report are to be notified of where and when they can inspect the Proposed Plan. The SDPA are also to consult the key agencies and Scottish Ministers. The discussion of Proposed Plans at paragraphs 77- 81 below also applies generally to SDPs. This is the formal opportunity for people to make representations to the SDPA. There is no provision for those who have made representations to submit further material to the Examination beyond this, unless invited to do so by the reporter. Therefore people making representations to the Proposed Plan should be invited to explain precisely what changes should be made to the plan, and to set out clearly their justification for such changes.


44. Section 10(3)-(6) of the Act and Regulations 5 and 6 apply to pre-Examination modifications of Strategic Development Plans. Following the close of the period for representations on the Proposed Plan, section 10(3) of the Act allows the SDPA to modify it to take account of representations, matters arising out of consultations or representations, or any minor drafting or technical matters.

When modifying, there are two possibilities:

(1) the SDPA publish the modified plan in the same way as for the Main Issues Report under Regulation 5, and thus offer a further adequate opportunity for representations to be made before the plan is submitted to Ministers (section 10(6) of the Act); or

(2) where the modifications are so significant as to change the underlying aims or strategy of the plan, the SDPA must prepare and publish a new Proposed Plan (section 10(4) of the Act).

45. The discussion of modifications at paragraph 87 within the LDP section below also applies generally to SDPs.

Submission to Scottish Ministers

46. Section 10(3) of the Act then requires the SDPA to submit the plan to Scottish Ministers along with:

  • a note of the representations made and of whether and how those representations were taken account of in the modified plan. (Note that it would be sensible for the SDPA to prepare this in the same form as the Summary of Unresolved Issues that will be considered at the Examination -see paragraphs 106-107 below);
  • a report as to how far the SDPA, in preparing the plan, has conformed with the commitments made regarding consultation and public involvement in their current Participation Statement; and
  • a copy of their proposed Action Programme.

It would also be sensible for the SDPA to submit the material required under regulation 20 (and set out in paragraph 109 below) at this time.

47. Regulation 7 sets out the following requirements for publicity around the submission of the plan to Ministers:

  • publication of a notice in at least one local newspaper and on the internet, stating:
    − that the Proposed Plan has been submitted to Scottish Ministers;
    − the date of the submission; and
    − details of when and where the plan may be inspected (including on the internet);
  • sending the notice to the key agencies and people who submitted representations on the plan; and
  • making a copy of the submitted plan available for inspection in planning offices and public libraries and on the internet.

48. In the event that the planning authorities that constitute the SDPA cannot agree on the plan's content, section 11 of the Act allows the submitted plan to contain alternative proposals, together with the reasoning behind them.


49. On receiving the proposed SDP, section 12(1) of the Act requires the Scottish Ministers to appoint a person to examine the plan where:

(a) there are unresolved representations;

(b) the Proposed Plan contains alternative proposals; or

(c) they otherwise consider an Examination to be appropriate.

The Examination process is discussed further from paragraph 105 below.

Approval or Rejection

50. The person(s) appointed to carry out the Examination will prepare a report with recommendations to Scottish Ministers. In practice, Ministers expect to take on board the reporter's recommendations, unless there is a strong justification to depart from them. Given that the Examination process exists to consider the merits of the points included in unresolved representations, there is no further formal opportunity for parties to submit further representations to Scottish Ministers. Ministers do not normally expect to enter into further detailed consideration of the issues considered at the Examination.

51. Once Scottish Ministers have received the Examination Report from the reporter, section 13 of the Act allows them to approve the SDPA in whole or in part (with or without modification), or reject the plan.

52. The procedure for making modifications will vary depending on whether an Examination has been held:

  • Where there has been an Examination, Ministers may make modifications in approving the plan, and will set out reasons for these.
  • Where there has not been an Examination, Ministers will publish any modifications, along with their reasons for making them, and consult as they consider appropriate, but including with the key agencies and the SDPA. In these circumstances, there will be an opportunity to make representations on the modifications prior to Ministers approving the plan. Scottish Ministers will notify the SDPA of any such representations, and may make further modifications in the light of these representations.

Where Scottish Ministers propose to modify a SDP, Ministers shall undertake any necessary assessment of the plan as if it were modified, for example in accordance with Part IVA of the Habitats Regulations.

53. In exceptional circumstances, where the reporter has identified a serious deficiency in the plan (see paragraph 122), and has made recommendations as to possible ways to address the deficiency (see paragraph 123), Ministers will carefully consider these recommendations and take appropriate action.

Approved Plan - publication and publicity

54. Section 14 of the Act requires that, as soon as possible after approval, the SDPA are to publish the plan (including electronically) and send two copies to Scottish Ministers. They are also to place copies of the approved plan in local libraries, advertise in a local newspaper and notify people who made representations on the plan that the SDP has been published and where it is available for inspection.


Email: Scottish Government Planning

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