Publication - Consultation analysis

Local Place Plans - proposals for regulations: consultation analysis

Published: 30 Sep 2021

Independent analysis of responses to the public consultation on proposals for regulations for the preparation, submission and registration of Local Place Plans.

Local Place Plans - proposals for regulations: consultation analysis
9. Impact Assessments

9. Impact Assessments

9.1 Partial versions of the following assessments were published with the consultation paper:

  • A Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA);
  • An Equalities Impact Assessment (EQIA) combining a Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA); and
  • An Island Communities Impact Assessment (ICIA).

9.2 Initial assessments screening out requirements to undertake assessments on the Fairer Scotland Duty and Strategic Environmental Assessment were also included. Based on the information identified, the Scottish Government does not consider there is a requirement to undertake full assessments in these cases.

Question 15: Please give us any views you have on the content of these partial assessments.

9.3 Around 75 respondents answered Question 15. However, several respondents had not seen the partial assessments / did not understand the question or did not feel qualified to comment.

9.4 General remarks included that the partial assessments are comprehensive, fair and reasonable and easy to understand. However, they were also suggested to be insufficient.

9.5 Some respondents argued that requirements on community bodies must not be too onerous, noting that LPPs will be prepared by volunteers, and that asking for too many impact assessments may discourage involvement. The need to support community bodies to complete LPPs was emphasised. It was also suggested that a one-size-fits-all approach could have a negative impact in communities where there is already a successful local plan in place.

9.6 Other general comments included that:

  • The number of LPPs anticipated by the consultation paper is lower than that expected by some local authorities and does not reflect the level of interest in local planning matters in communities in some areas, including those where there are established patterns of community land ownership and community engagement.
  • A proforma for any required assessments would be helpful.

Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment

9.7 Several comments on the partial BRIA related to the estimated cost of £15,000 to prepare an LPP. It was suggested this is a substantial amount for a community body to meet or that it is likely to be unaffordable for some groups, with a risk that, unless resources are provided, existing inequalities between communities may be exacerbated. Disparities in expertise or experience within communities were also suggested to have the potential to affect outcomes or widen inequalities.

9.8 With respect to funding for communities to produce an LPP it was argued that:

  • Regulations should set out how LPPs are to be funded and that this cost should not fall on the local / planning authority. It was noted that, in England, groups undertaking a neighbourhood plan or neighbourhood development order are eligible to apply for up to £9,000 of basic grant funding.
  • Funding should be directed to communities that would be unable to produce an LPP without external assistance, typically those in the bottom 20% on the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation or an appropriate measure for rural areas.
  • Funding should be available for community engagement activities.
  • Communities should be empowered to decide how they use any resources that are allocated to meet their needs.

9.9 Costs and resource implications for planning authorities were also highlighted. The assumption that, other than with respect to maintaining the LPP register, there will be minimal additional costs for planning authorities was questioned, and LPP pilots were reported to have resulted in significant costs in terms of resources and staffing. Reference was made to the costs associated with inviting local communities to prepare LPPs and assisting them to do so. Acting as a 'key supporting partner' to communities as they develop their LPPs was thought likely to be a significant cost for which no additional funding has been identified.

9.10 It was argued that expectations of communities need to be managed in light of resourcing constraints and that the Scottish Government should provide clear guidance and online support and resources to communities including guidance on how a planning authority will assess an LPP.

9.11 In terms of impacts for businesses, it was suggested that too little is yet known about how community bodies will use LPPs in order to judge whether they will have an effect in either increasing or reducing opportunities for sustainable development.

9.12 There was agreement in principle with the Scottish Firms Impact Test Statement that the legislation should not significantly affect the overall costs for individual businesses of engaging in the planning system, and that local businesses may see value in engaging voluntarily in the preparation of LPPs. It was argued that the Scottish Government should require community bodies to encourage and enable business engagement in the preparation of LPPs.

9.13 Other points on the partial BRIA included agreement with the statement in paragraph 12 that businesses may have an interest in the proposals contained in LPPs and the statement in paragraph 36, that proposals in an LPP will influence the development plan for an area and therefore decisions made by the planning authority on planning applications.

9.14 Suggestions included that:

  • With respect to paragraph 25 - concerning a requirement for community bodies to engage - specific encouragement should be given to engage with landowners and developers.
  • With respect to paragraph 28 – concerning the requirement for community bodies to seek the views of local ward councillors - that there should be clarity on expectations of the community body if the councillors are not fully in agreement of the content of the LPP.

9.15 It was also noted that LPPs may identify assets – including buildings - that the community body considers to be of particular significance to the local area. It was suggested that clarity is required to establish how policies of an LDP would be applied to assets identified in a LPP that are not formally designated through statute or existing planning policy.

Partial Equalities Impact Assessment (combining Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment)

9.16 There was support for rigorous assessment of how the regulations for LPPs will support equalities and for recognition that disabled people are not always able to participate in planning processes. The intent to encourage inclusive engagement was welcomed although it was also suggested that the EQIA's statement that no factors have been identified which might prevent the desired outcomes may not be correct, unless support and access are made available for people with protected characteristics or who live in socio-economic disadvantage.

9.17 It was also argued that evidence supplied with the EQIA is very limited, that no analysis is provided in relation to demographic information split by sex, and that no actions are outlined in response to the evidence that has been gathered. In particular, it was argued that a statement that 'lack of confidence' is a reason for women and other groups' exclusion from community and planning decision making fails to recognise barriers to participation such as those created by socialised gender norms, discrimination and violence. Other potential barriers to women's participation were also highlighted.

9.18 As a general point it was suggested that in places, 'gender' and 'sex' are conflated in the text, and that 'gender' is not a protected characteristic.

9.19 Respondents also suggested that the EQIA should be extended, to include:

  • Barriers to participation beyond physical ones - for example if communities lack either an understanding of planning issues in their local area or confidence to get involved.
  • Consideration of how women use space differently to men.

9.20 Some respondents expressed a view that an EQIA should be undertaken for an LPP or commented on the need for the EQIA to be reflected in guidance for community groups, with suggestions that this should:

  • Include a checklist of topics which groups should consider with respect to protected characteristics during the development of a plan.
  • Highlight techniques and good practice in engagement with different equalities groups and provide contacts for groups who represent them.

9.21 As a related point it was noted that equalities groups may experience challenges in accessing the present consultation as some of the language is complex and technical, and the importance of using clear and easily read language for the consultation process for LPPs was emphasised.

9.22 It was reported that community councils have a statutory role in representing all communities in their area, including those with protected characteristics, and can access support and advice on how to do so. However, it was also observed that community councils may lack resources.

9.23 Other suggestions on the content of the EQIA included that it would be helpful to include data on the make-up and diversity of the community groups and councils that are likely to develop LPPs.

9.24 Specific comments with respect to children's rights and well-being included that a full CRWIA should be carried out. It was suggested that community bodies should be required to engage with children and young people, but also that, without support for engagement, children and young people are likely to struggle to engage in the development of LPPs. The Scottish Government was advised to consider how the system can be made as accessible as possible, including for children and young people with additional support needs.

9.25 A clear plan for monitoring the impact of LPPs on children's rights and wellbeing was also recommended.

Partial Island Communities Impact Assessment

9.26 Inclusion of an ICIA was welcomed. Specific points in relation to LPPs and island communities included highlighting the added pressure on small island planning authorities, where it was thought high existing levels of community engagement in relation to community land ownership will create significant momentum for LPPs. It was not felt the assessment sufficiently addresses this issue.

9.27 Greater clarity was also suggested to be necessary as to how authorities are to assess LPPs in relation to community plans that are already 'in place'. Existing action plans, such as those produced by community trusts in areas of high community land ownership were referenced, and it was suggested it might be incongruous for LPPs to contradict relevant land use sections of such plans.

9.28 Although acknowledgement of the differing transport challenges faced by island communities was welcomed, it was argued that there should be a reference to active travel as an essential component, alongside public transport, of improving connectivity and transport options in island communities.

Question 16: Do you have or can you direct us to any information that would assist in finalising these assessments?

9.29 Around 30 respondents answered Question 16. Some respondents offered to share their own work or provide examples of community-led action plans. It was also noted that the opportunity to discuss specific issues with the Scottish Government would be welcome.

9.30 Specific suggestions of sources of information included:

  • Children in Scotland's Health Inequalities: Participative Research and CHANGE projects.
  • Inclusion of Scottish Showpeople as a distinct population in the forthcoming Scottish Census will allow the exact makeup, nature and needs of this community to be taken into account.
  • Detailed costings from pilot LPPs should act as the basis for a final stage BRIA for estimates of costs incurred by communities and planning authorities. A range of detailed costings from Neighbourhood Plans in England could also be helpful.
  • The completed Local Place Standard assessment tool questionnaires should be carefully considered.
  • Scottish Government and EHRC research on the uneven impact of COVID-19.
  • Established community hubs / faith groups etc., active in an area should be consulted, as should local councillors, local economic forums and third sector organisations.

9.31 Annex D to the consultation paper records that, after consideration of the Fairer Scotland Duty (FSD) Interim Guidance, it has been concluded that secondary legislation on LPPs does not constitute a strategic decision and therefore an assessment is not required. Annex E makes clear that it is the overall LDP which will be subject to Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) not the LPP, so the view is that the legislation would have no or minimal environmental effects once implemented.

Question 17: Please give us your views on the Fairer Scotland Duty and Strategic Environmental Assessment screening documents and our conclusion that full assessments are not required.

9.32 Around 70 respondents answered Question 17.

Full assessments are not required

9.33 Some respondents expressed agreement with the conclusion that full assessments are not required, including noting the burden that carrying out assessments, particularly an SEA would place on a community body. Comments specifically on SEAs included agreement that this would not be appropriate for LPPs and that the LDP will be subject to a full SEA.

9.34 It was suggested carrying out assessments would require professional input and that assessments should be voluntary. A rather different perspective was that if LPPs are prepared after bottom-up consultation, many of the principles of the FSD and SEA will have already been identified, so no further action will be necessary.

9.35 Caveats included that:

  • No assessments should be required, unless an LPP includes significant proposals not considered through the LDP process, that are likely to come forward before the next LDP review and its assessment processes.
  • There should be a requirement for LPPs to consider undertaking a full FSD and SEA, depending on the outcome of the screening.

9.36 It was also suggested that the proposed 'How to' Guide should provide some advice to communities around impact assessment, since some legal duties may apply and that consideration should be given to the implications of including LPPs within an LDP that do not meet legislative requirements in relation to assessments currently required during production of an LDP.

Assessments are required

9.37 Other respondents disagreed with the overall conclusion that assessments are not required.

Fairer Scotland Duty

9.38 Some respondents thought that an FSD assessment should be required or sought further clarification as to why it is not thought necessary. It was argued that:

  • LPP legislation will be applied across the country and will have an impact on decision making at a local level, so it is a strategic decision and should be subject to FSD assessment.
  • The Duty confers a responsibility to actively consider how inequalities of outcome caused by socio-economic disadvantage can be reduced, and it is unclear how legislation on LPPs can be considered to have no socio-economic impacts.
  • Those who are socio-economically disadvantaged are less likely to engage in the LPP process, particularly given the costs estimated for producing the LPPs and lack of funding.

9.39 It was suggested there is merit in considering options which can reduce inequalities of outcomes caused by socio-economic disadvantage.

Strategic Environmental Assessment

9.40 Points made by respondents who thought there could be a requirement for an assessment included that:

  • If an SEA is not carried out by the community group, resourcing of the process is likely to fall to the planning authority - contrary to SEA guidance which recommends that the assessment process should be started at the beginning of policy development should ensure that realistic alternatives are fully assessed.
  • The need for the planning authority to carry out SEA and assess alternatives for each proposal in the LPP could be unduly onerous.
  • There should be guidance for community groups in undertaking a proportionate environmental assessment of their LPP to consider how the proposals can protect and enhance environmental assets.
  • Any decision should be deferred until it is clear how community bodies make use of the new powers and what bearing they prove to have on development plans.

9.41 Since community groups are not subject to the requirements for SEA, it was suggested the requirements of the Environmental Assessment Act could be amended to include bodies preparing an LPP, and for the SEA to be submitted to the planning authority with the LPP.

9.42 In addition, two respondents commented on the environmental assessment of other proposals affecting the area that may be covered by an LPP, rather than proposals contained in the LPP itself. It was argued that:

  • Planning authorities are failing to require full environmental impact assessments, making it easier for developers.
  • If a national development is proposed in the jurisdiction of an LPP, and the community does not feel that an adequate environmental assessment has been conducted then a full environmental assessment should be conducted.

Question 18: If you consider that full assessments are required, please suggest any information sources that could help inform these assessments.

9.43 Around 35 respondents answered Question 18.

9.44 Information sources suggested to inform the assessments discussed at Question 17 were:

  • The forthcoming Scottish Census, in which inclusion of Scottish Showpeople as a distinct population should allow the needs of this community to be assessed.
  • The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation as a useful reference for relative social and economic deprivation.
  • Scottish Government Strategic Environmental Assessment: Guidance, 2013.
  • Planning Advice Note 1/2010: Strategic environmental assessment of development plans.
  • Planning Circular 6/2013: Development Planning.
  • Local Place Standard assessments.
  • Field studies conducted by the Scottish Wildlife Trust.
  • Other wildlife / conservation groups such as the RSPB, British Trust for Ornithology, Scottish Badgers, and the Woodland trust.
  • SEPA and Scottish Water.
  • Sustrans.

Contact

Email: Chief.Planner@gov.scot