This report presents analysis of responses to a public consultation on proposals for regulations on Local Place Plans (LPPs). These regulations are part of wider work on planning reform and implementation of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 (the 2019 Act).
Section 14 of the 2019 Act amends the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 to introduce a new right for communities to produce LPPs for their places, with scope for these plans, or parts of them, to become a part of the Local Development Plan (LDP). Proposed regulations will cover all Scotland. However, they are permissive in nature. The aim is to significantly enhance engagement in development planning, effectively empowering communities to play a proactive role in defining the future of their places by setting out their proposals for the use and development of land.
The consultation paper presented draft proposals for the framework of regulations to support the implementation of provisions relating to LPPs. The consultation opened on 15 March 2021 and closed on 25 June. It asked 18 questions. In total 203 responses were received, of which 140 were from groups or organisations and 62 from individual members of the public. One response was received late and is not included in this analysis.
A summary of the responses received under each section of the consultation paper is set out below.
Having regard to Locality Plans
A substantial majority – 91% of those answering the question – agreed that community bodies should have regard to any Locality Plan in place when preparing their LPP. Those disagreeing – 7% of those answering the question – were all Community Councils or Trusts, Third Sector or Voluntary Groups or Individuals. The remaining 2% of those answering the question had no view.
General observations by those who agreed with the proposal included that it makes sense to tie the relevant local plans together and that the preparation of LPPs should have regard to all relevant plans and policies. It was also suggested that the requirement would help ensure there is an evidence base for LPPs and that duplication of effort is avoided, including through the pooling of resources.
Although agreeing with the proposal, a number of respondents, did note that their support was conditional on it being possible for a community to take a view that differs from the Locality Plan and that the LPP does not have to accept or include the contents of the Locality Plan.
Those disagreeing with the proposal sometimes raised similar issues to those who had made their agreement conditional on community bodies being able to take a view that differed from the Locality Plan. Comments included that community bodies should not be constrained from the outset, should as far as possible be able to start with a 'clean sheet', or that collectively agreed decisions made by a representative group of community members in an LPP should take precedence over a Locality Plan.
Having regard to other additional matters
A substantial majority – 87% of those answering the question – considered that community bodies should have to have regard to other additional matters beyond the Locality Plan when preparing their LPP. Those disagreeing - 8% of those answering the question - were Community Councils or Trusts, Third Sector or Voluntary Groups or Individuals and a Representative Body. The remaining 5% of those answering the question had no view.
Whilst it was recognised that it would be difficult to capture all relevant materials within secondary legislation, it was suggested that it will be important that those developing LPPs are encouraged to consider the local context and take relevant plans into consideration as part of their own plan preparation processes. However, there was also a view that any requirements beyond the Locality Plan should not be too onerous.
A number of respondents considered that community bodies should have regard to Local Outcome Improvement Plans (LOIPs). It was suggested that LOIPs provide a rich resource of information and collaborative working developed by a range of partners. There were also a number of references to Local Development Plans (LDPs) and in particular to those developing LPPs having regard to the evidence report for adopted and emerging new-system LDPs.
Those who did not consider that community bodies should have to have regard to other additional matters beyond the Locality Plan when preparing their LPP tended to raise concerns around any approach being too prescriptive and that, for it to be effective, the community must feel that the ownership of their LPP resides locally.
Form and Content of the Local Place Plan
A very substantial majority – 96% of those answering the question – agreed with the proposal that an LPP should contain a statement setting out the community's proposals plus a map of the area, setting out the LPP boundary. Of the remaining respondents, 3% of those answering disagreed and 1% had no view.
General observations included that LPPs should be well-structured and visual, using graphics, photographs and maps. There was a view that community bodies are likely to need assistance with LPP content, graphics and mapping work, and that this potentially raises significant resourcing issues. There were also frequent references to the need for guidance on the development of LPPs.
Comments about the proposal that a map of the area covered by the LPP should be required included that this would be essential, and a clearly defined boundary would be highly beneficial. There was a view that, at its core, an LPP should be a spatial representation of a community's proposals for the area and that proposals should be spatially detailed and mapped as far as possible.
Steps to be taken before preparing the Local Place Plan
A majority of respondents – 80% of those answering the question – thought a requirement for the community body to engage and seek the views of people to assist in the preparation of an LPP should be set out in law. Of the remaining respondents, 16% did not think so and 4% had no view. The majority of organisations that did not think a requirement should be set out in law were Community Councils or Trusts.
Those who thought a requirement should be set out in law sometimes referred to such an approach being essential, fundamental or vital, and that the approach should be prescribed in order to aid transparency and promote consistency.
It was seen as important that the LPP process is rigorous in upholding the rights of all people to have the opportunity to have their say and there was a concern that, without the requirement being set out in law, there would be a risk that LPPs could be prepared by only a small group of people. However, it was acknowledged that some forms of community engagement can involve considerable resources which may be difficult for community bodies, even if some assistance were available. Although supporting a statutory approach, some respondents commented that any requirements should not be excessively onerous or prescriptive or should be as light-touch as possible.
Those who did not support a requirement for the community body to engage and seek the views of people to assist in the preparation of an LPP being set out in law sometimes raised similar points to those who had agreed. It was suggested that a very light touch is needed, that a statutory requirement would be too prescriptive, and that guidance would be preferable to regulation.
In terms of what any minimum requirement should be, observations included that the aim should be for communications to reach the majority of the population to inform and spark people's interest and provide an invitation for them to get involved in the process. It was seen as vital to create an inclusive approach from the start, but the importance of limiting the administrative burden on community bodies was also noted.
A number of the comments identified communities of interest - groups or individuals - who respondents considered should be covered under any requirement. The most frequent references were to the general public, residents or those living within the boundaries of the LPP. There was also reference to children and young people, disabled people, organisations of disabled people, people from minority ethnic groups, Travellers or Showpeople and Gaelic speaking communities.
There was also reference to community bodies engaging with statutory consultees, local community or third sector organisations, landowners, businesses and developers.
Steps which must be taken before submitting a completed Local Place Plan
A substantial majority of those who answered the question – 87% – agreed that there should be a minimum statutory requirement to consult the community once a draft LPP has been prepared, while 9% disagreed and 4% had no view. Those who disagreed were predominantly Individuals and Community Council or Trust respondents.
Some respondents who agreed considered a requirement to consult the community on the draft LPP as sensible or obvious, or highlighted the need to ensure the proposed LPP reflects the views of the wider community, including those who may not generally be heard, and not just of those who prepared it. However, it was also thought that any requirements to consult on the draft plan should be light touch or should be such that they do not deter community bodies from preparing an LPP.
While agreeing that there should be a minimum statutory requirement, some respondents qualified their approval or noted issues that might arise as a result including the limited time that may be available to community bodies for consultation on the draft LPP and that community bodies will require resources for consultation.
Arguments made by respondents who disagreed included that a community body should consult on the draft LPP, but it should not be a minimum statutory requirement. It was suggested such a requirement would not be appropriate for a volunteer body and that it would be preferable to set out best practice for engagement with the community in guidelines. The importance of a light touch approach was emphasised.
Comments on the nature of consultation on the draft LPP included that legislation should not prescribe the form of consultation but should be flexible, setting out principles that the community body should follow. It was also argued that the consultation exercise should be both proportionate to the scale and scope of the proposals, and appropriate to the community in question. Several existing models that might be used as a basis for consultation on the draft LPP were suggested.
It was proposed there should be guidance for community bodies in terms of how to engage, and the National Standards for Community Engagement were referenced by several respondents. The importance of ensuring all sections of the community can participate in a consultation was highlighted and that this should include those with protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.
Respondents also made suggestions in terms of: how and where the draft LPP might be made available; specific organisations or types of people who should be consulted; the minimum length of a consultation period; how feedback should be delivered; whether a minimum level of support should be required; and how the consultation should be reported.
Taking the views of councillors into account
A majority of respondents – 72% of those answering the question – agreed with the proposal that the community body should seek the views of ward councillors when preparing the LPP. Of the remaining respondents, 20% disagreed and 8% had no view. Those disagreeing included the majority of Developer respondents and a number of Community Councils or Trusts and Representative Bodies.
Reasons given for agreeing that the views of ward councillors should be sought included that, as representatives of their wider local community, they are very often aware of what is happening across a community and will have significant knowledge about local issues. Similarly, it was noted that ward councillors being involved in the LPP would reflect the process followed in the preparation of the LDP.
A common perspective amongst those disagreeing was that seeking the views of ward councillors should probably be a matter for guidance or good practice rather than a requirement.
Information to submit alongside a Local Place Plan
A majority of those who answered the question – 76% – agreed that the community body should submit a statement on how it has complied with the legal requirements, while 15% disagreed and 9% had no view. Those who disagreed were predominantly Individual and Community Council or Trust respondents.
Some respondents who agreed saw a statement on how the community body has complied with legal requirements as useful, essential, or as important to ensure transparency, credibility and trust in the process. The statement was also thought to strengthen and validate the LPP and to help to provide consistency. It was also argued the requirement should be light touch, as straightforward as possible, or should not be too onerous. Other respondents pointed to the need to provide communities with resources to complete the statement or a requirement for suitably qualified support, potentially from the local authority. The importance of guidance was also highlighted.
Among respondents who did not agree that there should be a statement, reasons given included that this is too onerous a requirement or places another burden on community bodies that are run by volunteers and will generally not have the expertise to confirm compliance with legal requirements.
The manner a register must be kept and made available
A majority of those who answered the question – 72% – agreed that requirements for the register of LPPs should be aligned with existing arrangements for registers, while 11% disagreed and 18% had no view. Developers were the only group in which a majority of respondents disagreed.
Respondents who agreed suggested that alignment with existing requirements would be sensible, reasonable or simple. They also pointed to the importance of accessibility, transparency and accountability or noted that councils already hold other planning registers. Respondents specified that the LPP register should be held online, in electronic form or should be hosted on the local authority website. The Scottish Government's commitment to develop a central online register of digital LPPs was welcomed and was seen as a useful resource for a range of organisations, including community bodies.
Many of the respondents who disagreed with alignment with existing requirements were also looking for LPPs to be available online, arguing for a simple online register. They also supported proposals for a central digital register, including to allow communities to learn from other examples. It was suggested existing registers may not be suitable or may need to be made more accessible.
Information about a Local Place Plan to include on the register
A large majority of respondents who answered the question – 80% - agreed that additional information provided alongside the LPP should be kept on the register, while 8% disagreed and 11% had no view.
Transparency was the issue raised most frequently by respondents who agreed that additional information should be kept on the register. It was suggested that the register should be a comprehensive, central repository available in an accessible format. Providing access to the LPP evidence base was thought important to allow interested parties to understand the context or broader picture that may have informed the LPP. The need to make a clear distinction between the LPP and supporting information was also suggested. Some respondents expressed a view that all information should be part of the LPP rather than separate from it. In this case, including additional information as appendices was suggested.
Reasons given for thinking additional information should not be placed on the register included both that it should be possible to read and understand an LPP on its own terms and that it is important to keep the system simple.
In terms of the level and content of information to be placed on the register, comments included that this should be any or all available information. The need for flexibility was also suggested and that content could be very variable, depending on the community body and the extent of the LPP.
Respondents who did not think additional information should be included typically argued for a shorter list of contents, at minimum just the LPP plus a formal letter of adoption, a statement of conformity, or a boundary map.
Removal of the Local Place Plan from the register
A majority of those who answered the question – 57% – disagreed with the proposal that a planning authority may remove an LPP from the register once it has been taken into account, while 26% agreed and 18% had no view. Local authorities were the only group in which a majority of respondents agreed.
While some respondents who did not agree were clear that neither the planning authority nor the community body should remove an LPP from the register, others who answered "no" at the closed question expressed a view that the planning authority should remove an LPP from the register if asked to do so by the community body that prepared it. In a similar vein, some respondents who agreed did so only in so far as removing an LPP on request from a community body or where it has been superseded, rather than as a decision by the planning authority.
Points raised by both respondents who agreed and disagreed at the closed question included the need to clarify what is meant by 'taken into account'. Concerns were raised that allowing planning authorities to deregister LPPs may undermine them as an empowerment mechanism for local communities and may create conflict between communities and planning authorities. The importance of providing feedback and of maintaining trust between community bodies and the planning system was highlighted.
Making the Local Place Plan map available
A majority of those who answered the question – 71% – agreed that requirements for making the map of LPPs available should be aligned with existing arrangements for registers, while 12% disagreed and 17% had no view. Most of the respondents who disagreed were Developers.
The proposal to align with existing arrangements was suggested as sensible and practical, and the importance of transparency highlighted. The need to make registers available online was again emphasised and it was argued that maps must be searchable. It was also noted, however, that community bodies may need support to use mapping systems that have been designed for professional users.
Many of the respondents who disagreed with alignment with existing requirements were also looking for LPPs to be available online, arguing for a simple online register. It was suggested existing registers may not be suitable or may need to be made more accessible.
Partial versions of a Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA), Equalities Impact Assessment (EQIA) combining a Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA) and an Island Communities Impact Assessment (ICIA) were published with the consultation paper.
Several comments on the partial BRIA related to the estimated cost of £15,000 to prepare an LPP. It was suggested this 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.
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. Planning authorities acting as a 'key supporting partner' to communities as they develop their LPPs was thought likely to require significant resources for which no additional funding has been identified.
There was support for rigorous assessment of how the regulations for LPPs will support equalities and the intent to encourage inclusive engagement was welcomed. However, 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.
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.
Additional issues raised
In addition to comments at specific questions, some respondents made more general comments about the context or challenges associated with developing LPPs. For example, there was a question as to whether the case for introducing LPPs has been made and a concern that community expectations could be raised, but that it remains unclear to what extent and how these expectations could be met.
It was also seen as important to be clear about how LPPs relate to other national and local plans, and especially to the LDP. Issues relating to the timing of LPP development, relative to the timescales for LDPs, were also highlighted.