Rural Planning Policy to 2050: research findings

Findings from research commissioned to inform preparation of the next version of Scotland’s National Planning Framework, NPF4.

3 Methodology

3.1 Introduction

In order to address the research objectives, we undertook an extensive literature review and a programme of stakeholder engagement, which included an online survey, phone interviews and workshops.

3.2 Literature Review

The literature review was in three parts:

a) A review of literature relating to the classification of rural areas;

b) A review of literature relating to the challenges facing rural communities and businesses, the opportunities open to them and how these might translate into development on the ground;

c) A review of the wider literature, to set the research findings for Scotland in the wider UK and international context.

Literature Review A: the Classification of Rural Areas

This aspect of the research involved a systematic review of the current typologies used to describe Scotland’s rural areas. It also involved an initial assessment of these typologies in relation to research objective 1 (“what is ‘rural’”) and in terms of the extent to which they provide supporting data to inform NPF4.

As part of the review, we identified the main typologies currently used to define ‘rural’ in Scotland, produced a summary description of each one and identified similarities and divergences in their approach to describing rural Scotland. We then assessed each typology with respect to research objective 1 and in terms of their relevance to the preparation of NPF4.

The scope of the review included current national typologies and also major regional typologies. Specifically, we reviewed:

  • The typology of rural Scotland presented in Scottish Planning Policy;
  • the Scottish Government’s Urban Rural Classification;
  • the RESAS Classification of the Rural Economy;
  • the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation;
  • the James Hutton Institute’s Index of Socio-Economic Performance for Rural and Small Town Scotland;
  • the James Hutton Institute’s identification of Sparsely Populated Areas;
  • the James Hutton Institute’s recent research into the measurement of wellbeing at community scale;
  • Highlands & Islands Enterprise’s index of Fragile Areas and Employment Action Areas in the Highlands and Islands.

We also undertook a rapid review of Local Development Plans and Strategic Development Plans covering rural areas, in order to establish which typologies have been used in planning contexts.

The results of Literature Review A are presented in Chapter 4.

Literature Review B: Challenges, Opportunities & Development on the Ground

Through this review, we identified and described key challenges and anticipated opportunities of relevance to planning in rural Scotland, both in general terms and in relation to different types of rural area. We summarised the findings of previous research with regard to the anticipated needs of rural businesses and communities and how these needs are likely to translate into development on the ground.

The starting point for this review was the results of a recent desk study and stakeholder engagement programme undertaken by the Planning & Architecture Division of Scottish Government. In addition to that, we reviewed:

  • The 2018 Scottish Government report Understanding the Scottish Rural Economy[5];
  • Research undertaken by the James Hutton Institute and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) under the Scottish Government-funded Environment, Agriculture & Food Strategic Research Programme 2016-2021[6]. Specifically, we reviewed the results of work streams on Demographic Change in Rural Areas[7] and on Place-based Policy & its Implications for Policy and Service Delivery[8];
  • SRUC’s Rural Scotland in Focus biennial evidence summaries[9];
  • Outputs from the National Council of Rural Advisors 2018 ‘rural conversation’ consultation[10];
  • Outputs from the Scottish Rural Parliament, organised by Scottish Rural Action[11]. Specifically, we reviewed: the 2016 Manifesto for Rural Scotland[12]; the 2016 Rural Parliament Book of Proceedings[13], and; the 2014 Parliament Action Plan[14] and Event Report[15];
  • Research outputs from the recent Planning Review[16], specifically: analyses of written evidence submitted to the review (2016)[17], of responses to the 2017 consultation on the planning system[18] and of responses to the 2017 Scottish Government position statement on the planning review[19].

Where relevant, these sources are cited in the chapters below. The review produced a substantial amount of information on the key challenges facing rural communities and businesses in Scotland, and the opportunities open to them. The literature was more limited in terms of identifying how the needs of rural businesses and communities are likely to translate into development on the ground.

Literature Review C: Placing Scotland in its UK and International Contexts

The purpose of this review was to set the findings from the literature on Scotland and from the survey, interviews and workshops into the wider UK and international contexts.

Literature review C involved a rapid review of sources relating to the classification of rural areas elsewhere in the UK and internationally (with a focus on Europe), the key challenges and anticipated opportunities of relevance to planning in those contexts and the ways in which the needs of rural communities and businesses are likely to translate into development on the ground.

As with literature review B, the starting point here was the desk study and stakeholder engagement previously undertaken by the Planning & Architecture Division of Scottish Government. In addition, we reviewed:

  • The Prince’s Countryside Fund 2018 report Recharging Rural: Creating sustainable communities to 2030[20];
  • Outputs from the James Hutton Institute/SRUC research work streams on Demographic Change in Rural Areas and on Place-based Policy and its Implications for Policy and Service Delivery (cited above);
  • The SRUC briefing Building on the New Rural Paradigm: A View from the UK (2012)[21] and report A Better Future for Europe’s Rural Regions (2017)[22];
  • OECD outputs, specifically: The New Rural Paradigm: Policies and Governance (2006), New Rural Policy: Linking Up for Growth (2015), Regional Outlook 2016: Productive Regions for Inclusive Societies (2016) and New Rural Policy: Linking Up for Growth (2018)[23];
  • EU outputs, specifically: ESPON Typology Compilation: Scientific Platform and Tools 2013/3/022, Interim Report (2009), ‘A revised urban-rural typology’ in the Eurostat Regional Yearbook (2010), Regional Typologies: A Compilation (2011), Shaping New Policies in Specific Types of Territories in Europe: Islands, Mountains, Sparsely Populated and Coastal Regions (2017), Shrinking Rural Regions in Europe (2017) and Expert Analysis on Geographical Specificities: Mountains, Islands and Sparsely Populated Areas (2018)[24];
  • Outputs from the Nordregio research centre for regional development, specifically: Development Perspectives for the NSPA: Opportunities and Challenges (2009), Making the best of Europe’s Sparsely Populated Areas (2012), Social Innovation in Local Development: Lessons from the Nordic Countries and Scotland (2017), Demographic Change and Labour Market Challenges in Regions with Large-scale Resource-based Industries in the Northern Periphery and Arctic (2018) and Population Change Dynamics in Nordic Countries (2019)[25];

As with literature review B, this review produced a substantial amount of information on the key challenges facing rural communities and businesses and the opportunities open to them, but it was more limited in providing information on how the needs of rural businesses and communities are likely to translate into development on the ground. Literature review C also provided a substantial amount of information on trends in rural policy. Where relevant, this information has been fed in to the chapters below.

3.3 Online Survey

We published the survey with SurveyMonkey. It opened on 18th February 2019 and closed on 22nd March 2019. A copy of the survey questions is included as Annex A.

There were a total of 271 responses to the survey. 206 were from individuals and 65 were submitted on behalf of an organisation. Four of the responses were duplicates and, once these were removed, the total number of unique respondents was 267 (205 individuals and 62 organisations). The list of organisations who participated in the survey is included as Annex B.

For analytical purposes, we classified the survey participants in different ways. In the first instance, we grouped them with reference to the four categories used in analysing responses submitted to the Scottish Government Planning Review in 2016 and 2017[26]. These categories are:

A Community & Civil Society “Respondents who are concerned with the system from a non-developer or planner perspective. For instance, civic groups and community councils, individuals, charities and community developers”
B Authorities, Planners & Policy Makers “Respondents who are concerned with the system from the perspective of operators or shapers of the planning system, its plans and policies. For instance, local authorities … national government bodies and key agencies”
C Business & Economy “Respondents who are concerned with the system from the perspective of its impact and influence on conducting business, but not necessarily regular applicants. These include business bodies like chambers and federations, self-employed, financial institutions, as well as retailers, and some business sectors like energy”
D Developers, Landowners & Agents “Respondents who are concerned with the system primarily from a development and land value perspective. These included landowners, investors, development surveyors, developers, housing associations and housebuilders”

Using these categories, we classified the participants in our survey as follows:

Category Number of participants
Community & Civil Society 205 individuals
34 organisations
Business & Economy 10 organisations
Developers, Landowners & Agents 12 organisations
Authorities, Planners & Policy Makers 6 organisations

This approach lumps all individuals together, and many of the organisations. To produce a more refined picture of the types of people and organisations who responded, we also classified them according to their answers to Question 2 of the survey (‘What is your/your organisation’s primary sector or area of interest?’).

Based on these answers, we classified the 205 individual participants according to 19 specific categories of interest, grouped into 10 broader sectors:

Sector Interest # people
Tourism & recreation Tourism & hospitality 27
Hutting 9
Recreation 7
Total 43
Community Resident of a rural area 19
Community development & wellbeing 17
Community representation 6
Total 42
Planning, development & environment Planning & the Built Environment 15
Rural development & economy 4
Environment & Heritage 19
Total 38
Land-based industry Crofting 21
Farming 5
Forestry & Woodlands 6
Total 32
Land ownership & management Land reform & community land ownership 5
Land owner/manager 5
Total 10
Housing - 8
Renewable energy - 5
Transport - 2
Business - 1
Other - 24

We classified the 62 organisations as follows:

Category Interest # orgs
Community & Civil Society Community Development & Wellbeing 10
Community Representation 6
Environment & Heritage 6
Land Reform & Community Land Ownership 3
Transport 3
Forestry & Woodlands 2
Recreation 2
Housing 1
Rural Development & Economy 1
Total 34
Developers, Landowners & Agents Land ownership & management 8
Renewable energy 4
Total 12
Business & Economy Business in general or in a particular sector of business 4
Hutting as a commercial enterprise 1
Tourism & Hospitality 4
Transport 1
Total 10
Authorities, Planners & Policy Makers Planning & the Built Environment 3
Rural Development & Economy 1
Environment & Heritage 1
Land Reform & Community Land Ownership 1
Total 6

Different aspects of the survey results are presented in chapters 4-8 below.

3.4 Interviews

Interviews were undertaken with people representing rural community and business interests, landowning and environmental NGOs and relevant professions. A number of public sector interviewees were included, to provide strategic insight from public bodies into the issues under investigation. A total of 27 interviews were undertaken and a list of interviewees is included as Annex C.

We selected the interviewees on the basis of a stakeholder analysis, responses to the online survey and consultation with the Scottish Government project steering group.

The interviews were designed to allow us to develop greater insight into the research questions, building on the foundations laid by the literature review and the online survey. Where an interviewee had participated in the online survey, the interview provided an opportunity to discuss their responses in greater depth.

The interviews were mostly conducted over the phone, except where the opportunity presented itself for a face-to-face meeting. Each interview lasted 30-60 minutes. The interviews were semi-structured. We used prompt questions derived from the project research objectives and/or from the survey response of the interviewee (where one had been submitted). Follow-up questions were then based on the interviewee’s answer to the initial question. We took the approach of allowing each interviewee scope to direct the conversation and to talk about what they felt was important within the overall framework of the research.

The interviews were recorded as written notes, and selected points and quotes are presented in chapters 4-8 below.

3.5 Workshops

We ran two ‘regional’ workshops (in Oban and Moffat) and one ‘national’ workshop (in Edinburgh) as a means of testing and refining the emerging findings from the literature review, survey and interviews. Within the confines of the project, it would not have been possible to run workshops in a sufficient number of different places to provide a truly representative engagement with Scotland’s diverse rural communities and businesses. Our approach, rather, was to run a small number of focus group workshops with invited participants who acted as critical friends while the analysis of the research results was ongoing.

The participants in the Oban and Moffat workshops were mostly representatives of local or regional community and business organisations. Representatives of several planning authorities also attended. The participants in the Edinburgh workshop were representatives of national community, business and environmental associations, the planning profession and public bodies.

During each workshop, we presented participants with information about the research and the emerging findings, and engaged with them in facilitated discussions about these findings.



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