Scottish Planning Policy and Housing - technical consultation: analysis

Independent analysis of the responses to our consultation paper on Scottish Planning Policy and Housing: Technical Consultation on Proposed Policy Amendments which ran from 17 July to 9 October 2020.



This report presents the analysis of responses to a consultation on Scottish Planning Policy and Housing: Technical Consultation on Proposed Policy Amendments that ran from 17 July to 9 October 2020.

The consultation paper[2] explains that the Scottish Ministers are consulting on proposed interim changes to the Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) (2014) to clarify specific parts of the SPP that relate to planning for housing. Once finalised the changes will apply over an interim period ahead of the adoption of National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4), to be published in 2022.

The proposed amendments to the SPP are intended to achieve the following policy objectives:

  • Supporting a plan-led approach to decision-making and maintaining the legal status of the development plan as a basis for decisions in all cases.
  • Removing the presumption in favour of development that contributes to sustainable development from the SPP (‘the presumption’) given that it is considered to have potential for conflict with a plan-led approach and has given rise to significant number of issues in its application.
  • Providing a clearer basis for decisions on applications for housing on sites that have not been allocated in the Local Development Plan (LDP) where there is a shortfall in the effective housing land supply.
  • Clarifying what is meant by a 5 year effective housing land supply and in particular preventing sites that are capable of becoming effective being excluded solely on the basis of programming assumptions.

Reasons for the timing of the consultation are explained further in the section below (Comments on the consultation process) along with respondents’ comments on both the timing and the content of the consultation paper.

Number and profile of respondents

A total of 244 responses were available for analysis. The majority of respondents were organisations (150 respondents) with 94 individual members of the public also making a submission.

Organisational respondents have been allocated to one of nine categories by the analysis team and the Scottish Government[3]. A breakdown of the number of responses received by respondent type is set out in Table 1 below and a full list of organisational respondents is provided at Annex 1.

The groups listed below have been named to reflect their membership but, for simplicity, throughout the body of the report shortened versions (in bold) are used.

Table 1: Respondents grouped by organisation type
Respondents by type Total
Community Council, Residents’ Association or Civic Trust 20
Energy Supplier, Developer, Association or Body 13
Greenbelt Campaign Group 5
Housing Developer, Landowner or Investor 40
Local Authority or Planning Authority 24
Planning, Development, Real Estate or Legal Firm or Consultancy 25
Public Body 3
Representative Body or Professional Institute 14
Third Sector 6
Organisations 150
Individuals 94
All responses 244

As with all consultation exercises, it should be remembered that respondents tend to have a particular interest in the subject area and consultation responses should not be seen as representative of the views of the population as a whole.

Other points to note about responses are:

  • Around 35 respondents either identified themselves as residents of Quarriers Village, the Committee to Protect Quarriers Village, or submitted a response containing related text. (Carsemeadow, Quarriers Village was the subject of the appeal brought by Gladman Developments Ltd referenced below.)
  • Around 25 respondents in the Housing Developer and Planning Consultancy groups drew on the response submitted by Homes for Scotland to varying extent.
  • Some Energy Supplier respondents submitted versions of a response prepared by a planning consultancy while other respondents in this group and elsewhere drew on the submission of Scottish Renewables.
  • A number of Local Authority respondents drew on text from or offered support for the response from Heads of Planning Scotland.
  • Other individuals or organisations may have drawn on information provided by groups such as Planning Democracy or The Campaign to Protect Rural Scotland.

It should also be noted that some responses were both detailed and extensive, some with appendices including evidence from appeals cases, and some making specific editing suggestions. Although such responses can only be summarised very briefly in a report of this type, all responses were available in their entirety to the policy team at the Scottish Government. Organisational responses, and those of individuals who gave their permission to do so have been published at:

A number of responses made specific reference the recent Court of Session decision in the case of Gladman Developments Ltd[4]. Where more general references were made, for example to the recent court case or the Court of Session judgment, it has been assumed that these refer to the Gladman Developments Ltd case unless further comments suggest to the contrary.

Comments on the consultation process

While some respondents expressed satisfaction, others voiced concerns with respect to various aspects of the consultation process.


The consultation paper states that the context for planning for housing in Scotland has changed significantly in recent months. It explains that:

  • The pandemic has had an impact on the ability of planning authorities to maintain the review cycle of LDPs within the timeframes they intended. The Scottish Government expects that more development plans will extend beyond five years in the coming months and are keen to support authorities in adapting to the current circumstances.
  • The recent decision by the Court of Session on an appeal by Gladman Developments Ltd raises a number of issues about the current wording of the SPP that the Scottish Government believes require clarification.

Nevertheless, some respondents disagreed with the timing of this consultation process with arguments that:

  • The consultation has been rushed or has lacked engagement with stakeholders.
  • Consultation on the proposed changes would be better taken forward as part of the development of NPF4.
  • The urgency of tackling climate change and ensuring sustainability should be the driving force for all planning policy development and that the removal of ‘the presumption’ threatens to undermine this approach.

However, an alternative perspective was that there is an urgent requirement to remove ‘the presumption’ and that any interim policy changes made can eventually be included in NPF4.

The scale of the proposed changes

The consultation is described in its title as being ‘technical’ and to ‘clarify specific parts of the SPP that relate to planning for housing’.

Some respondents disagreed that this is a minor or primarily technical clarification of planning policy but rather that it represents a significant change to national planning policy - what one respondent described as ‘a fundamental change... being presented as a minor tweak’. It was also suggested that the significance of consultation has been downplayed, potentially making it less likely that people will engage with it, and that the title is misleading, suggesting the proposed changes are applicable only to housing.

Lack of supporting evidence and impact assessments

The consultation paper was also argued to lack both appropriate background information and suitable evidence in support of the Scottish Government’s position. Respondents views on the absence of impact assessments are discussed at Question 5.

Other issues

The language used in the consultation paper was suggested to be overly technical and the paper ‘too complicated for ordinary people to understand and get fully involved in improving planning democracy’. Use of a double negative in the text at a closed question was also noted.



Back to top