Transforming Places Together: digital strategy for planning

This strategy defines a long-term strategic direction for how Scotland’s planning system will digitally transform, embracing the opportunities new digital technologies and data present. It sets out what we intend to deliver, why this is needed and the benefits this transformation will bring.

Impacts, Outcomes and Benefits

Digital Planning Will...

(Five Missions)

  • Unlock the value of planning data
  • Deliver an end-to-end digital planning experience
  • Create the conditions for digital to flourish
  • Use digital tools to drive collaboration and engagement
  • Embed a culture of digital innovation

So Planning Is...


  • Focused on improving quality of outcomes with renewed emphasis on place-based initiatives
  • A forward looking profession with high quality digital skills, successfully attracting young people to join the profession
  • Vital in our response to climate change and delivering net zero targets
  • A key enabler in Scotland’s economic and societal recovery from COVID-19, supporting inclusive economic growth and job creation, designing sustainable and connected places and tackling health and wellbeing inequalities
  • Ambitious, innovative and future-ready
  • Evidence based, using data to support and communicate decision making
  • High-performing, streamlined and efficient, achieving better results with available resources
  • Open and accessible to all, by ensuring services and information are easy to find and understand
  • Collaborative and joined up
  • Empowering. Enabling everyone to get involved and shape their communities
  • Delivering the right development in the right places

And Scotland Can...


  • Build confident, empowered communities that actively shape their places
  • Increase inward investment and Scotland’s role in the international community by reducing risk and uncertainty
  • Build a sustainable and highly skilled workforce now and for the future
  • Deliver high quality, future-proofed public services that are continually improving
  • Deliver inclusive economic growth, building the housing and infrastructure Scotland needs, and creating jobs
  • Drive the digital economy by opening up data services and opportunities
  • Deliver sustainable development, connected places and ensure progress towards climate change targets
  • Unlock the power of digital innovation

The Benefits

How will you benefit from the digital transformation of planning?

The Benefits - As a citizen and community

  • An accessible, next generation Planning Scotland Gateway online portal providing easy access, in one place, to all information about planning including ‘what is happening in my area?’ and ‘do I need planning permission?’
  • A simpler and easier-to-use smart application process which allows real-time tracking and notifications
  • Explore potentially suitable sites which are ready to develop and build on
  • Understand how to engage with the planning process by commenting on applications and local development plans to get involved in shaping your place as an individual or community
  • Use online visual tools to understand the value and impact of your contribution to planning proposals and decisions
  • A more consistent and coordinated planning process across different geographic areas
  • Support your community to shape and re-imagine your place with a new digital toolkit providing access to data and digital technology including mapping/visualisation tools at a local level
  • Gain the skills, confidence and information literacy required to make the most of digital planning
  • Across Scotland, up to 1,600 jobs and £200 million generated in economic benefits

The Benefits - As business and industry (including architects, planning agents, investors and developers)

  • Location based data, including mapping and visualisation, available on the Planning Scotland Gateway to discover opportunities for you and your clients, and inform investment decisions
  • Build marketplace value-added services for citizens and business on a modular, interoperable platform that combines data standards with new innovative technologies
  • A more consistent, streamlined and coordinated planning process across different geographic areas reducing complexity and resulting in downstream income generation for developers and investors with costs to large house builders reduced by c.£25,000-£30,000 per application
  • Collaborate in partnerships across private, public and academic sectors within a PlaceTech Innovation Lab as a research incubator and an accelerator programme to solve planning and place related technology challenges, improve public service delivery, create economic development opportunities and foster an entrepreneurial mindset within government
  • A more consistent, streamlined and coordinated planning process across different geographic areas
  • A simpler and easier-to-use smart application process which allows real-time tracking and notifications, reducing the need to contact planning officials
  • Find potentially suitable sites which are ready to develop and build on
  • Access relevant existing data to assist your planning and application process
  • Reduction of invalid applications and inconsistency across planning systems

The Benefits - As central, local government or public sector body

  • Bringing all Development Planning and Development Management information together in one place to allow forward planning data and policies to inform consented developments and enable the effectiveness of policies to be monitored in near-real-time
  • A more consistent, streamlined and coordinated planning process across different geographic areas, enabling workflow across local authorities
  • Automated reporting – reducing manual intervention and administration
  • Reduction of invalid applications
  • Increased community engagement without an additional resource requirement to assess, using digital community engagement tools that analyse responses digitally
  • Timely availability of information to monitor the impact of policy changes, allowing for targeted interventions and updated policy amendments
  • Reduced potential for vendor lock-in so that Scotland’s planning technology and data is not bound to any particular provider’s proprietary system
  • More productive land use in support of the Scottish Government commitment to the place principle, joining up across organisational and policy boundaries to look at the outcomes for places holistically
  • Avoid costs of £23 million in the case of doing nothing to update or change the current planning system, with potential income generation of £5.5 million for reinvestment in the planning system
  • Streamlining process and workflow – removing time-consuming manual handling tasks and a reduction in inbound calls with estimated savings to planning authorities of up to £20.4 million

Drive prosperity and economic recovery - Benefits Case Study 1

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) added 10,000 jobs to the Scottish Economy in 2019, but Scotland is in global competition to attract investment.

Planning in the broadest sense plays a key role in influencing the attractiveness of an area. Investment by global firms in production, service centres or regional headquarters bring the potential for significant increases in both the quality and quantity of jobs to an area.

Planning can influence location-based investment in two direct ways:

1. ‘Ease of doing business’ through regulatory impact, transactions and processing costs

2. Accessibility of investment portfolio data, such as location availability, local land values, skill levels, infrastructure and environmental data etc.

Physical and digital connectivity is seen as the foundation to allow place-based investment, which will support planners and investors to make compelling and bold investment choices in Scotland.

Digital transformation will open up national data and facilitate this placed-based collaborative foundation.

Resulting in:

  • Increased output/higher growth (recovery) rates Incentivised additional economic activity via improvements in planning efficiency, ensuring planners have the capacity to deal with additionally incentivised case load
  • More productive land use From better capture and application of spatial data to determine the most economically efficient locations for new development
  • Increased land values From the range of effects, i.e. via data analytics, community engagement, and value capture from benefits to developers, that support quality place-making and amenity value at new and existing sites
  • Welfare benefits for households and residents for increased ‘utility of place’ New digital platforms will better facilitate informed engagement with communities, ensuring planning decisions are better informed from a welfare perspective
  • Better matching of employment land to sector needs in local areas Data availability and accessibility will enable planning strategy and vision to better integrate economic development objectives
  • Lower costs for business and increased inward investment From system efficiencies which reduce the perceived burden of engagement (time and cost) of applying for planning permissions

A green Scotland, environment and climate change - Benefits Case Study 2

The built environment is one of the most significant impactors on place-based environmental quality and carbon emissions. Both through energy demand in the construction and ongoing operation of developments, and the transport patterns of people who live and work in new developments.

Spatial planning provides a more proactive approach to supporting net zero carbon and environmental quality objectives having the biggest potential for positive change.

Helping to determine transport connectivity – including by sustainable means; the location of homes and jobs – and thus how individuals are required to travel; and the density and land-use of communities – which is a key determinant in how efficient they are at consuming resources, will all play key roles in speeding or slowing the transition to a net zero economy, depending on how they are provided for.

Digital transformation, through cloud hosting which enables significantly more place-focused data, including engagement data, has the potential to significantly improve the evidence base available to planners to promote ‘good’ planning that supports sustainable development.

Resulting in:

  • Lower energy demand The ability to use better data and engagement to plan for efficient accessibility (e.g. between homes and jobs) and density
  • Better integrated (and local) energy supply From the ability to use better spatial data and engagement with the private sector, communities and statutory consultees to inform the efficient development of generation and supply in relation to new and existing communities
  • Lower transport demand and emissions From place-making that encourages modal shift; and from planning for improved accessibility that lowers non-active transport requirements. And support wholly new environmental solutions, for future places
  • Ability to support the achievement of incoming building regulations Through smart applications and the planning gateway that better informs and educates applicants
  • Reducing emissions of individuals and communities via behavioural changes Through place-making and planning that encourages sustainable ways of living, working and socially engaging within communities

Ensuring a healthy and fair society - Benefits Case Study 3

As noted by the King’s Fund in their determinants of health and wellbeing; places and communities; the environment around us and behaviours and lifestyles are three of the four key determinants of health outcome for individuals.

Better data and engagement, particularly engagement that enables marginalised communities to be reached could deliver a significant improvement in understanding how planning decisions impact health and wellbeing outcomes for those already suffering from the unequal distribution of these kinds of effects.

The ability to engage with a more representative breadth of local communities has a potentially to dramatically improve the democratic quality of planning engagement in the plan-making process.

Digital transformation will provide better data, the integration of data sources and data collection for the purposes of analysis for smarter planning providing the opportunity to better plan places, minimising the negative impacts of development, and maximising the forms of development which are most likely to reduce health and wellbeing inequalities.

Resulting in:

  • Reduced NHS costs Utilising spatial data will ensure sufficient provision of active transport, green space, and the social infrastructure to support physical and mental health in communities
  • More inclusive engagement Digital tools to encourage individuals to take a stake in their communities
  • Overcome organisational and sectoral boundaries ‘Place-based’ data to encourage better collaboration and community involvement, and the positive impact of combined planning of energy, resources and infrastructure investment
  • Freeing up planners’ time More efficient systems and processes to undertake more effective community engagement as required
  • Reducing crime and increasing community engagement A smart application system that can help better enforce and explain planning guidelines, standards and regulations
  • Planning decisions better informed to support welfare objectives Through new digital platforms that better facilitate informed engagement with communities in both place-making and development management



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