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.

Planning Reform

Changing ways for changing places

Planning changes places and in doing that it changes people’s lives and livelihoods. Effective planning is about change; positive change. That is why planning matters to people – each of us individually, and collectively within our families and communities. In reforming our planning system, change is not just about how we do things. It is much more about why.

Scotland’s new Planning Act defines the purpose of planning: to manage the development and use of land in the long-term public interest. That isn’t simple. Planning is charged with a multitude of great expectations to achieve many different things on very different scales, and sometimes with priorities and aspirations pulling in different directions.

The choices and decisions we all make through our planning system need to help meet our ambitions and obligations: for addressing climate change and radically accelerating emissions reduction; for realising the clear benefits from high standards in placemaking for our physical and mental health and wellbeing. And now more than ever, planning must support our green economic recovery, the strategic investment we need now and in the long-term.

The choices made through planning need to ensure we have the homes that people need, in the right places with good access for work, education, services, utilities and leisure – the vital components that help us form well-functioning, sustainable communities.

“Scotland’s new Planning Act defines the purpose of planning: to manage the development and use of land in the long-term public interest.”

The planning system, and profession, cannot do all of this in isolation. It takes its place in a much bigger policy context that influences and coordinates strategic infrastructure investment. It works with other policy drivers to support sustainable economic development in all parts of Scotland, to tackle poverty and inequalities and promote wellbeing for the long-term benefit of all our communities.

To do planning well we need to carefully interrogate a great deal of complex information and data, to listen intently to different perspectives and to act both swiftly and fairly in making what can sometimes be pressured and difficult decisions.

So we expect a lot of our planning system and of its ‘users’ – the people who work within it and those who participate for their different interests – whether they be long-term experienced professionals or those involved just the once.

When we embarked on our programme of planning reform, we knew there was a need to reposition planning; to be much more inspirational, focused on actively delivering better development and places we need.

The whole policy context of planning is already changing, facing up to some significant challenges for our society and for the way we live. The statutory planning system is already changing, improving collaboration across public, private and community interests to strengthen decision-making and to bring a greater focus on delivery of high-quality planned development.

So too can we change the way we all embark on planning and engage with the system; in how we make best use of data, information and opinion to tackle the needs and challenges together and bring our future places to life. That is what digital planning can help us to do.

“... reposition planning to be much more inspirational, focused on actively delivering better development and places.”

Scotland's Planning Numbers

  • 5.4m+ People in Scotland
  • Scotland’s spatial plans setting out where development happens
  • 01 National Planning Framework
  • 14 Indicative Regional Spatial Strategies
  • 36 Local Development Plans
  • 02 National Park Plans
  • 20K Houses Built During 2018/19
    30% increase over last 5 years
  • 1,600 Planners
  • 34 Planning Authorities
  • 1,200+ Community councils
  • 29,069 Planning applications 2019/20
  • 43% Applications Deemed valid on receipt
    Avg. of 23 authorities
  • £7.1 Billion Scotland’s homebuilding sector contribution to GDP
  • 25% Reduction In public sector planning authority workforce over the past decade

The Digital Opportunity

  • Creating 1,600 New construction and development jobs
  • Up to £200m Economic Boost
  • £25-35K Saving Per application for large housebuilders
  • 28% Time Saved for Planners



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