Transforming Planning in Practice: updated planning reform implementation programme

The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 sets the future structure of Scotland’s planning system and forms an important part of our wider planning reforms. The 2019 Act includes a broad range of changes to be made across the planning system.

Development Planning

National Planning Framework

Section 2 of the Act, making amendments to the content and procedures for preparing the National Planning Framework, came into force on 8 November 2019 along with the Purpose of Planning (section 1) which applies to the preparation of the Framework as well as local development plans.

The preparation of Scotland's fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4) has progressed significantly and our team led extensive public engagement in early 2020, which was drawing to a conclusion just ahead of the restrictions arising from the pandemic. This is a major project as it includes a national spatial strategy for Scotland and a comprehensively revised suite of national planning policies. NPF4 will form part of the statutory development plan when it is adopted by the Scottish Ministers. The draft will explain how NPF4 will contribute to the six outcomes set out in the Act, and will also include national developments and requirements for housing land.

As a result of the pandemic, we extended the overall NPF4 timescale and published and consulted on an interim Position Statement in November 2020. Having taken into account the views we received in response to the Position Statement, we are on course to lay a draft of NPF4 in the Scottish Parliament later this autumn for scrutiny alongside a period of formal public consultation and extensive engagement activity. Under the new procedures, the draft will be laid in the Parliament for a period of up to 120 days to allow representations to be made, which we expect to take until spring 2022 to conclude. The final adoption date will depend on the approval of NPF4 by the Scottish Parliament, but we are currently aiming to lay a finalised version for approval by summer 2022.

Local Development Plans

The Act made significant changes to the approach to preparing local development plans (LDPs), with the aim of making them more effective, with greater community involvement and more focus on delivery. It introduces a requirement to produce evidence reports along with an early 'gatecheck' to ensure the evidence is sufficient, new requirements for participation and engagement of communities and particular groups, and a range of issues which must be considered in the plan. The Act also removed the provisions relating to main issues reports and statutory supplementary guidance and changed the period within which LDPs must be reviewed from within 5 years to within 10 years.

This has proven to be a complex part of the planning reforms, and more time was initially taken to ensure that stakeholders were given adequate opportunity to contribute their views on new regulations and guidance through participation in three cross-sectoral working groups.

We published guidance on the transition to the new system of development plans during 2020 as well as further additional guidance on development planning during the pandemic.

As the draft NPF4 has emerged, we have also been considering in more detail how the new policies will relate to the processes and content of local development plans. We expect to be in a position to publicly consult on draft regulations and guidance later this autumn, alongside the draft NPF4. Also as part of this package, we will consult on regulations covering the detailed arrangements for production of play sufficiency assessments and open space strategies.

Drawing on experiences from recent pilots, we will produce guidance on preparing and maintaining lists of persons seeking land for self-build housing early in 2022 and commence the provisions requiring such lists by the summer.

Regulations on future amendment of the NPF and local development plans will be considered later, once the initial versions are in place.

Regional Spatial Strategies

The Act will remove the requirement for strategic development plans in the four largest city regions, and introduce a requirement for all authorities, working together as they see fit, to prepare regional spatial strategies setting out strategic development priorities. This part of the Act has not yet come into force but significant progress has been made to explore how the provisions could work in practice. This work has also formed part of our preparation of NPF4 with local authority-driven indicative regional spatial strategies emerging through a collaborative and creative process to inform the national spatial strategy. The outputs will therefore be considered as an integral part of the formal consultation on the draft National Planning Framework.

Given the significance of the consultation on NPF4, and mindful of the capacity of our stakeholders, we now expect to publish draft statutory guidance on Regional Spatial Strategies later in 2022, building on experiences with the indicative strategies.



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