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 management

We have brought into force the Act's provisions relating to: the preparation of forestry and woodland strategies; giving notice to elected members about major applications; removing the need for full council decisions in certain situations; and including a statement about development plan conformity on decision notices.

In late 2020, we brought into force the Act's procedural changes for the modification and discharge of planning obligations, along with a clarification about what planning obligations may comprise.

Work on other development management changes has been paused, to allow our team to focus on the vital task of keeping the planning system running over the course of the pandemic. We intend to pick up the range of development management provisions again during the course of 2022. These will include:

  • Duration of planning permission and completion notices – the Act changes the arrangements for setting the duration of planning permission and for challenging a notice requiring development to be completed. We intend to issue guidance on how to consider appropriate duration.
  • Guidance on the meaning of "similar application" and "significant change" in relation to declining to determine 'repeat' applications, and extending the time period in which authorities can decline to determine an application from 2 years to 5.
  • Requirement to publish planning obligations and an annual report.
  • Considering whether there should be a statutory requirement to consult a representative body in relation to planning applications affecting music venues, and whether any changes to neighbour notification would be appropriate in relation to listed building consent.
  • Potential changes to provisions relating to the delegation of decisions to planning officers and to local reviews.

We are to lay a statement in the Scottish Parliament setting out the circumstances in which the Scottish Ministers consider it appropriate for them to call in planning applications. We will do that in 2022 following the adoption of NPF4, to reflect the new national policies and spatial strategy.

Health Impact Assessment

The proposed national developments to be included in the Draft NPF4 have been informed by Strategic Environmental Assessment, which includes consideration of the impacts on human health. We will reflect on the lessons from this work and use it to inform future regulations on assessing the health effects of national and major developments.

Agent of Change principle

At the end of 2019, we brought into force the requirement for planning authorities, when considering an application for a noise sensitive development, to take particular account of whether sufficient measures are included to mitigate, minimise or manage the effect of noise from existing cultural venues, particularly live music venues, dwellings or businesses. As we have previously committed, the draft NPF4 will also include a new policy to address the Agent of Change principle, recognising the need to support live music venues and their contribution to Scottish culture and society.

Changing Places toilets

The Act requires that a planning authority may only grant permission for certain types of development if they include a Changing Places toilet, suitable for adults with complex care needs. We brought forward regulations, which came into effect in May 2020, to align the requirements in the Planning Act with the Building Regulations technical guidance which had previously come into effect in October 2019.


The Act provides for Ministers to make regulations about the payment of compensation where planning permission granted by a development order is withdrawn, and an application subsequently made for permission that would have been granted by that order is refused. We will continue our work to address the complexities involved in this change, and now expect to lay regulations in summer 2022.


Increased fines for failing to comply with various types of notices issued to enforce planning controls were brought into effect in late 2019, together with requirements for courts to consider the financial benefit gained from the breach of planning control when setting the level of fines.

Work on charging orders and enforcement charters was paused, but this will recommence in 2022 with a view to having the new regulations in place later in the year.

Fees and Performance

We consulted on a new approach to measuring and improving performance and a new structure for planning fees. The consultation and analysis of responses concluded in early 2020. We paused the work at that stage as we did not consider it appropriate to progress such change during a period of lockdown. However, this work has recommenced and we expect to lay fees regulations in the Scottish Parliament by the end of 2021.

We are working with the High Level Group on Planning Performance to determine the role and arrangements for a National Planning Improvement Co-ordinator and will take forward recruitment early in 2022. We are also continuing to work with the High Level Group to consider the scope to introduce regulations on annual performance reporting and to develop regulations on training for elected members of planning authorities.

The Royal Town Planning Institute has progressed work to inform guidance on the appointment of Chief Planning Officers, recognising the value that planning adds to delivering authorities' objectives and to achieving positive outcomes. We will take this into account as we progress this further aspect of the Act during 2022.



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