Current workstreams: Chief Planner letter June 2019

Letter from the Chief Planner providing an update on current workstreams being taken forward by Planning and Architecture Division.

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Dear Colleague,
I am writing to update you on a number of workstreams that the Scottish Government’s Planning and Architecture team is currently taking forward, including the work to support the Planning Bill.  As we enter the final parliamentary phase, I’d like to thank all our stakeholders for their interest and engagement over the course of the Bill process. 

Planning Bill

The Planning Bill will undergo its final consideration in Parliament next week – stage 3 will take place on 18, 19 and 20 June 2019. Following the substantial changes made at stage 2, Ministers and officials have worked hard with MSPs and stakeholders to shape further amendments with the intention of returning the Bill to the aims of creating a streamlined and more effective planning system, and we hope Parliament will support these. 

National Planning Framework

The Bill proposes that the National Planning Framework (NPF) will in future be amalgamated with the Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) and have enhanced status as part of the statutory development plan. We are also committed to ensuring that it is prepared in an open and collaborative way. We will move forward with preparing NPF4 after Parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill has concluded and will be providing more information about the process and opportunities to contribute to this key document over the summer.  

SESplan 2

In May 2019, Ministers rejected SESplan 2, the strategic development plan for South East Scotland. After considering the plan and the Examination report in detail, Ministers came to this decision as the spatial strategy is not supported by an adequate or timely transport appraisal. The lack of a sufficient transport appraisal to inform the preparation of the Plan is a fundamental deficiency which has led to rejecting the plan. We have offered to support the strategic development planning authority as it considers next steps.  

Digital Planning Strategy

We continue to make significant progress towards the launch of the Digital Planning Strategy, which is expected later this year. The launch of the Strategy will be a key part of the wider programme of planning reform, alongside the Planning Bill and the NPF4.
The Strategy will contain details on the projects to take forward post-launch and outline our roadmap for transformation, which will be taken forward in collaboration with partners across the planning and digital sectors. It will consider all aspects of the planning system, including development planning, development management and planning performance.
As part of shaping the contents of the Strategy we will host workshops over the summer, involving key stakeholders in identifying the priority projects. We will circulate more information about this innovative and transformational programme of work in the near future.


In May 2019 the Digital Planning team hosted the biannual eDevelopment Partnership Forum in Glasgow. In addition to discussing our progress in shaping the digital future of planning in Scotland, the day was also focused on open and collaborative discussion with our local and planning authority partners about opportunities to improve the current service. To ensure a joined up approach to digital transformation across the current eDevelopment services, we have been working closely with our Building Standards colleagues to help align future plans.
The team attended the stand at the Scottish Homebuilding and Renovating Show in Glasgow on the first weekend in June 2019. In addition to promoting the current digital service with attendees of the show, we spoke directly with a wide range of people at different stages of their building projects. We found it immensely valuable in speaking directly with present and future customers about the current service, about our ideas for the future in planning, and gaining further insight into their experiences in planning and building control.

Recent Notification Directions

In February 2019, we issued two notification directions that came into force on the 1st March 2019. These directions cover the notification of proposals for Gypsy/Traveller development and the notification of developments affecting historic battlefields.
The Gypsy/Traveller Accommodation Needs Direction will allow us to create a national overview of Gypsy/Traveller development activity that is in the planning system. Similarly the Historic Battlefields Direction seeks to inform our understanding of development in the planning system that has the potential to affect our historic battlefields. 
We’d like to remind all authorities of the terms of the directions.  We appreciate that the battlefield direction will have a bigger impact on certain authorities and we have tried to minimise the impact by only requiring very limited information on cases covered by the Directions.

Strategic Environmental Assessment

2018/19 was a particularly busy year for our in-house Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) team. The team carries out all aspects of SEA for Scottish Government Plans, Programmes and Strategies working across a wide range of sectors including Energy, Climate Change, Forestry, as well as planning. This avoids the need to commission consultancy services in many cases and can lead to direct financial savings as well as to a more flexible, responsive and integrated approach to SEA within the policy making process.  For more information email us at
Once the planning bill has completed its passage through parliament, and following on from lively discussions at the 2018 National SEA forum, the team looks forward to working with planning authorities and the SEA Consultation Authorities to consider the opportunities for embedding SEA into a new LDP preparation process.     

Scotland’s EIA Conference

The annual EIA conference, which was held on 23 May 2019 in Edinburgh, brought together 120 delegates from various parts of the EIA community aims to break down barriers and to support the Scottish Government’s aim of more efficient and effective EIA. The conference was sponsored by consultants and co-delivered by the Scottish Government supported by EIA experts and speakers drawn from Government, consultancy, Local Authorities and the Consultation bodies.  It provided an opportunity to network, hear about good Scottish EIA practice and participate in practical workshops. The 2019 conference included digital EIA; establishing future baselines; collaborative scoping; a discussion on EIA’s potential role in place-making;  and a session on EIA case law.  


The Scottish Government has established a new independent Infrastructure Commission for Scotland in order to provide long-term strategic advice to the Scottish Government on national infrastructure priorities. One of its overarching objectives includes ensuring alignment with the new National Planning Framework. The Commission will advise on our National Infrastructure Mission commitment and will report on infrastructure ambitions and priorities by the end of 2019. In the meantime we will continue to work with officials across government to ensure that NPF4 will align with infrastructure investment plans and programme, and expect to reconvene the Infrastructure Delivery Group in due course.


Under our Programme for Government commitments, we have expanded our support for the Place Standard and other community-led design projects to help develop places which are designed in collaboration and meet everyone's needs.
Working in partnership with NHS Health Scotland, Architecture & Design Scotland and Glasgow City Council an improvement programme for the Place Standard tool has been developed.  This includes looking at the prompts for the questions in the tool and providing further information on how to use the results to plan next steps. The feedback from the improvement programme also showed that the accessibility of the tool could be improved, especially for children and young people and that the tool had not been widely used as part of the design process. To improve access to the tool, specific versions for children and young people and for the design process have been commissioned. 
The Place Standard Leads network has now been extended beyond local authorities to include national organisations who have an interest and/or influence on place. 

The Place Standard continues to attract wider international attention and on 10 June  the ‘Making Place’ conference was held in Glasgow in partnership with the World Health Organisation Healthy Cities Network. 250 attended and with delegates travelling from Norway, Slovenia, Denmark, Latvia, Czech Republic, Estonia, North Macedonia and the rest of the UK.
In 2018/19 support for the Making Places Initiative provided funding for 39 design and engagement events around Scotland. We have commissioned research into the impact of community-led design and charrette style design events across Scotland, with the final report due in late summer.

Land Value Uplift Capture

The Scottish Land Commission submitted their report on “Options for Land Value Uplift Capture” to us on 16 May. The report makes a number of recommendations for further work on the operation of planning agreements, the proposed Infrastructure Levy, proposed Masterplan Consent Areas, and the use of compulsory purchase and land assembly by authorities. We are currently considering how to take these recommendations forward, including through work that is already planned in follow-up to the Planning Bill, and will make announcements in due course.

Planning and Architecture Division Business Plan End Year Report

We have now published our end year report on our 2018-19 business plan which summarises the progress we have made and milestones we have achieved in delivering out key business priorities to support the 2018 Programme for Government. It also reviews the delivery of our wide commitments to deliver a world class planning system to support inclusive economic growth and create great places.


We have been fortunate in recent weeks to welcome two new senior planners to Planning and Architecture Division. Angela Adams previously with ClydePlan and Tom Barratt, previously with RSPB will support our workload going forward.

Keeping in touch

I hope you have found this update useful. I would like to use this opportunity to invite you to give us feedback on our communication and make suggestions as to how we can improve in the future. Please send any thoughts to me at
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Should you wish for further information on any of the points raised above, please contact us at
Yours faithfully
John McNairney
Chief Planner
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