HM Insights

People, Places and Planning - proposed reform of land use planning system in Scotland

In June 2017, the Scottish Government published its Position Statement on the proposed reform of the land use planning system in Scotland and a related Strategic Environmental Assessment Report. The document followed a consultation on the government's People, Places and Planning White Paper. Whilst the substance of many of the original proposals remain the same, many have been modified and some have been abandoned altogether.

Planning Permission Land Use Solicitor Lawyer Scotland Reform Bill

The deadline for the consultation on the Position Statement and Environmental Assessment Report was 11 August. The consultation is set to precede a Planning Bill which will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament this winter.

The Position Statement indicates that planning should better contribute to the government's priorities of 'inclusive growth' and 'community empowerment' and the 'reform package' should include legislative and non-legislative measures.

Despite being a Position Statement, in many areas it is short in detail and it suggests a number of important issues will be dealt with by secondary legislation, rather than in the forthcoming Planning Bill itself.

Key Proposals:

Development & Planning

  • A new right will be introduced for local communities to produce Local Place Plans for incorporation into the Local Development Plan.
  • Community councils will be involved in the preparation of Local Development Plan schemes, and action will be taken to ensure children and young people are encouraged to get involved and participate in planning.
  • The creation of a statutory link between Local Development Plans and Community Planning.
  • Abolition of the requirements for Strategic Development Plans to be prepared and replaced with Regional Partnership Working.
  • Overhaul of the Local Development Plan process – the Main Issues Report stage will be replaced by early engagement and a ‘gate check’ followed by formal consultation on the draft Plan.
  • Local Development Plans will have a 10-year timescale with the opportunity for updates between full review cycles.

Application Procedures

  • Amended requirements for pre-application consultation for major and national developments.
  • Measures to strengthen enforcement against breaches of planning control.
  • Abolition of “free go” for revised or repeat applications where an application is refused, withdrawn or an appeal is refused.
  • Proposals for Ministers to take more decisions instead of Reporters will not be taken forward.
  • No fees for appeals or reviews.
  • Mandatory training for Councillors serving on Planning Committees or Local Review Bodies.
  • Scottish Government reaffirms that it will not introduce a right to appeal against the grant of planning permission most recently referred to as 'equal right of appeal' (or also known as third party right of appeal). It believes stronger and earlier community engagement is the appropriate approach.

Delivering Infrastructure & More Homes

  • Proposals for nationally set housing land supply targets appear to have been rejected. 
  • Developers to include information on viability of sites and development delivery as part of the development plan process.
  • Proposed changes to Compulsory Purchase Orders, Compulsory Sale Orders and development land tax will not be included in the Planning Bill.
  • The Scottish Government will instead issue revised guidance for the operation of existing Compulsory Purchase Orders in the short term.
  • “Refreshed and rebranded” Simplified Planning Zones to be introduced with power for Ministers to direct that a Zone will be established where it is in the national interest.
  • No new agency to improve links between planning and infrastructure. The Scottish Futures Trust will take forward support for significant stalled sites.
  • Options for an infrastructure levy to be explored.

Performance & Resourcing

  • Planning Bill to include additional enabling powers for discretionary charging and extend the range of services for which planning authorities can charge.
  • Further expansion of permitted development rights.
  • Plans for digital planning service.


It is clear that the above proposals are varied and far reaching. Yet the Scottish Government has still to address whether they are all within its legislative competence. One of the criticisms of the proposals from some quarters is the absence of a third party right of appeal against planning permission being granted.

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RECP) has recommended a limited right of appeal against the grant of planning permission. It believes this would, among other things, increase public confidence in the planning system and improve the quality of decision making.

Ultimately, it remains to be seen what proposals in the Positon Statement will be included in the forthcoming Planning Bill, and what affect the current consultation will have on the Bill's content.

(Consultation deadline was on 11 August 2017)

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This article was put together with the assistance of researcher Sara Bastekin.