New Planning (Scotland) Bill will bring significant changes to development planning in Scotland

This is the first in a series of briefing notes on the Planning (Scotland) Bill, introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 4 December 2017.

The Bill is a key part of the Scottish Government's ongoing Review of Planning with the aim of strengthening and simplifying Scotland's planning system and facilitating a shift from reacting to and regulating development proposals towards proactively encouraging and supporting quality development and investment.

Planning Scotland Lawyer Bill Development

The proposals on development planning are high level and structural in nature and on a day to day basis the changes which they bring about may not be obvious to the majority of stakeholders in the planning system. The proposals are, however, far reaching and will have a significant impact on the operation of the planning system. In particular, they give increased weight to the strategies and policies of the Scottish Government. 

Here we focus on Part 1 of the Bill which deals with development planning.

In determining applications under the Planning Acts, regard is to be had to the 'Development Plan'. As currently defined, the 'Development Plan' consists of:

  1. the planning authority's Local Development Plan (LDP) and any supplementary guidance issued in connection with that plan, and;
  2. where there is a strategic development plan (SDP) in force for the area, that SDP and any supplementary guidance issued in connection with it.

Strategic Development Plans

Currently the four largest city regions in Scotland are designated strategic development planning areas (SDPAs) and are required to prepare an SDP. Section 2 of the Bill will repeal the provisions requiring the formation of the four SDPAs and the production of SDPs, with the intention of streamlining and creating time and costs savings for those authorities, and allowing greater freedom overall for planning authorities to work collaboratively.

Scottish Planning Policy and the National Planning Framework

Scottish Planning Policy (SPP), which is the Scottish Government's policy on nationally important land use planning matters, is currently a stand-alone document. It is a material consideration in planning decisions, though does not form part of the Development Plan. The Bill proposes that SPP will be incorporated in and become part of the National Planning Framework.

The National Planning Framework (NPF) is the Scottish Government's strategy for long term spatial development. The Bill will bring the NPF (including the integrated SPP) within the statutory definition of 'Development Plan', giving it enhanced status. The Development Plan will consist of the NPF and the LDP and in the event of incompatibility between the two the most recent will prevail.

Local Development Plans and Supplementary Guidance

In addition, the Bill makes some changes to the content of the LDP, requiring the local outcome improvement plan for the plan area to be taken into account and removing the requirement to produce a Main Issues Report.

Under the Bill, both the LDP and the NPF will be renewed 10 yearly, a change to the current 5 year cycle.

Section 4 of the Bill will repeal the current provisions on statutory supplementary guidance, with policies to be set within the Development Plan itself (the NPF and the LDP) rather than in separate documents. Scope for non-statutory supplementary guidance as a material consideration will remain.

Local Place Plans

Increased community engagement is an overarching objective of the Bill, and section 9 introduces a new right for communities to produce local place plans (LPPs) which can be submitted to the planning authority and which the authority is to have regard in preparing its LDP. LPPs will not, however, be part of the Development Plan.

Next steps

These changes set the context for the changes in development management which will be covered in the next briefing note in this series.

It is important to note that the Bill is currently at Stage 1 of the parliamentary process and as such remains subject to amendments.

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