Continuing Modernisation for Planning in Scotland


On 28 March 2012, Derek Mackay, the Minister for Local Government and Planning made a statement to the Scottish Parliament setting out the Scottish Government's proposals for future reform of the planning system. A number of new guidance documents and five new consultations were published. This latest round of planning reform documentation follows a concerted review of the performance of the system since most of the extensive new statutory procedures for planning came into effect in 2009, culminating in a report by Audit Scotland at the end of 2011.

The new measures, contained in the Planning Reform - Next Steps report, focus on 4 key areas. In summary these are:

Promoting the plan led system - work will commence on NPF 3 in autumn 2012; there will be a review of the performance of Strategic Development Plans in 2013; more pace is required to ensure full coverage of local development plans (LDPs) and options including the charrette process and Gateway Review process will be explored to try and aid the preparation of LDPs; and there could be changes in the future approach to the LDP examination process depending on the outcome of the consultation.
Driving improved performance - the Scottish Government is minded to increase planning fees but there must be an inextricable link to performance improvements; The Planning Performance Framework that has been developed by Heads of Planning Scotland provides a new basis for annual reporting which includes more than just the time taken to determine a planning application.
Simplifying and streamlining - the Scottish Government admits more can be done to improve the operation of the system including changes to non-domestic permitted development; removing the unintended consequence of the 2006 Act which requires an applicant to go through a 12 week pre-application consultation for applications under Section 42 of the Planning Act for a change to planning conditions; revising core guidance on Strategic Environmental Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment by the end of 2012; and ensuring the consenting process is fit for purpose, joined up and proportionate, reducing duplication of resources by exploring options of combining the consenting processes such as the alignment of planning permission with listed building consent.
Delivering development - the Scottish Government is committed to building the development economics and viability skills of planning authorities and have published resources, designed to assist; there is a Development Delivery Consultation in relation to current issues and opportunities for facilitating development and infrastructure provision; and there will be a pilot scheme on templates for Section 75 Agreements.

The minister confirmed that the measures are about fine tuning and not revisiting the changes already made. They include policy guidance, resources to inform good practice and some small legislative changes. The over-riding aim is to facilitate sustainable economic growth.

New Consultations

The following consultation papers have been published and the consultation periods run to 22 June 2012:

Consultation on Fees for Planning Applications 2012 - dealing with the scope of planning fees as well as proposed changes to the way in which fees are calculated in an attempt to introduce a stronger link with the performance of planning authorities (using the new Planning Performance Framework).
Development Plan Examinations Consultation 2012 - dealing with concerns about the effectiveness of the examination process. Four possible future options are presented and views sought on these.
Consultation on the General Permitted Development Amendment Order 2012 - suggests that PD rights be introduced in relation to access ramps, electric vehicle charging points, hard standings, minor extension of offices, open air markets, shop alterations etc. Also suggests limiting PD rights for formation of hill tracks.
Consultation on Miscellaneous Amendments to the Planning System 2012 - proposals for limited legislative change such as removing the requirement for pre-application consultation for Section 42 applications, allowing for a longer determination period for delegated local applications, and reviewing current requirements for applications for approval of matters specified in conditions.
Development Delivery Consultation 2012 - seeks views on new measures and innovations which the planning system could take to facilitate development and infrastructure as well as practice regarding Section 75 Agreements. It also floats the idea of a ‘Development Charge’ System in Scotland.