Scottish Planning

Summary of recent developments

The following is the text of an email received from the Chief Planner of Scotland, Mr John McNairney, outlining recent developments in Scottish planning. 

I am writing to you to provide a general update on progress with the review of planning. Over the summer a range of related workstreams have been progressing and we remain on target to introduce a Planning Bill by the end of this year. I'm providing a summary of key workstreams below but more information is available on our webpages at

Review of Planning

Our Places, People and Planning Consultation set out 20 proposals for change. It secured over 470 written responses and prompted a large number of events and conversations. Such high engagement levels provided an excellent evidence base for us to refine our proposals and in June we published our Position Statement. The Position Statement focuses on the technical matters and legislative issues but acknowledges that they are one part of a wider programme of reform.

We invited comment on the Position Statement and the accompanying Strategic Environmental Assessment and were again very encouraged by the number of responses. The individual responses are available on our website and we will shortly publish an analysis of responses report, which Kevin Murray and Associates have prepared.

Some stakeholders felt that more detail might have been provided in the position statement in terms of how proposals could work and on timings and transitional arrangements. It is important to say that there is still a substantial process ahead and I want to reassure stakeholders that we will maintain high levels of engagement as things progress.

We are in the process of developing a detailed process to support understanding of how the provisions being taken forward might work in practice. We will discuss the content further with the working groups which we are convening on 2 October. We will ensure that relevant papers are available online thereafter.

The Planning Bill is only one part of the process, and much more can be done outwith legislation to support the planning review. Whilst our current priority is to ensure we are prepared for the Bill, there are a range of other projects being progressed which are all aimed at realising the aims and aspirations of the review. To help stakeholders to understand how this all fits together, next week we will provide some additional information on our review webpage. There will be diagrams showing the overall programme of work and information on each proposal setting out whether legislation is needed to implement and what progress has been made. This information will be updated as we go forward.

Planning Bill Timetable

We are working towards introducing a Planning Bill to the Scottish Parliament around the end of 2017. Following Introduction, the Committee considering the Bill will usually issue a call for written evidence, and invite key stakeholders to give evidence in person. They may also arrange other consultation events to hear views on the Bill and I would encourage you to take part in this process. Completion of the Bill is subject to the Parliament's timetable, but we would expect it to be passed by the end of June 2018.

Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment

Following the consultation, we are now seeking further information to identify the potential financial implications of our proposals. Whilst we appreciate it is difficult to put exact costs on certain elements at this stage, it is important to gather as much information as we can to assist with scrutiny of the Bill, and this can then be developed as more detail emerges. We have already contacted some targeted interests for this purpose, but if you would like to contribute to the exercise, please get in touch.

Housing Delivery Advice

Last year we consulted on draft advice on housing delivery. Whilst stakeholders agreed with much of the content there remains disagreement on key elements around the provision of an effective housing land supply. Given the advanced stage of the planning review we want to avoid any conflict between established planning policy and guidance contained in SPP and supporting documents and the draft advice note. Accordingly we are minded to withdraw the draft advice. We have separately launched the advice note on Build to Rent and will pursue an agreed process for establishing an effective land supply as a supporting workstream to the planning review. The Build to Rent guidance is available here:

In the meantime the terms of circular 2/2010 and SPP remain in force to provide policy context.

Digital Taskforce

The Digital Task Force, chaired by the Minister for Local Government and Housing, held its first meeting on 23 August, where they agreed their vision, terms of reference, principles and approach. The group aims to deliver a digital planning strategy by autumn 2018. Further information is available on our website.


The annual planning performance statistics for 2016/17 were published over the summer. There were 246 major applications determined within the period, which took an average of 37 weeks. In 2016/17, over 26,000 applications were determined within 9.2 weeks, the quickest since 2010. This includes almost 5,000 local housing applications determined within 12.7 weeks.

We have now received Planning Performance Frameworks from all planning authorities and will provide feedback as soon as we can. The next High Level Group on Performance is scheduled for the end of October. The group, which is jointly chaired by the Minister for Local Government and Housing and the COSLA Spokesperson for Environment and Economy, agreed to use the next meeting to refine and update their remit to ensure they are focused on supporting reform. We will update you following the meeting.

A Nation with Ambition

On 5 September, the Scottish Government published A Nation with Ambition: The Government's Programme for Scotland 2017-18. It notes that the review of the planning system highlighted the importance of infrastructure to unlock opportunities for development and housing supply. Key issues for planning include:

• the introduction of a Planning Bill to improve the system of development     planning, give people a greater say in the future of their places and deliver planned development. 

• actions to support inclusive growth and investment such as a new approach to Simplified Planning Zones, modernising Compulsory Purchase Orders and building on our eDevelopment services with the Digital Taskforce. 

• reviewing the National Planning Framework and strengthening its alignment with wider strategies and programmes, 

• use new powers to restrict the over-provision of betting shops and payday lenders on our high streets, explore how food outlets in the vicinity of schools can be better controlled and work with local authorities to support people to live an active lifestyle through access to walking, cycling and places to participate in physical activity. 

• support the increased delivery of self-build and custom-build homes and expand the options available to provide more flexibility for both individual homeowners and the construction industry. This will include Simplified Planning Zones for housing, in recognition of the significant opportunities for the self-build and custom-build sector.

Compulsory Purchase Orders

I noted in my last letter that a team had been formed in PAD to take forward Ministers commitment to reforming Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) and supporting local authorities to utilise existing CPO powers. The team has met a number of local authorities to understand recent utilisation of CPO, the barriers to wider use and what support we can provide. New guidance on the CPO process for acquiring authorities is currently being drafted and will be shared widely for comment shortly. In the meantime the team would be happy to meet with anyone who wishes to share their recent experience of, or who is considering the use of, compulsory purchase. Please let us know if you would like to take up this offer.


In 2017-18 we are broadening the scope of the previous design charrette programme to support a wider range of participative design events. The initiative will support design processes in many forms, from intensive working over a few days to projects that adopt a slower pace over a longer timescale, or short workshops with key groups. In addition, we will be working with Architecture & Design Scotland to support communities keen to develop their capacity or those who are moving forward with the delivery of previous design processes through the Community Capacity Building and Community Delivery support initiatives.


Research projects to support the review are ongoing. The work by Peter Brett Associates, Brodies and Traderisks on an infrastructure levy is now complete with Stage 3 being published shortly. Similarly, research (commissioned jointly with Historic Environment Scotland, SEPA and SNH) on Strategic Environmental Assessment to inform the review of planning is close to completion and will be published in due course. We will be commissioning further work on permitted development rights, information to support site allocations in development plans, and aligning consents in the coming months. Work on a number of development plan exemplars and pilots is also ongoing.

I hope that this update has been useful. Should you wish any further information on any of the above points, please contact us at Additional information about our current workstreams can be found at:


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