Planning update from the Chief Planner, Scotland

Planning update from Scotland's Chief Planner

Consultation responses
The consultation period for the planning review, Places, people and planning closed on 4 April. The 450 responses are currently being analysed independently and we expect to receive a final report by the end of May. The analysis will then inform decisions by Ministers on policy to be included in future legislation.  Detailed policy and technical consideration of the responses is being taken forward.

Currently our aspiration remains for a Planning Bill being drafted towards the end of 2017. The proposals set out in the consultation built on the recommendations of the independent review panel with sections covering spatial planning, public involvement, housing delivery and infrastructure and leadership and resources.  Responses to the consultation can be found at:

The policy development process is being supported by a range of research projects. Work now published on our webpages includes planning permission in principle for sites in development plans, 3-D Visualisation, barriers to planning enforcement, options for an infrastructure levy, skills development, progressing a graduate intern scheme and shared services. This material can be viewed online at

On-going research includes validation, simplified planning zones, permitted development, strategic environmental assessment, comparative planning (appeals and examinations) and barriers to involvement in planning. These will be available on the above link on publication.  We are currently prioritising a further programme of research to support the review as it moves forward.

Community Engagement
We are continuing with the implementation of the Place Standard with digital enhancement of the tool a key priority for this year. Many of this year's Charrettes are underway and we will continue to support the work of PAS and Architecture and Design Scotland in providing capacity building projects and offering advice to communities across Scotland.

Pilot work is progressing on development ready zones looking at how we might build on existing provisions for Simplified Planning Zones and support more effective development delivery. Pilot work also includes stronger management of s75 obligations and we are exploring options to work with development plan teams to test ideas further later in the year. Linked to support for infrastructure delivery are working group discussions with SFT, Agencies and core Scottish Government officials on planning for education infrastructure.

Fees and Performance
Regulations promoting an increase in the maximum fee level were laid in the parliament following the findings and recommendations of the independent review panel and public consultation on the issue. Consultation responses and the analysis of these is available online. The regulations relate to an increase in the fee maximum only. Local developments (including up to 50 houses) are not affected by the increase which will result in a fee maximum at 50% of that currently in operation elsewhere in the UK. In confirming the increase, Ministers underline the importance of a continued improvement in performance. Subject to parliamentary scrutiny, we expect the new maximum fee level to come into force on 1 June.

Statistics covering the processing of planning applications are published quarterly and can be viewed at   There are currently in the region of 37,000 applications processed in Scotland. Average processing times for major developments can vary significantly given the relatively small number in the system and the impacts of legacy cases emerging from the system and legal agreements being negotiated. The last quarter showed average processing times for major housing developments of 39.1 weeks (32 cases) and 12.8 weeks for local housing developments (1210 cases). We are committed to working with Business and with the High Level Group to improve performance and better understand mechanisms for improving development delivery. Ministers support the wider use of processing agreements for complex applications. While use of these has increased in recent years, timescales are not currently reflected in published figures.

The regime legislation was laid in the Scottish Parliament in time to allow it to come into effect on 16  May 2017.  Related guidance has also been published online.

Following publication of Research on Permitted Development Rights and Planning Guidance for Electronic Communications Infrastructure, we consulted on detailed legislative proposals for the further Relaxation of Planning controls for Digital Communications Infrastructure. The analysis of consultation responses will be published shortly and we intend bringing forward legislation at the earliest opportunity.

Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO)
The review of CPO will be carried out in stages starting with improved guidance and moving to legislation at a later stage. A team lead by Neil Langhorn has been established to take this work forward. A full consultation has separately been carried out on our behalf by the Scottish Law Commission.

I hope that you find this update helpful. Should you want to clarify any of the above points or need additional information please contact my team on