The Review of the Scottish Planning System

Craig McLaren, Director of RTPI Scotland, outlines the work being undertaken on the review of the Scottish planning system

A review of the Scottish planning system was announced by Alex Neil MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights earlier this year, with further confirmation within the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2015-2016 which announced the intention to “review the planning system to increase delivery of high quality housing developments, by delivering a quicker more accessible and efficient process.”

The Scottish Government Programme for Government stated:

“We will review the operation of the planning system in Scotland, identifying the scope for further reform with a focus on delivering a quicker, more accessible and efficient planning process, in particular increasing delivery of high quality housing developments. Our aims are to:

  • Ensure that planning realises its full potential, unlocking land and sites, supporting more quality housing across all tenures and delivering the infrastructure required to support development.
  • Streamline, simplify and improve current systems and remove unnecessary blockages in the decision-making process.
  • Ensure that communities are more engaged in the process.
  • Continue to meet our statutory and international obligations in protecting and enhancing Scotland’s nature and environment.”

Review Panel

Scottish Government has announced that the review will be undertaken by an Independent Panel which will “provide a strategic perspective and will be open to ‘game-changing’ views and ideas”.

The panel will be chaired by Crawford Beveridge, and will also include Petra Biberbach of PAS and John Hamilton, Chair of the Scottish Property Federation. The panel have been tasked with bringing together ideas to achieve a quicker, more accessible and efficient planning process.


The Panel have set out the timetable for the review process and are expected to report in Spring 2016. Thereafter Scottish Ministers will respond to its recommendations with a programme for further targeted improvements to the planning system.

Key Issues

The review will focus on 6 key issues.

  • Development planning;
  • Housing delivery;
  • Planning for infrastructure;
  • Further improvements to development management;
  • Leadership, resourcing and skills; and
  • Community engagement.

Getting involved

The Panel has invited written evidence from all interested parties.  The closing date for written evidence is 1 December 2015.  There is a Call for Evidence guidance note and Questions to prompt discussion.  All evidence should be submitted to by 1 December 2015.

The Panel will also be inviting oral evidence from certain stakeholders.  The Panel has said that due to the timescales involved, oral evidence will be by invitation only and they will give careful consideration to which parties to invite.  Invitations will be issued in late November. Given the focused timescale for the review, the panel is unlikely to be able to hear oral evidence from everyone with an interest in planning and so encourage all parties to take the opportunity to participate through the call for written evidence.

As well as providing written and/or oral evidence to the Independent Panel, a key aspect of the planning review for RTPI Scotland will be to ensure that the Membership engages in the process as much as possible. We will be holding a number of workshop sessions with the Chapters and will focus the December edition of the Scottish Planner on the review so as to stimulate discussion.

We are also keen to hear Members’ thoughts and ideas so please feel free to comment through this blog or by Twitter on @RTPIScotland using the #sgplanningreview hashtag.

3 thoughts on “The Review of the Scottish Planning System

  1. That significant change is required in the delivery of new housing and development generally is surely something we can all agree with…even though there may be differences of opinion as to the solution. It is therefore vital that we as a profession contribute to both the diagnosis as well as the remedy. Both of these will undoubtedly extend well beyond the confines of the planning system.

  2. To speed up Local Development Planning, suggest removing obligation for comprehensive geographic coverage. Concentrate on areas where there is high development pressure, rather than the “one house every five years” rural areas. General, regional/national planning policies could cover such low-pressure areas. Local Authorities could also create Development Plans for low-pressure areas they wish to actively promote. Developers could also be permitted to supplement/complement Local Development Plans for large development sites outwith the LA LDPs coverage. Aforesaid ‘privately-promoted’ supplementary LDPs would go through the same consultation process as LA plans, and be adopted as part of the LA’s Local Development Plans portfolio for their area.

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