The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 was placed on the statute book at the end of July and Local Development Plans remain a key component of the Development Plan although the process for preparing them is changed quite significantly and notably the opportunity to comment on emerging plans is significantly restricted.
In preparing an LDP the planning authority must have regard to any adopted Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS). RSSs will replace Strategic Development Plans and are to be prepared without delay once that provision of the Act comes into force. RSSs will be prepared by one or more planning authority working together; they will sit outside the development plan and so will not directly influence development management decisions; and, interestingly, Scottish Ministers can direct a planning authority/ies to prepare and adopt an RSS for a particular region or direct a review on an adopted RSS.
New provisions are introduced stating that: the LDP must also include targets for meeting the housing needs of people living in the part of the district to which it relates and a statement of the planning authority’s policies and proposals as to the provision of public conveniences and water refill locations.
In addition, the LDP must consider:
any local outcomes improvement plan
housing needs including, in particular, the needs of students, older people and disabled people; housing land, including for older people and disabled people; and, a list of persons seeking land for self-build in the authority’s area
health and education needs and the likely effects of development and use of land on those needs
the capacity of education services in the district
the extent to which there are rural areas within the district in relation to which there has been a substantial decline in population and, the desirability of allocating land for the purposes of resettlement
the desirability of maintaining an appropriate number and range of cultural venues and facilities (including in particular, but not limited to, live music venues) in the district
the desirability of preserving disused rail lines for future public transport
The Main Issue Report is no more. Instead the first thing prepared is the Evidence Report which is to set out the planning authorities view on land use in the area to that that the LDP relates. In addition, the evidence report is to include a statement on the steps taken by the planning authority in preparing the report to seek the views of the public at large, including in particular the views of disabled persons, Gypsies and Travellers, and children and young people but not the development industry! Also, the steps taken by the planning authority in preparing the report to seek the views of community councils, and the extent to which the views expressed have been taken into account in the report.
The Evidence Report is to be approved by the Planning Authority and then sent to Scottish Ministers for approval. Once submitted a representative of the Scottish Ministers will assess whether the report contains sufficient information to enable the planning authority to prepare a LDP. If it is deemed that it is not sufficient the evidence report is to be revised and resubmitted by the Planning Authority.
Once prepared the planning authority should publish the proposed LDP and Evidence Report at the same time. Before publishing the proposed LDP the local planning authority must have approved it.
The provision for consultation of the proposed plan remains largely unchanged and an examination is still to take place.
A new provision states that if the person appointed to undertake the examination is not satisfied that the amount of land allocated for housing is sufficient they may give notice to the planning authority and another proposed plan is to be prepared.
Delivery Plans are now required instead of Action Plans.
So, to sum up, a couple of observations. For LDPs it is Evidence Report then straight to Proposed Plan. Consultation is to happen on the Evidence Report and so the development industry needs to sharpen pencils at that point and challenge any assumptions that you think the planning authority might make in terms of land allocations, housing numbers etc. After that the process seems to be much the same as before with representations invited for the Proposed Plan and an examination. But, is there a danger that challenge will be limited because the evidence is already approved much in the way that Reporters have been unwilling to discuss Housing Need and Demand Assessments (HNDAs) at examination because they have already been approved. Clearly that further strengthens the case for being prepared and putting the arguments in up front at the evidence base stage and following them through to examination. The new provision that means that Proposed Plans can be rejected if there is not a sufficient amount of land allocated for housing should be welcomed.
And, to conclude we will have a new process but it is unclear whether much will change as a result. Unless the explicit provisions that allows evidence reports to be rejected because they are insufficient or LDPs to be sent back for failing to meet housing needs are used properly. At least the “just prepare an SPG to plug the gaps” option has been removed. Supplementary Guidance is no more.
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