Scotland planning news, December 2020


Scotland planning news, December 2020

09 Dec 2020



Headline news



Guidance published on transitional arrangements for NP4

The Scottish Government has published guidance supporting the transitional arrangements for development plans in view of the introduction of the NPF4, in order to enable a smooth changeover, and reducing the need for planning authorities to revisit work already completed on local development plans.
The guidance states that the NPF4 is expected to be adopted around spring/summer 2022. Once the new system is in place the Scottish Government has stated that the ‘new style’ plans should be brought forward in a timely fashion, stating that it envisages every planning authority in Scotland to have “new style” local development plans in place within 5 years of the new development plan regulations coming into force.
The guidance note also states that upon adoption of the NPF4:
  • “NPF4 will become part of the development plan and upon its publication all strategic development plans and any supplementary guidance issued in connection with them cease to have effect;

  • “Upon the adoption of a local development plan any supplementary guidance issued in connection with a previous local development plan for that area ceases to have effect.
The letter also states that the Scottish Government will seek to work with authorities producing plans under the current system so as to help “future proof” these, in order to account for elements of the emerging NPF4 when preparing local development plans under the current system.

Scottish Government, The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 development planning – transitional guidance



Quote of the month


Our Digital Planning team has been hearing about the experiences of people who work within planning, and also of those who participate in various ways. We’ve learned about what works well, what could work better, and how digital transformation can help deliver positive impacts and outcomes at both the local and national levels. We’re now preparing to put our findings into action, and over the next five years we will be building a world-leading digital planning system, helping connect people with their places, influence positive change, strengthen decision-making and focus on delivery of high-quality planned development.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart, launching Scotland’s Digital Strategy for Planning


Scottish Government publishes a Position Statement on National Planning Framework 4

The Scottish Government has also published a Position Statement setting out the Scottish Government's current thinking on the issues that will need to be addressed when preparing Scotland's fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4) and is inviting comments until 19 February 2021.
Of particular note, the Position Statement lists 12 key opportunities to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045:
  1. Building 20 minute neighbourhoods, including guiding change in a way that also helps to transform our existing places.

  2. Introducing a stronger preference for reusing existing buildings before new development proceeds.

  3. Shifting future development away from greenfield land including by actively enabling the redevelopment of vacant and derelict land.

  4. Strengthening our support for development in town centres and restricting out-of-town retail and leisure to help us transition away from car-dependent developments towards those that enable walking, cycling, wheeling and public transport accessibility.

  5. Stimulating new models of low carbon living in our rural areas as well as our towns and cities, by facilitating further investment in digital infrastructure, building in more space for people to work remotely and creating community hubs.

  6. Expecting low and zero carbon design and energy efficiency, for example by actively encouraging much wider use of sustainable and recycled materials in new developments.

  7. Significantly strengthening our policies to secure low carbon heating solutions.

  8. Supporting renewable energy developments, including the re-powering and extension of existing wind farms, new and replacement grid infrastructure, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen networks.

  9. Harnessing the potential for rural development to act as a lever to facilitate woodland creation and expansion.

  10. Expanding green infrastructure, biodiversity and natural spaces to make our places greener, healthier and more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

  11. Restricting peat extraction and development on peatland, and facilitating restoration through permitted development rights.

  12. Removing the need for planning permission for active travel and electric vehicle charging points to ensure that we can roll-out new infrastructure widely and quickly.

Scottish Government, Fourth National Planning Framework: position statement

NPF4 to better address air quality outcomes

Research commissioned by the Scottish Government has been published which looks set to shape future policies within the upcoming NPF4 with a view to improving outcomes on air quality.
Through examining local planning policy across Scotland, the research identified a divergence in approaches to policy making on matters relating to air quality. The report recognises that NPF4 presents an opportunity to introduce greater consistency as to how planning policy addresses issues regarding air quality across Scotland.  It suggests that a sufficiently prescriptive air quality policy could be included within NPF4, requiring development proposals to assess the impact on air quality and set out any requirements for mitigation needed.
It also suggests that air quality improvements could be addressed across other areas of national policy, including those related to transport, placemaking and behavioural change.
Integration of a sufficiently prescriptive policy within national policy would remove the need for Local Planning Authorities to develop their own individual policies; however, the report does emphasise that there may be local factors that require a more tailored approach within local authority planning documents.
As discussed above, the Scottish Government expects the NPF4 to be adopted around spring/summer 2022.

Scottish Government, National Planning Framework 4 - improving air quality outcomes: research

Planning Obligations and ‘good neighbour’ Circular

The Scottish Government has published a revised Circular outlining its expectations for local authorities and applicants undertaking S75 agreements, detailing the appropriate circumstances where planning obligations and good neighbour agreements should be used.  The Circular is a revised version of Circular 1/2010, reflecting legislative changes that came into force on 18 November 2020 (see link below) which amend 75A and 75B of the 1997 Act which allow greater flexibility over the modification or discharge of planning obligations previously entered into.
The Circular summarises existing policy from the Scottish Government on the use of planning obligations and unilateral obligations, as well as good neighbour agreements, and provides an overview of the legislative framework for these under Section 75 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, and the legal tests to which such agreements should accord.
The Circular makes clear that agreements should be reached in a timely manner, stating they should not delay the benefits of appropriately planned developments, ‘nor add significant costs for developers and infrastructure providers.’

Scottish Government, Planning Circular 3/2012: Planning Obligations And Good Neighbour Agreements (Revised 2020)The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 (Commencement No. 5 and Saving, Transitional and Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2020

Ayrshire Growth Deal signed

The Scottish Secretary has confirmed the Ayrshire Growth Deal has been agreed, with implementation and finances secured for £251 million of investment for the region.
The deal will support the development of key strategic sites and support key sectors in the Ayrshire region, helping to leverage further private sector investment of more than £300 million, with the aim of supporting the creation of up to 7,000 new jobs.
The program is expected to be delivered over a 15-year period. The majority of the planned projects will focus investment on infrastructure, with fifteen major place-based projects lined up, focused on regeneration, research and innovation, infrastructure, tourism, marine science and aerospace technology. These include support for the delivery of the Ayrshire Manufacturing Investment Corridor, the National Energy Research Demonstrator Project (NERD, and £11 million for a subsea fibre optic cable.
Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack commented “This is a landmark moment for Ayrshire. The deal we have agreed today will have a profound positive impact on the region for generations to come.”

MHCLG, £251 million Ayrshire Growth Deal signed

Investment in five-year program to boost digital planning

The Scottish Government has announced it is investing £35 million into a five year program that looks set to transform the way planners and the public interact with the planning system.
The program is founded upon 5 core mission objectives:
  • Unlock the value of planning data;
  • Deliver an end-to-end digital planning experience;
  • Create the conditions for digital to flourish
  • Use digital tools to drive collaboration and engagement; and
  • Embed a culture of digital innovation.
Development on the new data and technology system is set to begin in 2021, following the launch of Transforming Places Together: Scotland’s Digital Strategy for Planning. Dovetailing with Scotland wider digital strategy, the program seeks to deliver better public services based around user needs, whilst also stimulating innovation through improving access to public data.
Key aspects of the program include development a more streamlined application process, utilising location data to identify area specific policies for applications, as well as an automated validation process aimed at reducing human error and reducing the time between the submission of documents and the beginning of the decision making process.
The strategy will also look at how improvements to development management can be made, through better organisation and tracking of submitted documents, as well as greater collaboration with applicants on certain aspects of an application, allowing planners to add comments in specific areas of a document, to either ask questions or clarify points.
The digitisation and mapping of location data is also intended to support developers to identify suitable sites for development, as well as aiding those wishing to to make comments on certain development sites. Prototypes so far have trialled searchable maps, allowing users to toggle between different layers and view specific types of applications. This would also enable local communities and other interested parties to view the status of development sites they proceed through the planning process; whilst online visual tools will help users understand the value and impact of individual planning proposals and decisions.
The improved management of data is also hoped to improve the plan-making process, by creating closer links to the development management, allowing policies, objectives, and monitoring data to inform both. Access to open data in real time should allow for more accurate, evidenced policy and decisions, whilst also making it easier for cross-boundary and strategic planning, through more efficient sharing of information and resources.

Scottish Government, Transforming planning for the digital age

Affordable housing program for rural and island communities to be extended

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart has confirmed plans to extend a five-year programme to fund affordable housing projects in rural and island communities.
The £30 million Rural and Islands Housing Fund will now run until March 2021.

Scottish Government, affordable housing for rural and island communities


Disclaimer: This publication has been written in general terms and cannot be relied on to cover specific situations. We recommend that you obtain professional advice before acting or refraining from acting on any of the contents of this publication. Lichfields accepts no duty of care or liability for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from acting as a result of any material in this publication. Lichfields is the trading name of Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners Limited. Registered in England, no.2778116