The independent panel appointed by the Scottish Ministers to undertake a review of the Scottish Planning System have published their report, Empowering Planning to deliver great places, and it has been passed to the Scottish Government to consider the 48 recommendations the report contains.

Development Plans

  • To simplify the system, strategic development plans should be replaced by an enhanced National Planning Framework, which should be more fully integrated with wider government policies and strategies.
  • Local Development Plans should be moved from a 5 year cycle to a 10 year cycle and the plan preparation process should be simplified by removing the Main Issues Report stage.
  • Development plans should go through a front-loaded independent ‘gatecheck’ before detailed preparation commences to agree the key parameters of the plan and hopefully remove the requirement for Examinations at the end of the process.

Housing Delivery

  • Regional housing delivery targets should be delivered nationally, within the National Planning Framework.
  • Clarity is required on the meaning of “effective” housing land in relation to maintaining a 5 year supply.
  • Mechanisms should be put in place to allow planning authorities to assemble land and provide infrastructure upfront.

Infrastructure 

  • A national infrastructure body should be set up with statutory powers which would bring together all infrastructure providers and planning representatives.
  • A consultation should be carried out on options for a national or regional infrastructure levy (learning from the Community Infrastructure Levy in England and Wales) and a development delivery infrastructure fund should be set up.

Development Management

  • Processing Agreements should be required for all major developments.
  • The certainty provided by the development plan in development management should be strengthened, including affording allocated sites planning permission in principle, pre-application consultation exemptions and fast-track appeals.
  • A working group should be established to identify areas to extend permitted development rights and a study should be carried out to look at combined consent processes.

Leadership, Resourcing and Skills

  • Planning fees for major applications should be substantially increased to move towards full cost recovery for the service.
  • Local authorities should pursue the establishment of shared services.

Collaboration

  • Communities should be encouraged to bring forward their own local place plans.
  • Improved early engagement is preferred to introducing third party right of appeal.

The Scottish Government are expected to give their response to the report later this year.