The Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006 received Royal Assent in December of last year. This new piece of legislation has promised the most radical changes to the Scottish planning system in over a decade. Secondary legislation has now been passed which brings the following parts of the Act into force on 1 April 2007.

  • Provisions of the Act relating to the National Planning Framework.
  • Changes in relation to marine fish farms.
  • New requirements in relation to the public availability of information as to how planning applications have been dealt with.
  • Changes to call in of applications by the Scottish Ministers.
  • Provisions in relation to enforcement charters.
  • Amendments to tree preservation orders.
  • Provisions of the Act relating to Business Improvement Districts.
  • Changes in relation to National Scenic Areas, but only for the purpose of enabling regulations to be made and guidance to be issued.

National Planning Framework

The National Planning Framework is to set out in broad terms how the Scottish Ministers consider that the development of land could and should occur. The Act prescribes that the National Planning Framework must include both a strategy for Scotland's spatial development and a statement of what the Scottish Ministers consider to be priorities for that development. The statutory provisions allow the Scottish Ministers to identify specific developments and, where appropriate, designate a development or a class of developments as "a national development". The Act introduces new mechanisms for adoption of the Framework and elevates it to statutory status for the first time. These provisions will come into force next month.

For more information, see the Planning and Environment bulletin dated 16 January 2007.

Availability of Information on Planning Applications

The existing legislation places an obligation on planning authorities to keep a register of planning applications which are received and the manner in which each application is dealt with. These registers are to be made available to the public for inspection at all reasonable hours.

The 2006 Act introduces some changes to the current regime. From 1 April 2007, the public register must include all documents to which the local planning authority had regard when dealing with each application, any pre-application consultation report or any other matter which was treated as a material consideration.

It is expected that this legislation will require changes to be made to the current practice of some local authorities and may extend to an obligation to make any letters of objection or representation available to developers in all cases.

Call in of applications by the Scottish Ministers

Under the current legislative regime, a call in by the Scottish Ministers of any application for planning permission removes the ability of the local planning authority to determine that application, even where there has been a change in the circumstances which led to the call in.

Provisions of the 2006 Act come into force on 1 April 2007 which entitle the Scottish Ministers to withdraw or modify any direction which has been made requiring that an application is referred to them for determination.

This is a change which will be welcomed by local authorities and developers alike.

Enforcement Charters

The 2006 Act places an obligation on local authorities to prepare an enforcement charter setting out a statement of its policies in relation to taking enforcement action and details of how members of the public are to bring any perceived breach of planning control to its attention. The enforcement charter should be kept under review and updated on request by the Scottish Ministers or every two years.

The Scottish Minsters may issue guidance on the content of enforcement charters which must be taken into account by local planning authorities.

This obligation comes into force on 1 April 2007.

Tree Preservation Orders

The 2006 Act also makes a minor alteration to the provisions relating to tree preservation orders by extending the obligation on planning authorities to ensure that adequate provision is made when granting planning permission for the protection of trees to both the planning authority and the Scottish Ministers as appropriate.

This change takes effect on 1 April 2007

Business Improvement Districts

Provisions under the 2006 Act which introduce measures for the creation and management of Business Improvement Districts were brought partially into force on 6 February 2007, for the purpose of enabling regulations to be made. These provisions will take full force and effect from 1 April 2007.

Business Improvement District arrangements may be made by any local authority to enable projects to be carried out for the benefit of the business improvement district, or those who live, work or carry out any activity in the district. Such arrangements may include a requirement to make additional financial contributions towards or take specific action towards improving the district.

Also in force…

Other provisions of the Act which have already come into force include;

  • New procedures detailing the manner in which applications for planning permission are to be dealt with. These were brought into force in part on 1 March 2007. For more information see the Planning and Environment bulletin dated 8 February 2007.
  • Consequential provisions relating to interpretation of the 2006 Act and incidental changes to the existing legislation were brought into force on 6 February 2007.

The Planning etc. (Scotland) Act will be brought into force in various stages, with secondary legislation confirming commencement dates being introduced over time. Developers and local authorities alike should be aware of these commencement dates to ensure that the correct procedures are being adopted.

The Scottish Executive has produced its timetable for consultation on substantive regulations to be introduced in implementation of the Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006. All parties with an interest in the Scottish planning system should be aware of and participate in the consultation programme to influence the future of the planning system.