Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006 - Development Plan Framework

The Planning etc (Scotland) Act 2006 ("the 2006 Act") received Royal Assent on 20 December 2006.  The 2006 Act will be brought into effect by regulations to be passed by the Scottish Parliament.  

This article examines the impact of the new statutory provisions on the existing development plan structure and its role in development management.

23rd January 2007

The Planning etc (Scotland) Act 2006 ("the 2006 Act") received Royal Assent on 20 December 2006.  The 2006 Act will be brought into effect by regulations to be passed by the Scottish Parliament.  

This article examines the impact of the new statutory provisions on the existing development plan structure and its role in development management.

  • The 2006 Act will repeal current statutory provisions relating to the preparation and use of development plans.
  • The 2006 Act will abolish structure plans.
  • A single tier of local development plans will aim to provide a more focussed approach to development management.
  • The Scottish Ministers will nominate specific groups of planning authorities to prepare Strategic Development Plans for certain designated areas only.
  • Each strategic development plan is to be accompanied by an action programme, updated every two years.

The need for change

In Modernising the Planning System, The White Paper which introduced the Planning etc (Scotland) Bill, the Scottish Executive identified that, under the current development plan led system of development control, 70% of local plans are currently over 5 years old and that around 20% are more than 15 years old.  The White Paper comments that this situation has contributed to a planning system which creates uncertainty for developers and local people.  As development plans become outdated, the development control process becomes more complex and less accessible, less transparent and ultimately less efficient.

When the 2006 Act comes into force, it will repeal the current legislative provisions in relation to structure and local plans.  In an aim to reposition development plans at the centre of the development management process and to restore confidence in the planning system, the 2006 Act introduces a new development plan regime.  There will be a new development plan hierarchy, with the National Planning Framework, Strategic Development Plans and Local Development Plans each having a role in the development management framework.  However, it is anticipated that in the majority of instances development control will be focussed upon one local plan tier.

Strategic Development Plans

Under the 2006 Act, the Scottish Ministers may designate a group of planning authorities to jointly prepare a Strategic Development Plan (SDP), with no part of the SDP area falling outwith the districts of the designated groups.  There is no statutory restriction upon the areas to be covered by an SDP, with discretion reserved to the Ministers to identify areas by regulations.  However, the White Paper envisages that SDPs will be restricted to the four major city regions of Scotland, with all other areas subject to one tier of local plan development management.

An SDP is to be a plan which sets out a vision statement of strategic development within the relevant area.  It should provide a spatial strategy with a statement of proposals for land use.  It should provide an analysis of the relationship between the vision statement and spatial strategy and land use in contiguous districts.

The SDP Authority must have regard to the National Planning Framework as a material consideration in preparing an SDP, together with any other materials which it considers to be relevant.

Participation

In preparing an SDP, the SDP Authority (as representatives of the constituent planning authorities within the SDP area will be known) must publish a Mains Issue Report setting out strategic development proposals.  In compiling this report, the views of key agencies (not yet identified but to be nominated by regulation), constituent planning authorities of the SDP Authority and any other prescribed persons must be sought.  The SDP Authority must take steps to ensure that each of these stakeholders is aware of the Mains Issue Report and has adequate opportunity to comment upon it.  However, the consultation process is not exclusive to these classes identified in the statute – any person whomsoever may make representations to the SDP Authority on the content of the Mains Issue Report.

Parties with an interest in development within the major city regions should be aware of the progress of Main Issues Reports to ensure that they can participate in the consultation process.

At the end of the period for comment upon the Mains Issue Report, the SDP Authority will prepare a Proposed SDP and notify any person who made representations in relation to the Mains Issues Report that it has been published.  There will follow a period of not less than six weeks in which representations may be made on the Proposed SDP.  Where the SDP Authority considers that changes suggested as part of the consultation process would not impact upon the strategic and spatial aims of the SDP, it may modify the draft.   Any modified draft will be subject to further public consultation. 

Following this procedure, the Proposed SDP is to be submitted to the Scottish Ministers, together with a report detailing each of the representations received and how these were treated.  If the Ministers consider it appropriate, they may appoint someone to examine the SDP.  While not expressly provided for in the legislation, it is likely that such a reference would be to a Reporter appointed by the Scottish Executive Inquiry Reporter's Unit for examination at public inquiry.  The Scottish Ministers may approve the Proposed SDP in whole or in part (with or without modifications) or reject it.

Once approved, the SDP Authority must keep the SDP under review.  Changes to the principal physical, economic, social and environmental characteristics of the SDP area must be monitored, together with the impact of SDP policies and plans. There is an obligation on the SDP Authority to publish a further Main Issues Report in relation to its programme of review.  Where there is an SDP in place, a Proposed SDP must be submitted to the Scottish Ministers within four years of the date of approval of the current plan.

Action Programmes

Action programmes will be prepared in relation to both local plans and SDPs.  These will set out how the relevant authority intends to implement the plan policies to which it relates.  The action programme must be adopted and published within three months of the date on which the plan to which it relates in constituted.

The action programme is to be kept under review and updated whenever the Ministers think fit, but no less frequently than every two years.  Further regulations will be introduced to specify the manner in which action programmes are to be prepared and published. 

Parties with an interest in development within the major city regions should be aware of the progress of Main Issues Reports to ensure that they can participate in the consultation process leading to SDP preparation and review.

Local development plans will continue to apply to every local planning authority region in Scotland.

Action programmes will set out how the planning authority intends to implement the aims and objectives of local and strategic development plans.