As part of preparing the secondary legislation that is required to support the implementation of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, the Scottish Government are currently consulting on how Local Place Plans should be prepared, what information they should contain and how they should be submitted and registered.

What are Local Place Plans?

The ongoing reform of the Scottish planning system began in 2015, when an Independent Panel were appointed by Scottish Ministers to undertake a review of the system. One of the key themes that the Independent Panel were asked to explore was how can community engagement and leadership be improved?

To empower residents, enable local people to identify their own development aspirations for their neighbourhoods and assist with building trust between communities, local authorities and developers, the Independent Panel recommended that communities should be able to create their own Local Place Plans.

The findings and recommendations of the Independent Panel’s report ‘Empowering planning to deliver great places’ formed the basis of subsequent public consultations, which led to the enactment of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 (‘the 2019 Act’) in summer 2019. Section 14 of the 2019 Act amends the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 and has introduced a new statutory right for ‘community bodies’ to prepare Local Place Plans. The 2019 Act defines a community body as a community council, established in accordance with Part 4 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, or a community-controlled body, as per Section 19 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.

It is envisioned that Local Place Plans will become tools for communities to use to spatially express how they would like land in their areas to be used or developed and that they will help communities to define any buildings that they consider to be of significance to their local neighbourhoods. As Local Place Plans will be prepared by communities, they will likely assist both planning authorities and developers to understand local aspirations or issues and where they should target development, infrastructure and/or services in response.

Local Place Plans are expected to supplement and support the statutory Development Plan and in preparing a Local Place Plan, community bodies will be required to have regard to the relevant Local Development Plan for their area, as well as the emerging National Planning Framework 4.

What are the Scottish Government asking?

The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 does not contain specific provisions on the content, preparation, submission or registration of Local Place Plans, so the Scottish Government are consulting on draft proposals for the framework of regulations that will guide the development of these documents.

Questions that the Scottish Government are currently inviting comments on include:-

  • Should Local Place Plans contain a statement setting out a community’s proposals, as well as a map of their area, defining the boundary of the Local Place Plan?
  • Should there be a requirement for community bodies to engage with and seek the views of people to assist in preparing a Local Place Plan?
  • Should there be a minimum statutory requirement for engaging with the public on a draft Local Place Plan and should this include obtaining the views of any Ward Councillors?
  • How should planning authorities register Local Place Plans?

What happens next?

The Scottish Government are inviting comments until 25 June 2021.

Thereafter, all responses received during the consultation will be analysed and the Scottish Government will publish a report setting out their key findings. This report will be used to inform the regulations on Local Place Plans, which are expected to come into force towards the end of the year.

How will Local Place Plans potentially affect you?

Although the emerging regulations will give the planning profession an indication as to what information Local Place Plans should contain, there is still a need for certainty around how these will actually look and function in practice.

Local Place Plans will represent a community’s aspirations for the future development or use of land in their areas, but what if community ambitions for their neighbourhoods are in conflict with existing or emerging planning policy, a site that is already allocated for a preferred use in a Local Development Plan or they present proposals that are not viable or deliverable?

Communities should have more influence in the future development of their neighbourhoods but as we recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is essential that the tools we are creating to support local residents do not indirectly create a barrier for the development sector. Ultimately, there is a balance that must be struck between community, local authority and developer interests and a recognition that for development to actually come forward on a site, it has to be reflective of market circumstances and economically viable for a developer to pursue.

For many of our clients there will be a real need to see the detail of any regulations proposed before these are implemented, to ensure that they can consider how these changes will affect them and their businesses.

It is also expected that local authorities will have a key role in helping communities to prepare Local Place Plans, but when they are already under immense pressure, will they have the resources to meaningfully support communities? It is also unclear what weight Local Place Plans will have when authorities are preparing a new Local Development Plan and if these documents will have a role in development management processes.

As the Scottish Government progress with the reform of the planning system, we expect further guidance will be prepared to support the emerging regulations, as well as the subsequent preparation of Local Place Plans.

Montagu Evans LLP are well placed to provide advice around this emerging policy position and would be pleased to discuss how we may assist you in responding to the consultation.  If you are interested in finding out more or submitting your views to the Scottish Government, please do not hesitate to get in touch. We will be more than happy to help.