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2017: A Pivotal Year for Planning in Scotland?

24 January 2017 Author: Stefano Smith

2017 is potentially a pivotal year for planning in Scotland. There will be a number of uncertainties and opportunities including:

  1. the Planning Review (imminent Consultation Paper and subsequent Planning Bill)
  2. various Scottish Government consultations on planning-related matters
  3. Brexit
  4. the Local Government elections.

Planning Review

This year will begin with Scottish Government publishing its consultation paper on the future of the Scottish planning system. This will, of course, be based upon the working groups discussions organised by Scottish Government and a range of research it has commissioned. RTPI Scotland has already set out a number of key game-changers in our document ‘Repositioning Planning’  which looked to establishing a statutory Chief Planning Officer in local authorities; exploring the concept of a community right to plan; ensuring full cost recovery for planning applications; and introducing a new National Development Plan to replace the National Planning Framework. It looks like the consultation paper will cover a range of issues such as planning for housing, infrastructure, community engagement, development plans, resourcing and the performance of planning authorities and it will act as a springboard for further work including a Planning Bill, secondary legislation, guidance, advice and culture change initiatives. The Scottish Parliament will,  therefore, have an important role in scrutinising planning and the planning system throughout the year.

Scottish Government Planning-related Consultations

Scottish Government will respond to the current consultation on raising planning fees maximums. This will be followed up with a further consultation on a more fundamental review of the structure and level of fees.

There will be a range of other consultations and reviews taking place in 2017 that could have ramifications for planning. We have seen the start of the review of the National Transport Strategy – RTPI Scotland has already said that this needs to be more closely aligned with the National Planning Framework.  City Deals will continue to be developed across Scotland. If we want to maximise the transformational value that these can bring then we need to ensure that the investments are closely aligned to development plans.

There will be further regulation and guidance arising from the Community Empowerment Act and we need to ensure that this recognises the need to better link community planning and spatial planning.  We will see more detail emerge on the review of enterprise agencies – something that planning needs to be aware of.

Work should begin in reviewing the Scottish Government’s Report on Proposals and Policies aimed at meeting emissions reduction targets. RTPI Scotland has already given evidence to the Scottish Parliament on this. We should also hear more of the findings of Scottish Government commissioned research on unconventional oil and gas which should then lead to a consultation on to help them establish policy on this and if the current embargo should continue.


The year will see the UK Government trigger Article 50 which will lead to the UK leaving the European Union. RTPI Scotland has already set out the key issues on this in evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s European and External Relations Committee.  Key issues we identified were:

  • The need to replace environmental protection Directives
  • The impacts of the loss of grant and loan funding from European through
    Structural and Investment Funds and the European Investment Banks
  • Investment confidence and its impact on future development and infrastructure
  • The future for research excellence currently supported by collaboration and funding within the EU
  • Freedom of movement has allowed UK nationals to work using their skills  in other parts of the EU and vice versa

Scottish Local Government Elections

May 2017 will see local government elections across Scotland and it is likely that this will result in a number of new Councillors. This presents an opportunity for planning in not only training them on the technical aspects of the planning system, but also to make them aware of the potential that planning has in helping them to achieve their broader ambitions. We are currently exploring how RTPI Scotland can promote this.

I can assure you that throughout the year RTPI Scotland will continue to promote the benefits and value of planning, planners and the planning system and make the most of the opportunities that come our way. With your continued and valued support and incisive contributions, we can truly shape and influence the debate to help create great sustainable places and communities for our generation and future generations.

This blog was originally published on the RTPI Scotland blog.

Stefano Smith

Stefano Smith

Stefano Smith is RTPI Scotland Convenor. Follow him on Twitter: @ConvenorRTPIS