Skip to main content
Close Menu Open Menu

RTPI Scotland's response to the National Outcomes Inquiry

  1. To what extent do the National Outcomes shape how your organisation works?

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) is the champion of planning and the planning profession. Our mission is to advance the science and art of town planning, working for the long-term common good and well-being of current and future generations. We campaign to promote healthy, socially inclusive, economically and environmentally sustainable places in accordance with a number of the National Outcomes. The planning system has the potential to contribute towards each of the National Outcomes both directly and indirectly as a result of its role in shaping places. This has been firmly established in the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, the draft National Planning Framework 4 (draft NPF4) and the draft Local Development Plan (LDP) guidance. We have around 2,100 members in Scotland and a worldwide membership of over 27,000. RTPI Scotland’s members represent both the public, private and third sector interests and are extensively involved in all areas of planning matters across Scotland and represent a key means by which the National Outcomes be achieved.

To help support the planning system in achieving the National Outcomes, RTPI Scotland has for a number of years been advocating for the recasting of planning performance measurements to be more focussed on outcomes. To do so we need to measure the outcomes of planning beyond simple metrics like speed of processing applications and number of housing units delivered and rather to assess planning in terms of placemaking aspirations and social, economic and environmental value, in order to track and improve the impact of planning. This involves shifting measurement beyond narrow development outputs to consideration of wider place outcomes and impacts. The way in which local authorities currently measure their planning performance does not take account of many of these wider place outcomes and more needs to be done to link planning to national outcomes. The RTPI has commissioned research on the matter, which considers how local authorities can better measure the outcomes of planning and specific reference was made to the National Outcomes established by the Scottish Government[1]. The research led to the development of a toolkit to be used by local authorities to improve their outcome measurement in planning departments. The benefits of the toolkit and the ‘results’ arising from its use include:

  • Tracking performance/progress over time.
  • Integration across policy sectors and themes.
  • Understanding what has worked, what has not worked; identifying possible causes and what needs improving or abandoned in future.
  • Informing Development Management and decision-making.
  • Raising aspiration towards delivering better planning outcomes against strategies/plans/ policy goals.
  • Visibility/transparency of outcomes and impacts at local levels.
  • Aggregation and benchmarking of performance at regional and national scales.
  • Raising shared factual/scientific awareness between different parties and stakeholders.
  • Educational dimension in terms of knowledge transfer, skills and awareness/use of data.

The toolkit has been piloted in Scotland[2] which provided a range of lessons for its future implementation and illustrates how the toolkit should be used to feedback into policy and plan-making processes by introducing new targets, identifying where additional indicators and data are needed, or where actions are required around policy implementation.

  1. How do you know which National Outcomes your organisation contributes towards? How do you demonstrate this to your organisation and more widely to others?

Our research referred to in the previous question identified eight outcome themes which support the alignment between planning and the National Outcomes:

  • Place – design and people
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Environment – conservation and improvement
  • Climate change
  • Homes and community
  • Movement
  • Economy and town centres
  • Process and engagement

RTPI Scotland continually champion the power of proactive planning to address a number of the National Outcomes through research, policy and public affairs work[3].

  1. How empowered is your organisation to do something different (should it wish) to achieve the National Outcomes relevant to you?

Fundamentally, to ensure the planning system can deliver on number of National Outcomes it needs to be resourced effectively. To understand resourcing needs of the planning system we need to take cognisance of the context of diminishing resources and increased workloads in planning authorities with recent research from RTPI Scotland[4] showing that:

  • Nearly a third of planning department staff have been cut since 2009
  • Planning authorities’ budgets have diminished in real terms by 42% since 2009
  • In 2020 local authorities only spent 0.38% of their total net revenue budgets
  • Planning application fees only cover 66% of their processing costs
  • There are 91 new and unfunded duties in the Planning (Scotland) Act, which could cost between £12.1m and £59.1m over 10 years
  • Over the next 10 to 15 years there will be a demand for an additional 680 to 730 entrants into the sector

Whilst we welcome impending increases to planning fees, as set out in recently published research[5] RTPI Scotland does not believe this will bring in the appropriate amount of resource necessary for the planning system to undertake its statutory duties and deliver the National Outcomes. The need to the resource the planning system effectively has been recognised by wide range of stakeholders, as reflected in the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committees final report as a part of their scrutiny of the draft NPF4[6].

  1. How is your organisation held to account for how your actions and decisions impact on the National Outcomes?

Our research on Measuring Planning Outcomes found that sitting above its basic regulation of land use, planning also has a higher order role to create attractive, well designed, sustainable places which will improve the quality of life of the people who live, work, learn and spend leisure time in them. However, the research also states that there is significant variation in both the in-house performance management standards of different planning authorities and the reporting requirements of different jurisdictions. It is therefore important that local authorities are held to account and given the relevant guidance to effectively monitor their planning performance and outcomes. There needs to be more consistency across the board if we are to make progress towards the National Outcomes. The toolkit sets out the key levels in the evolution of an outcomes/impact monitoring framework for planning:

  • The first level (Level 1) calls for the monitoring of planning activities, including planmaking, and the immediate, short-term outputs of those activities – for example, planning permissions granted.
  • The second level (Level 2) focuses on monitoring medium term planning outputs and development outcomes, notably the conversion of planning consents into development started and completed: at this point we can monitor progress towards the targets set out in development plans.
  • The third level (Level 3) takes us into the wider policy domain by focusing on the evaluation of place value and impacts resulting from the operation of the planning system: have new developments conformed to best practice in architecture and urban design, and what inferences can we draw in terms of their contribution to policy goals.

The research found that Level 2 might be considered to be the minimum requirement for effective performance management and democratic accountability. However, there must be an effort made to ensure that local planning authorities advance to Level 3. If an effective monitoring and evaluation programme were to be implemented as part of the NPF4, this would go some way towards holding local authorities to account.

RTPI Scotland also wish to highlight the opportunity to improve how we monitor the planning process through the new National Planning Improvement Coordinator role, set out in the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019. Guidance for this role is due to be published and RTPI Scotland have set out our thinking on how this role can provide a powerful new resource for all users of Scotland’s planning system and strengthen the ability of the planning system to deliver on many of Scotland’s National Outcomes[7].

  1. How are the National Outcomes reflected in everyday decision taking?

Planners reflect the National Outcomes daily through the development management process, which can influence design to support the vision and objectives for place and restrict development which does not comply with national or local planning policy. The planning system also performs an important role through managing unauthorised development through planning enforcement.

  1. When it comes to spending priorities or providing funding to others, what role do the National Outcomes play?

Diminishing resources in the planning system, as covered in Q11, is making it more challenging for planners to secure development that contributes, either directly or indirectly, to the National Outcomes.

  1. To what extent is any public sector funding you receive contingent upon demonstrating your contribution to delivery of the National Outcomes?

No comment.

  1. Where do the National Outcomes sit within the range of priorities and demands on your organisation?

As mentioned previously the planning system has the potential to contribute towards each of the National Outcomes both directly and indirectly as a result of its role in shaping places.

  1. To what extent do you work collaboratively with other organisations in delivering the National Outcomes relevant to you?

Through the planning system’s natural role as place leaders and collaborators, planners can coordinate across sectoral and geographical boundaries to create a shared vision and set of objectives for place and develop multi-agency delivery strategies that contributes towards each of the National Outcomes.

RTPI Scotland wishes to highlight the opportunity for place-based collaboration through the Place Principle. The Scottish Government and COSLA have agreed to adopt the Place Principle to help overcome organisational and sectoral boundaries. This includes improving coordination between stakeholders, enhancing collaboration and communication across local authority departments, key agencies, NGOs and the private sector. The Principle requests that all those responsible for providing services and looking after assets in a place need to work and plan together, and with local communities, to improve the lives of people, support inclusive growth and create more successful places. The Place Principle supports collaborative place-based action, and the Place Standard is a commonly used tool to help people think about the quality of their place and where action might be required. If the Place Principle is to be effective there is a need to ‘give it teeth’ and operationalise its work so it influences policy, practice and investment on the ground. RTPI Scotland believes that the planning system can be a facilitator of the Place Principle and place-based approaches.

There is a need for a stronger policy framework and the introduction of measures to ensure that public authorities publicly report on how they have embedded the Place Principle in their approaches and how they have applied it in their decision making, including any reasoning.  This should also apply to the Town Centre First Principle, as there needs to be greater transparency on how these principles are considered in the decision making process. Appropriate enforcement may be required if necessary and public funding opportunities could be offered with a stipulation that there is adherence to the Place Principle and, where relevant, the Town Centre First Principle.

  1. Please share any examples of good practice, areas for improvement or practices that have not worked so well.

The RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence celebrate outstanding plans, projects and people that demonstrate the power of planning. These awards highlight exceptional examples of how planning and planners have a positive impact on our quality of life in creating exceptional places and protecting our environment. The two Scottish examples set out below feautred in the 2019 RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence[8] and highlight the important role planners play in delivering on a broad range of National Outcomes.

The East Lothian Local Development Plan 2018 was commended at the RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence in 2019 for ‘Excellence in Plan Making Practice’. The plan sets out a framework for inclusive growth, homes, jobs, heritage and the environment to 2024, accommodating a generous effective land supply for homes, employment and infrastructure in a compact strategy for sustainable development with maximum use of existing infrastructure and public transport connectivity, whilst minimising travel distances and CO2 emissions where possible. The plan stood out for its commitment to delivering on a broad range of outcomes and its strong planner led focus. The judges particularly liked the use of technology to engage effectively with the local community and other stakeholders.  Importantly, the plan is accompanied by Supplementary Guidance: Developer Contributions Framework, which sets out required infrastructure provision and funding levels that are incorporated into the Council’s capital plan and budget projections. The judges were impressed by the Skills Academy established to provide training to match now job opportunities created by the project. It is an exemplar of plan making in process, action setting and outcomes.

Secondly, the Cuningar Loop Urban Woodland Park was the winner of ‘Excellence in Planning for Health and Wellbeing’ at the 2019 RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence. Through extensive partnership working throughout the planning process South Lanarkshire Council, Clyde Gateway and Forestry Commission Scotland have successfully transformed Cuningar Loop from a derelict wasteland with a history of quarrying, illegal mining and landfill uses to a 15-hectare urban woodland park connecting the communities of Rutherglen, Dalmarnock and Parkhead in South Lanarkshire and Glasgow’s East End. The judges thought this was a transformational project that had an impressive inclusive approach with all stakeholders both pre and post application. The strong vision not only benefits the local community but is a driving force for delivering economic and social benefits to the area as a tourist destination. The project, which forms part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games legacy, has resulted in the development of a safe and inspiring public space along the River Clyde which has helped to improve public health and wellbeing in an area where life expectancy is seven years below the UK average.


[1] RTPI | Measuring What Matters: Planning Outcomes Research







[8] rtpi_a4l_pe_awards_digital_19_fnl_sml_v2.pdf

Back to top