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RTPI Scotland's Response to Environmental Standards Scotland (ESS)

Draft Strategic Plan
  1. Do you have any comments on our Vision and Mission Statement, set out in chapter 3?

Our vision is that:

Scotland’s communities benefit from a high quality environment and are protected from harm through the consistent application of effective environmental laws, which are recognised internationally as setting high standards.

Our mission statement is that:

We will ensure that Scotland’s environmental laws and standards are complied with, and their effectiveness improved – to achieve Scotland’s ambitions for the environment and climate change.



We support the proposed vision and mission statement.


  1. Do you have any comments on our Strategic Outcomes, set out in chapter 3?

Our strategic outcomes are; 

  • We have taken effective action to ensure public authorities’ compliance with environmental law and to improve the effectiveness of the law;
  • We have prioritised and investigated the most important matters of concern, and identified the action needed to rectify problems and improve compliance and effectiveness;
  • We have engaged in building knowledge on environmental performance, are well informed about developments in EU and international standards and practice, and have formed effective partnerships with bodies collecting, collating and scrutinising environmental data;
  • Our role is widely understood, and we are regularly engaged in work to improve compliance and the effectiveness of environmental law and how it is applied.
  • We are an effective and efficient organisation.


RTPI Scotland supports the content of the Strategic Outcomes, although we consider that the first point could be strengthened through commitment to assisting public authorities to support them in having the knowledge, skills and resources to comply with environmental law. Given this, a principle of the ESS’s work should be to work proactively with stakeholders and partners with a focus on prevention by working with them to ensure that they are equipped to tackle any issues in advance, rather than having to deal with them reactively. Furthermore, RTPI Scotland would support that the EPP regularly reviews the effectiveness of environmental policy as well as law.


  1. Do you have any comments on our Values and Principles, set out in chapter 3?

Our Values

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Our Principles

  1. We will target our efforts and resources where we can add most value – focusing where our contribution is needed most or will make most difference
  2. We will seek to resolve issues through agreement wherever possible – having recourse to our formal powers where we judge it is necessary to deliver the outcome expected
  3. We will be evidence driven – seeking a wide range of inputs and expertise to inform our work and to support our decisions and advice
  4. We will be open and transparent – keeping people informed about the progress of our work and providing opportunities to input to and influence it
  5. We will seek opportunities to work in partnership with others – working closely with all relevant stakeholders to ensure that our collective efforts deliver benefits for environmental protection and enhancement


RTPI Scotland supports the proposed Values and Principles set out in chapter 3, though we would signal back to our point made earlier about the need for a proactive and preventative approach to be taken in supporting stakeholders and partners.

RTPI Scotland is particularly interested in how the ESS will evaluate and support the environmental performance of the planning system. RTPI Scotland believes that the planning system sits centrally in delivering environmental outcomes, an outlook which is supported in the recently published draft NPF4 which puts gives great weight on the twin biodiversity and climate crisis, designating them as universal policies within the framework. RTPI Scotland anticipates that the ESS will primarily interact with the planning system through scrutinising individual planning decisions regarding their impact upon protected sites. However, we would also welcome consideration of the wider role planning can play in terms of its preventative role of mitigating negative environmental outcomes (for example the delivery of active travel infrastructure to reduce air quality problems) and it’s positive and proactive role such as identifying opportunities to enhance biodiversity through development. We would like to highlight that the Office of Environmental Protection in England has engaged in wider planning policy matters which will impact upon environmental outcomes such as regarding proposals around the topic of Biodiversity Net Gain[1].   

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[2]. 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[3] 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. Do you have any comments on our proposed approach to resolving matters informally with public authorities, set out in chapter 4?


RTPI Scotland broadly supports the proposed approach to resolving matters informally with authorities. We note that in the case study provided, full details of the outcome of the representation are to be published on the website. We would like to highlight the importance of the dissemination of such resolutions so that processes to support the compliance with environmental law can be improved by a range of interested parties.


  1. Do you have any comments on our proposed approach to determining what constitutes a systemic failure, set out in chapter 4?


The proposed model of action from ESS predominantly seems to be focused at responding to environmental harms (see for example para 4.21). However, in order to fully identify systemic failures, there may be a need to consider the effectiveness of environmental legislations in areas such as EIAs and SEAs. Whilst unlikely to result in immediate serious environmental harm, EIAs and SEAs are critical in setting out preventative and precautioning environmental actions as well as providing accountability and transparency in decision making all of which will contribute to systemic issues. Consultation with other relevant regulatory national bodies, such as the emerging role of the National Planning Improvement Co-ordinator, could strengthen the identification of systemic failures.


  1. Do you have any comments on our proposed approach to determining whether a compliance failure could be addressed more effectively by a compliance notice than an improvement report, set out in Chapter 4?

Answer: No comment.


  1. Do you have any comments on our proposed approach to determining whether a compliance failure or environmental harm is serious, set out in chapter 4?

Answer: No comment.


  1. Do you have any comments on our proposed approach to deciding whether, and how to prioritise and carry out our investigations, set out in chapter 5?

Answer:  No comment.


  1. Do you have any comments on our proposals for monitoring compliance and effectiveness, and taking account of different types of information, as set out in chapter 6?

Answer: No comment.


  1. Do you have any comments on our draft priority topics for further analysis? Do you have any suggestions for key sources of data and intelligence that we should consider, as set out in chapter 6?

We would welcome views on our proposed set of initial analytical priorities and suggestions of any key sources of data or intelligence that we should be considering. We will be undertaking further work during the consultation period to verify and quality assure our work and will discuss our baseline summaries of the evidence with key data and knowledge partners.


The analytical priority area of water could be strengthened through including further information relating to the levels of nutrients in freshwater and the condition of freshwater habits, beyond just wastewater discharge. This could include, for example, information on agricultural activity (e.g.) fertilisers, animal waste, slurry and the impact of surface water from developments.


  1. Do you have any comments on our proposed approach to avoiding unnecessary overlap with other regulators, oversight and scrutiny bodies, as set out in chapter 7?


RTPI Scotland notes the commitment to establishing liaison and signposting arrangements with a number of other advisory, oversight and scrutiny bodies, as required by the Continuity Act. However, RTPI Scotland wish to highlight that in terms of oversight/scrutiny bodies for planning services, the emerging National Planning Improvement Coordinator role, provisions for which were established in the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, was not included in the Continuity Act. This role will be responsible for providing advice to planning authorities and other engaged in the planning system in relation to what steps might be taken by them to improve their performance.[4] Therefore, at a minimum, RTPI Scotland wish to see this role highlighted through the relationship mapping exercise when a finalised strategic plan is published.


  1. Do you have any comments on our proposed approach to receiving and handling representations, set out in chapter 7?

Answer: No comment.


  1. Do you have any comments on how we maintain our ambition to be a high performing organisation, as set out in chapter 8?


RTPI Scotland welcomes the commitment for ESS to develop communication with key stakeholders in the public, private and voluntary sector, and we look forward to working closely with the organisation to broaden its reach.


  1. Do you have any comments on our proposed approach to measuring our impact, as set out in chapter 9?


RTPI Scotland support the intentions to develop a performance measurement framework that enables the identification of how the EPP are helping deliver improvements to environmental outcomes, and we would refer back to our response to Q5 relating to our work on measuring outcomes of the planning to aid this work. RTPI Scotland welcomes a continual and collaborative discussion on this matter.


  1. Do you have any comments on our proposed key performance indicators, as set out in Annex B?

Answer: No comment.


  1. Are there any other factors that you think we should consider before exercising our functions?

Our plan has set out how we intend to go about our functions, including for example the factors we will take into account before we investigate or take informal enforcement action.

Answer: No further comment.


  1. Do you have any other comments on our draft Strategic Plan and our proposed approach to fulfilling our remit?

Answer: No further comment.


  1. Do you have any comments on the interim conclusions of our impact assessments, as set out in Annex A?

Answer: No comment.


  1. Are there any sources of information that you can suggest we use to assess the potential impact of our Plan?

Answer: No further comment.







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