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Unlock the Value of Planning

A Manifesto for the 2022 Scottish Local Government Elections


Planning lies at the intersection between communities and local government decision making and has a critical role to play as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic. The planning system in Scotland continues to undergo a major programme of reform and this presents an opportunity to re-invest in planning services, re-define our long-term goals, and re-engage with communities. Now is the time to harness Scotland’s potential to:

  • Address the twin crises of climate and nature and achieve Scotland’s net zero emissions targets
  • Promote a wellbeing economy
  • Deliver quality and affordable homes for all
  • Tackle poverty and reduce health inequalities

To achieve these outcomes, there is a need to embrace change and provide a clear route map for Scotland which can be delivered in the long-, medium- and short-term. It is vital that all local authority planning departments in Scotland are adequately resourced so that they can function to their fullest potential. The planning system underpins effective decision making at the local level and RTPI Scotland is calling on parties and candidates to commit to the following and unlock the value of planning.


What – Ensure adequate resourcing and funding of all local authority planning services to create a world leading planning system.

Why – For the planning system in Scotland to fulfil its statutory duties and deliver quality placemaking there is a critical need for more investment. Local authority planning departments are significantly underfunded, and our research shows that planning services are suffering most severely of all local government services due to budget cuts, 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

The need for investment has been widely recognised across public, private and third sectors. In order to address this clear need for more resources in planning services, Scottish Government has brought forward regulations for increases to planning fees. It is vital however that the income generated from increased planning fees is re-invested back into planning services and RTPI Scotland calls upon newly elected members to ensure that this happens.


What – Support planning services to deliver place-based leadership through facilitating the Place Principle and place-based approaches and championing the role of Chief Planning Officers.

Why - A place-based approach is about considering all aspects that impact on that area. Planners are the placemaking conduits - the planning service has a critical coordinating role to play in delivering integrated strategies for the economy, infrastructure, and environment as part of a place-based approach. RTPI Scotland supports the Place Principle as a further means to help overcome organisational and sectoral boundaries. Adopted by Scottish Government and COSLA, the principle requests that all those responsible for providing services and looking after assets in a place must work and plan together, and with local communities, to improve the lives of people, support inclusive growth and create more successful places. This includes improving coordination between stakeholders by enhancing collaboration and communication across local authority departments, key agencies, NGOs and the private sector. As the key decision makers for their communities, elected members play an important role in this process by acting as the democratic layer of placemaking and place leadership through active public engagement.

As natural collaborators, planners can ensure that the spatial implications of other local authority functions are considered. The training that a planner has is fundamentally about making connections and seeing the bigger picture; these are invaluable skills to feed into corporate discussions. To support place-based leadership, RTPI Scotland wishes to highlight the vital role statutory Chief Planning Officers can play within local authorities and their important partnership with elected members. RTPI Scotland calls upon parties and candidates to commit to ensuring that planning expertise is used corporately in local government so that the value of place and its preventative upstream impact on public health and decarbonisation can be embedded within decision making frameworks for investment and integrated service delivery.


What – Embed sustainable approaches to development within everyday decision making to promote environmentally sustainable lifestyles and nature-positive places.

Why – To address the twin crises of climate and nature there needs to be a coordinated effort made across all sectors of society to transform the way in which we live and to promote low carbon lifestyles. There is potential to create more resilient places through the planning system to promote sustainable patterns of development across all aspects of the economy, society, and environment. RTPI Scotland supports the direction of travel set out in the draft National planning Framework 4, which places the consideration of the climate and ecological emergency at the heart of the planning system. RTPI Scotland calls on newly elected members to support planners working in the new planning system in meeting our ambitious net zero targets through local action such as:

  • promoting local living through the creation of 20 minute neighbourhoods
  • providing active and sustainable travel infrastructure
  • embedding the Reuse First Principle
  • delivering sustainable housing solutions
  • protecting and enhancing biodiversity
  • supporting low carbon infrastructure


What – Work in partnership with communities to establish local priorities and develop Local Place Plans.

Why – Communities hold the insider knowledge required to actively shape their places and to deliver agreed outcomes which align with the priorities of local people. It is our vision that enhanced community engagement will promote a socially inclusive planning system which improves local prosperity. New guidance on the preparation, submission and registration of Local Place Plans was introduced as part of the implementation of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019. These plans set out a community’s aspirations for its future development and they are to be taken into account in the preparation of the relevant local development plan. They offer the opportunity for a community-led, collaborative approach to plan-making which can maximise the potential benefits for communities and help to tackle inequalities.

However, there is a need to provide new models of funding to support communities with the preparation of Local Place Plans. Investing in community plan-making activities has the potential to deliver real change so that local issues are reflected in strategic priorities. Therefore, RTPI Scotland calls upon parties and candidates to ensure that appropriate resources are made available to both communities and planning services to support the next generation of community-led plans.


The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) is the champion of planning and the planning profession. We work to promote the art and science of planning for the public benefit. We have around 2,100 members in Scotland and a worldwide membership of over 27,000. RTPI Scotland’s members will in large part be responsible for the successful implementation of the planning system.

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