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Planning Act Implementation Delivering the New Planning System - Briefing 157
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Planning Act Implementation Delivering the New Planning System - Briefing 157

April 2007


In P&I Briefing 121 we set out the provisions of the Planning White Paper that has been enacted through Planning (Scotland) Act 2006. This briefing confirms the main provisions of the Act and the arrangements for implementation. In addition it sets out progress with the Scottish Executive's wider plans to modernise planning in Scotland and the new National Planning Framework.

Planning Act 2006

The Act seeks to achieve the Scottish Executive's Partnership Agreement commitment to improve the planning system, to strengthen the involvement of local communities, speed up decisions, reflect local views better and allow quicker investment decisions. It also introduces provisions to enable the creation of business improvement districts in Scotland.

The main provisions include:

Part 1 of the Act makes provisions for the National Planning Framework (NPF). This part

enhances the role and status of the NPF to make it a more powerful instrument for securing delivery of national policies and programmes.

Part 2 of the Act replaces the existing provisions in the 1997 Act relating to development planning with the aim of reinforcing the primacy of development plans. Plans are critical instruments for providing clear visions of how our cities, towns and countryside areas should evolve. They should take a long-term view, identify sufficient land to meet the key needs of economic growth and housing development, protect important natural resources and historic environments, and form the core documents against which planning applications are measured for determination.

The Act contains provisions designed to ensure that in the future, development plans are more relevant and kept up-to-date; local people will be more involved in their preparation; and that there is a more simplified process for examination and approval. In addition, the Act requires plans to be targeted on key spatial issues and, crucially, focused on delivery and outcomes.

Part 3 of the Act amends selectively the existing provisions relating to development control in Part III in the 1997 Act. The objective is to improve the operation of the development control process (renamed development management), so that planning applications are not unduly delayed, particularly where they relate to straightforward developments.

Part 4 deals with changes required to planning control to enable better enforcement of unauthorised development, presently covered by Part 6 of the 1997 Act.

Part 5 streamlines certain statutory procedures in relation to the protection of trees, while ensuring that existing protections are maintained or in some cases, strengthened.

Part 6 deals with provisions relating to the correction of errors in decisions.

Part 7 makes provisions for auditing and supporting the performance of planning authorities.

Part 8 makes provision for modernising various aspects of the financial provisions currently set out in the 1997 Act.

Part 9, Business Improvement Districts, introduces provisions to allow local businesses to invest collectively in improvements to the area they operate in.


The Act is to be implemented in stages and in most cases following consultation over the detailed regulations. The current timetable can be viewed at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2007/03/07131521/1.

The new National Planning Framework is now in force and there will be a consultation on the new Development Pans in the summer of 2007. Development management will come into force in phases during 2008 following consultation. The new enforcement powers, fee structures and tree preservation orders will also be implemented next year. Many of these detailed changes will have significant staffing implications for members in planning departments.

Planning Modernisation

The Act is the legislative element of the Scottish Executive's broader plans for the modernisation of planning. There have been a series of workshops across Scotland aimed at promoting culture change.

The Executive has provided £2.3m for training over a two year period. There has been a training needs survey that will result in further training provision for staff and the newly elected councillors. There have been some welcome developments in new graduate training provision at several universities and consideration will be given to distance learning provision.

We have raised with the Executive the importance of ensuring that this funding does not displace local training provision and the importance of maintaining the funding when the current programme ends. We have also highlighted the need to train all staff in planning departments, not just professional planners, recognising the new functions in the Act.

National Planning Framework

The Executive has published a participation statement in preparation for the new National Planning Framework. This explains what the NPF is likely to cover including what will be regarded as national developments. A public leaflet "Small Country Big Plans" has been published to raise public awareness.

A draft plan will be issued for public consultation in the autumn. A revised draft will be published early in 2008 with parliamentary scrutiny of the final draft in spring 2008. UNISON has been involved in regular meetings with officials as a key stakeholder in the process.

Action for Branches

Branches should be aware that the provisions of the Planning Act will have staffing implications for members primarily in planning and related departments. Whilst there are some functions that will end, these are more than compensated for by the new roles. Planning departments are already under great pressure and this was recognised by the Communities Committee when the Act was considered during the legislative stages. Branches should therefore be engaging with employers to ensure that additional resources are made available.

Branches will also wish to contribute to UNISON Scotland's input into the National Planning Framework. Views will be sought at the key stages.

Further Information

The Act at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/legislation/scotland/acts2006/20060017.htm

This section of the Parliament website sets out the passage of the Bill and the helpful SPICE briefings on the main sections of the Act.


UNISON Scotland evidence to Parliament on the Bill and the original consultation:


The Scottish Executive planning web pages include updates on the implementation of the Act and the National Planning Framework.




Scottish Executive | Scottish Parliament | Briefings Home



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Further Information

  • Dave Watson
    @P&I Team
    14 West Campbell Street
    GLASGOW G2 6RX Tel:
    0845 355 0845
    Fax: 0141 221 8953