"Land use planning" was traditionally the sole concern of the planning system and the laws regulating it. However, 21st century social aims and objectives have necessitated a transformation of the Planning framework. Implementation of the new Bill will modernise the planning system, with its key objectives being to make the system more efficient, fit for purpose and, perhaps most importantly, provide a system which is inclusive in nature. It will create measures to strengthen community involvement in the planning process and ensure that communities are consulted at the earliest possible stage.

The Planning etc (Scotland) Bill implements many of the proposals set out in the White Paper on "Modernising the Planning System" and extensively repeals and amends parts of the two principle planning statutes, namely The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 and the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997. The Bill is extensive, but some of the key features are described below.

A New Hierarchy of Developments

One of the proposed changes is to the system for development control, which is to be renamed "development management". A three tier ‘hierarchy of development’ is to be introduced (section 4 of the Bill inserts section 26A of TCPA 1997). Such a model, it is hoped, will have greater focus and be more responsive. At the top of the hierarchy are ‘national developments’, which are viewed as of having national strategic importance and will be considered by the Scottish Ministers. The second tier, ‘major developments’, include large scale developments that are not of national importance. Finally ‘local developments’ are developments that are neither categorised as minor developments excluded from the development management process, nor larger developments which fall within ‘national’ or ‘major’ categories. In essence these changes are aimed at restoring order and structure to the planning system, with pragmatic mechanisms in place for plan-making and decision-taking to occur at the appropriate levels.

Each planning authority will have to establish a ‘Scheme of Delegation’. These schemes will formalise the delegation of decision-making powers from elected members to appointed persons such as officials of the planning authority. Similarly, to allow planning authorities to concentrate their resources on more significant planning applications, the Bill provides for a review of ‘permitted development’ rights, for example, where there is sensibly no need to obtain planning permission for certain minor developments like small scale alterations to single houses. Simultaneously, ensuring faster resolution of planning applications and bringing the process for determining the application more into line with the potential scale of the development. Furthermore, the period of validity of a planning permission (i.e. the period within which development must be commenced) is to be reduced from 5 to 3 years.

Neighbour Notification

The current neighbour notification provisions require the developer to notify the proposals to the owners of properties surrounding the development site. The new proposals now place the onus to notify neighbouring proprietors on the planning authority.

Enforcement Action.

The Bill adds to the existing range of enforcement measures available to planning authorities by introducing Temporary Stop Notices that take immediate effect. These can be used where the planning authority considers there to have been a breach of planning control. A Temporary Stop Notice must specify the steps that need to be taken by the recipient and outline the reasons for issuing the notice. The notice can be served on any person carrying out the activity, for example the landowner, occupier of anyone with an interest in the land.

The new Bill requires every planning authority to publish an ‘Enforcement Charter’ which sets out; the planning authority’s policies on enforcement, how members of the public can notify breaches of planning control, how to complain about enforcement action being taken against you and how complaints will be dealt with by the authority.

As a further aid to enforcement, developers will be obliged to notify the planning authority of their intention to begin developing and when completed, to inform the authority of such completion. Also, a planning authority will be able, where it perceives that there has been a breach of planning control, to issue a notice requiring an application for retrospective planning permission and this will amount to an enforcement action.

Other innovative measures in the Bill include:

  • Business Improvement Districts, which are area’s where local businesses are able to invest in improvements in the area in which they operate.
  • pre-planning application consultation will be put on a statutory basis.
  • public records relating to planning matters will be enhanced.
  • planning authorities are given additional grounds for refusing planning applications
  • good neighbour agreements between land owners and community bodies to regulate land use

The effectiveness of the new changes to the planning system will however only become apparent, once such measures have been implemented and put into practice. The main challenge for the planning bill is to set out a planning system which will work for Scotland, introducing changes necessary to provide a quicker, more transparent and more efficient service.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.