Planning in Scotland

How does planning affect you?

Planning affects everyone, and everyone has a right to have their say about matters that affect their lives.  Core to proper planning is balancing the need for appropriate development with the desire to protect both the landscapes that we cherish and the environmental quality that is vital for life and wellbeing. Knowing about the planning system can help us all to make informed choices about the future of rural Scotland.

At APRS, we believe that the planning system should work for the long-term interest of communities and the environment. We work to ensure the planning system protects landscapes and benefits biodiversity and communities across Scotland and have produced an introductory advice note on the planning system and are producing updated information and guidance on more specific topics. You can find these in our usual resources below.

Advice Note on the Planning System

  • APRS Advice Note: The Scottish Planning System

    Planning affects everyone, and everyone has a right to have their say about matters that affect their lives.  Planning is about making hard choices, balancing the need for appropriate development with the desire to protect both the landscapes that we cherish and the environmental quality that is vital for life and wellbeing.  Knowing about the planning system can help us all to make informed choices about the future of rural Scotland.

Your local plan

Local Development Plans give a blueprint for development in your area for the next 10 years, many are being written now and communities should have a say.

Green Belts

Find out more about how to protect Green Belts, which are a planning designation to maintain countryside near to cities, prevent sprawl and incentivise development on brownfield sites.

Background to Planning in Scotland

The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 states that the purpose of planning is “to manage the development and use of land in the long term public interest”. Anything which contributes to sustainable development or achieves Scotland’s national outcomes is considered to be in the long term public interest.

National Planning Framework

The National Planning Framework (NPF) is the long-term strategic spatial plan for Scotland. It sets out the main developments which the Scottish Government (SG) wants to see, and where they should take place across Scotland. The current NPF4, adopted in February 2023, can be read here. More information about the changes associated with NPF4 are on the Transforming Planning website

NPF4 includes new National Planning Policy (replacing the previous Scottish Planning Policy -SPP- dating from 2014). It sets out the Scottish Government’s top-level national planning policies indicating which types of development and use of land should and should not be permitted. The National Planning Policy is contained in Part 2 of NPF4.

Local Development Plans

Development Plans in Scotland, since NPF4, are made up of the Local Development Plan (LDP) for that area and NPF4. Local Development Plans produced by local planning authorities – the Councils or National Park Authorities. This means that planning applications should be assessed against the policies and strategy set out in both these documents.

Scottish Government Guidance

The Scottish Government has issued guidance on how Local development plans should be implemented so that they deliver the new-style place-based, people-centred and delivery-focussed plans. It brings together requirements from the Act and Regulations and advice in relation to National Planning Framework 4.

Regional Spatial Strategies

Before the introduction of NPF4, four areas of Scotland – the regions around the four main cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee – were covered by Strategic Development Plans (SDPs). Now that NPF4 is in place SDPs are no longer in force. All areas of Scotland are to be covered by Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) which groups of planning authorities can produce jointly if they wish. In 2023 the Scottish Government have produced indicative RSS but they have not yet been consulted on. New LDPs must have regard to relevant RSS but the RSS are not part of the Development Plan.

Green Belts Alliance

APRS support groups and individuals campaigning to protect their green belt through our APRS Green Belts Alliance. We create guidance, campaign, meet as a network and have a regular email newsletter on issues of interest. Join the Green Belts Alliance to get involved and help protect your local green belt!

Check out our Green Belts campaign page, where you can join the Green Belts Alliance

Planning news and updates

Event

We teamed up with Planning Democracy to run a series of webinars on different aspects of the new National Planning Framework 4 and the planning system. Watch the sessions now.

News

Communities should be at the centre of Local Development Plans and the process should be made simple and straightforward for them to engage with, and that communities should be engaged proactively by the planning authorities.

News

APRS’s campaigning has lead to some key improvements for green belt protection in the latest planning law. In this blog Nikki Sinclair, our Green Belts Alliance Manager explains what the new planning framework means for communities campaigning on planning and for protection of green belts.

News

Why are green belts so vital in a climate and nature emergency? Nikki Sinclair explains.

Resources

APRS has designed resources to make it easier for individuals and communities to engage with the planning process. Read some of our planning resources here:
  • Green Belts Advice Note

    This advice note is intended to help individuals and communities understand and protect their local Green Belt.

  • APRS Advice Note: The Scottish Planning System

    Planning affects everyone, and everyone has a right to have their say about matters that affect their lives.  Planning is about making hard choices, balancing the need for appropriate development with the desire to protect both the landscapes that we cherish and the environmental quality that is vital for life and wellbeing.  Knowing about the planning system can help us all to make informed choices about the future of rural Scotland.

  • Community Guidance on LDPs

    Local Development Plan guidance for communities Key points Background The Scottish Planning System The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 states that

  • NPF4 Green Belt Policies

    This is an extract from the Scottish Government’s National Planning Framework 4, Part 2 – National Planning Policy. It is the section of policies related to Green Belt. You can read the whole NPF4 online

  • Planning Case Studies 2009-2014

    These Case Studies provide examples of cases where we have provided advice and guidance.to help local communities engage with landscape change in their areas.. They provide an insight into the type of work we do.

  • Planning Resources

    This resource provides information on strategic and local planning across Scotland and gives links to the websites containing planning information for particular areas.

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