APRS Resources

Masterplan Consent Areas Consultation

Closes 22nd May

This consultation relates to proposed regulations on the procedures to prepare Masterplan Consent Areas (MCA). It sets out the proposed procedures and includes two sets of regulations: covering the main process for making MCA schemes and relating to environmental impact assessment.

Question 1: A) To what extent do you agree with the principle that regulations be kept to the minimum necessary and that more advice be offered in guidance and kept updated?

Agree – local authorities should have flexibility in adapting MCAs to local contexts. However, there should be a statutory minimum of engagement with stakeholders and the local community during the development of MCAs. While we believe that there should be some amendments to the draft regulations, we agree with the current level of detail. Guidance should be used to ‘fill the gaps’ where there is less detail in regulations so that MCAs can be sufficiently tailored to each planning authority. 

Question 2: A) We are not proposing to regulate to exclude any form of development from having potential to be within a MCA. To what extent do you agree with this approach?

Developments should be in line with the policies and priorities set out in NPF4. Developments not supported by the policies in NPF4 should not be supported in MCAs. 

This explicitly excludes only a few forms of development, such as (apart from some special cases) wind farms in National Parks, Energy from waste facilities, Drive through developments, Retail units outside of town centre locations, salmon and trout farm developments on the north and east coasts of mainland Scotland, fossil fuel exploration, development, and production sites etc. Outwith these examples, developments proposed for inclusion in an MCA should align with the policies in NPF4. 

Question 3: A) We are not proposing any changes to the designations listed in schedule 5A (paragraph 3(4)). To what extent do you agree with this approach?

(4)This sub-paragraph applies to—

(a) any place that is or forms part of—

(i) a European site as defined in regulation 10(1) of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (S.I. 1994/2716),

(ii) a marine protected area,

(iii) a National Scenic Area (see section 263A),

(iv) a Ramsar site as defined in section 37A of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981,

(v) a site of special scientific interest as defined in section 58 of the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004,

(vi) a site included in the World Heritage List (“a world heritage site”) or an area identified in the World Heritage List as a buffer zone for a world heritage site, or

(b) any place in respect of which either of the following has effect—

(i) a nature conservation order made under Part 2 of the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004,

(ii) a land management order made under that Part of that Act.

We do have concerns over Section 3 (1) and (3)(b):

  1. “A scheme may not include any place which sub-paragraph (4) applies to at the time the scheme is made.”

(3) “For the avoidance of doubt, if—

(b) that place subsequently becomes a place to which sub-paragraph (4) applies, the place is not, as a result, excluded from the area to which the scheme relates”.

The value of a location for biodiversity is not always realised and is not static, and may not be apparent before the scheme is developed. There are several reasons this could happen, such as the restoration of habitats, natural succession of vegetation,  the need for species to migrate due to climate change and more thorough survey and reporting of flora, fauna and ecosystems which would warrant an appropriate designation for that site. Given the global nature crisis and the urgent action required to reverse nature loss, which is reflected in NPF4 (especially Policies 1 and 3) if such a situation arises there should be a mechanism for planning authorities to review the Scheme and incorporate the new information/designation to facilitate protection of the designated area. This process and the rationale for the outcome should be set out in writing.

Question 4: A) To what extent do you agree that the matters above in relation to the statement be set out in guidance rather than regulations?

Planning authorities should have a requirement to inform and empower local communities in all planning matters. As such, they should be required to publish MCAs online and ensure they are available in all public libraries in the relevant area, and send copies of the statement to Scottish Ministers, key agencies, community councils, and any other person the planning authority considers appropriate. Furthermore, they should be required to inform residents living near sites with potentially permitted development in the MCA. 

Question 5: A) Draft Regulation 3(4) specifies that planning authorities must consult with community councils before determining the content of any MCA proposals which may be publicised. To what extent do you agree with this?

Strongly agree

Question 6: A) Draft Regulation 3 provides how consultation for possible proposals for a MCA scheme is to be undertaken, including notification and the requirement to undertake two public events, with opportunity to make comments to the planning authority. To what extent do you agree with this approach?

Somewhat agree – the requirement to have two in person events is a good approach. Local authorities should be required to publicise these events in local newspapers and on local authority social media pages. In consultation guidance, it should also be recommended that these events should be held both outwith and within standard working hours and take any other accessibility measures appropriate to enable greater attendance. 

To ensure that the consultation process is tailored to the needs of those living in the relevant area, planning authorities preparing a MCA scheme could prepare and consult on a participation statement, similar to the approach in LDP engagement. This would ensure that planning authorities have a defined approach to engaging with local communities and that communities have a say in how they would like to be engaged throughout this process. 

Question 7: A) To what extent do you agree that the regulations should require reasons for conditions to be set out in the MCA scheme? (Draft Regulation 6 sets out that MCA schemes must provide reasons for any conditions, limitations or exceptions that are included in the scheme. This is in the interests of transparency and to reflect the requirement for reasons attached to planning application consents.


Question 8: Are there any further aspects you consider should be required to be included in a MCA scheme? Please specify and explain why.

When assessing the site/area, planning authorities should be required to conduct an independent Environmental Impact Assessment, Habitats Regulations Appraisal, or Strategic Environment Assessment where required in the specific regulations for each measure. This should be published alongside the MCA. 

To ensure transparency and accountability, planning authorities should also be required to set out the consultation and public engagement measures taken, and to summarise the levels of uptake and main outcomes of this engagement. 

Question 9: A) Draft Regulation 4(3) and Schedule 1 of the draft MCA Regulations specify those who a planning authority must consult with before determining the content of any MCA proposals which may be publicised. To what extent do you agree with these groups? 


Planning authorities should also consult any community councils in the area relating to the MCA. This regulation could also include a clause that the planning authority should consult with any other groups they deem appropriate. This would highlight the need for consultation with a broader range of stakeholders and organisations relevant to any specific scheme. 

Question 10: A) Draft Regulation 4(2) provides how consultation in relation to a MCA scheme is to be undertaken. To what extent do you agree with this approach?

Planning authorities should also be required to publish a notice in local newspapers covering the scheme area, to publish a notice on their social media, display the proposed scheme in local libraries, and highlight the proposed scheme to the public in any other way they deem appropriate. 

Question 11: A) Draft Regulation 4(5) sets a 30 day period for representations if they are to be treated as valid representations. To what extent do you agree with this period?

This proposed period for public representations is very low. As significantly more sites could be granted planning permission than via the regular planning permission process, the consultation periods need to reflect this increase in scale of permitted developments. 

Consultations on proposed LDPs must last for at least 12 weeks, giving greater opportunity for public input. A difference in timing between two plans which may be seen as slightly similar by some could lead to confusion and lack of participation. We would propose that a 12 week representation period be set, both to increase participation and reduce confusion between the two plans. 

Question 12: A) To what extent do you agree with the required circumstances, i.e. that where the scheme would authorise a national development, that there be a requirement for a hearing, as set out within Draft Regulation 5(1)?

Strongly agree

National developments can pose huge changes to an area. In such cases, schemes should be subject to this additional scrutiny. 

Question 13: A) To what extent do you agree with the proposals for those who must be given an opportunity to appear before and be heard by a committee of the planning authority at a hearing as set out within Draft Regulations 5(2) and (3)?

If appropriate, a representative from SEPA, NatureScot, or any other relevant organisation should have the opportunity to appear before a committee of the planning authority. 

Question 14: A) To what extent do you agree that a Notification Direction be issued requiring that in the above circumstances such MCA schemes be notified to the Scottish Ministers?


There is nothing we would remove from this list. We do believe that this list should be extended to proposals on green belts designated in an LDP and in National Parks. Schemes that propose development on soils classed 3.1, 2, and 1 under National Scale Land Capability for Agriculture should also be notified to the Scottish Ministers. 

Question 15: A) To what extent do you agree with the proposed requirements in relation to the publication of MCA schemes and the decision notice as set out in Draft Regulation 7?

Neighbours of sites detailed in the MCA should also receive a copy of the notice. 

Question 16: A) To what extent do you agree with the proposed requirements in relation to the planning register as set out in Draft Regulation 9?

Question 17: A) To what extent do you agree with the proposals for the procedures for altering a MCA scheme, as set out in Draft Regulation 8?

If 50% or more of the contents MCA is being altered, then the same consultation requirements as for the original scheme should apply. Neighbours of areas impacted by any alterations should be notified.

Question 18:A) To what extent do you agree with the approach not to prescribe forms of notices within the Draft Regulations?

Disagree – Planning authorities should be given a choice of prescribed forms to ensure that notice of the MCA in newspaper advertisements is clear and visible. A common complaint of planning application consultations is that they are easily missed in newspapers, and prescribed forms should seek to address this. 

Question 19: A) To what extent do you agree with the proposed process set out in the Draft Masterplan Consent Area Scheme (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2024 contained within Annex B?

To ensure impartiality, EIAs should be conducted by the planning authority, not developers. 

EIAs should specifically take a mitigation hierarchy approach as detailed in NPF4. 

Planning authorities should be required to publish EIAs. 

Question 20: A) To what extent do you agree with our approach to the impact assessments?
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