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Reforming the planning system

The places where we live, work and play can have a major impact on our health, wellbeing, sense of identity and prosperity.

Planning can nurture our places, our environment and our communities and guide future change so that it benefits everyone. Planning can co-ordinate and support investment, ensure that future growth reflects the needs of communities and is sustainable.

Planning has a key role to play in delivering Scotland's Economic Strategy. The efficiency and reputation of the planning system has an important role to play in making Scotland an attractive place to invest.

We are currently improving Scotland's planning system so that it realises its full potential. We believe that the system needs to change to respond to a changing world.

We are taking forward reforms that will strengthen the planning system's contribution to inclusive growth, housing and infrastructure delivery and empowering communities. Our proposals will maintain our commitment to a strong, high-performing system that enables housing and infrastructure delivery and supports quality of life of all our communities by promoting quality of place.

The information below reflects our current thinking on changes to the system and will change over time as the planning review progresses. No decisions on the content of the Planning Bill have been finalised.

Timeline and programme

List of proposals

  1. Aligning community planning and spatial planning.
  2. Regional partnership working.
  3. Improving national spatial planning and policy.
  4. Stronger local development plans.
  5. Making plans that deliver.
  6. Giving people an opportunity to plan their own place.
  7. Getting more people involved in planning.
  8. Improving public trust.
  9. Keeping decisions local – rights of appeal.
  10. Being clear about how much housing land is required.
  11. Closing the gap between planning consent and delivery of homes.
  12. Releasing more 'development ready' land.
  13. Embedding an infrastructure first approach.
  14. A more transparent approach to funding infrastructure.
  15. Innovative infrastructure planning.
  16. Developing skills to deliver outcomes.
  17. Investing in a better service.
  18. A new approach to improving performance.
  19. Making better use of resources - efficient decision making.
  20. Innovation, future-proofing and the digital transformation of the planning.

We produced A paper setting out more detail about how we envisage our proposals operating in practice. This was discussed at the recent Working Group session on 2 October 2017.


In September 2015 an independent panel was appointed by Scottish Ministers to review the planning system. In May 2016 they published a Statement and their final report, 'Empowering planning to deliver great places'. This contained 48 recommendations for reform over six main themes.

In July 2016, Ministers issued their response to the panel's report which stated that they agreed in principle with many of the recommendations.

In January 2017 we published a consultation on the future of planning in Scotland which ran until April 2017. The consultation paper, Places, people and planning, set out 20 proposals for change to strengthen the planning system and support sustainable economic growth across the country. The proposals build on the recommendations of the independent review. An independent analysis of the consultation responses was published in June 2017.

We published Places, People and Planning position statement in June 2017 which set out our future priorities for the planning system in Scotland, taking account of responses to the consultation. This statement was accompanied by a Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) Environmental Report. An independent analysis of the consultation responses was published in October 2017.

The Position Statement proposed both legislative and non-legislative changes. Changes to primary legislation will be taken forward through a Planning Bill, which is expected to come before Parliament in winter 2017. Further changes will be made through secondary legislation following the Bill. Non-legislative improvements such as new policy, guidance, better co-ordination and support for performance improvements will continue alongside the legislative programme.

The Bill is central to our package of measures intended to strengthen the planning system's contribution to inclusive growth and empowering communities. The Bill sets out our high level changes to the overall framework under which planning operates with the detail of how the new provisions will work in practice contained within secondary legislation and guidance. Following parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill we will commence work on developing the required secondary legislation through a longer term, collaborative programme of work.

Supporting documents

We have assessed our proposals for their impacts on various different sectors. We will update and complete these assessments over the coming months prior to the introduction of the Planning Bill. The assessments are listed below:


We have commissioned research projects to support development of the consultation paper. These cover:

Supplementary documents:

Email or phone 0131 244 7059 with enquiries.