Scottish Planning Policy and Housing: Technical Consultation on Proposed Policy Amendments

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Closes 9 Oct 2020



1. The Scottish Ministers are consulting on proposed interim changes to the Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) (2014) to clarify specific parts of the Scottish Planning Policy that relate to planning for housing.

2. The changes, once finalised, will apply over the interim period ahead of the adoption of National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4). Publication of the draft NPF4 is expected in September 2021. Following consultation and consideration by the Scottish Parliament, SPP will be fully replaced when the final version of NPF4 is published in 2022.

Why We are Consulting

3. The Scottish Government is committed to a plan-led planning system. This was comprehensively supported by a wide range of stakeholders through the review of the planning system. Development plans form the basis of planning decisionmaking to enable the right developments in the right locations.

4. The context for planning for housing in Scotland has changed significantly in recent months. The pandemic is having an impact on the ability of planning authorities to maintain the review cycle of local development plans within the timeframes they intended. We expect that more development plans will extend beyond five years in the coming months and are keen to support authorities in adapting to the current circumstances. The pandemic is also affecting delivery programmes and the rate of housing completions. This, coupled with revised plan timescales, has implications for the plan-led approach to development.

5. Furthermore, a recent decision by the Court of Session on an appeal by Gladman Developments Ltd raises a number of issues about the current wording of the policy that we now believe require clarification.


6. The Scottish Ministers want the planning system to support the delivery of good quality homes in the right locations. This is of even greater importance now, as it has become even clearer that the quality of our homes can contribute a great deal to our health and wellbeing, and that housing delivery will play a key role in our future economic recovery. However, to achieve housing development in a sustainable way that works with, rather than against, the needs of communities, we need to overcome current conflict in the system, and actively address the lengthy technical debates we are seeing about the numbers of homes that we will need in the future. This will allow us to focus more on how we can strengthen delivery and enable good quality development on the ground.

7. Taking this into account, and to ensure that our policy is clear and can be more easily and consistently applied in practice, the Scottish Ministers wish to update and clarify specific parts of the SPP to achieve the following policy objectives:

  • Supporting a plan-led approach to decision-making and maintaining the legal status of the development plan as a basis for decisions in all cases.
  • Removing the presumption in favour of development that contributes to sustainable development from the SPP (‘the presumption’) given that it is considered to have potential for conflict with a plan-led approach and has given rise to significant number of issues it has generated for decision-makers in its application.
  • Providing a clearer basis for decisions on applications for housing on sites that have not been allocated in the local development plan where there is a shortfall in the effective housing land supply.
  • Clarifying what is meant by a 5 year effective housing land supply and in particular preventing sites that are capable of becoming effective being excluded solely on the basis of programming assumptions.

8. This consultation paper sets out proposed policy amendments to achieve these objectives and invites views on them. The relevant policies are set out in paragraphs 28, 29, 30, 32, 33 and 123-125 of the Scottish Planning Policy.