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What is the Planning Reform Programme?

We are progressing a wide reform of Scotland’s planning system – of the way planning works, collaborates and makes choices and decisions.

An independent panel appointed to carry out a review of Scotland’s planning system in 2015 concluded that the main structure of the system was not broken, but that for the potential of planning to be realised, a strong commitment to change practices and culture, and to re-focus the profession’s improvement agenda would be required.

The Scottish Government agreed with that assessment, and embarked on a programme of change to simplify and strengthen the planning system to ensure it better serves all of Scotland’s communities; and to reposition planning as a positive enabler of the high quality development our communities need.

The review identified six outcomes to guide this planning reform:

  • Strong and flexible development plans
  • The delivery of more high quality homes
  • An infrastructure first approach to planning and development
  • Efficient and transparent development management
  • Stronger leadership, smarter resourcing and sharing of skills
  • Collaboration rather than conflict – inclusion and empowerment

Wide engagement and collaboration following the review led to the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, passed by the Scottish Parliament in June 2019. Our work is continuing to implement the Act and wider planning reforms; with focus remaining on those six key outcomes.

The pages of this site, which you can access from the links below, include the essential information and resources from the planning reform programme to date; and for activity still to come to complete the transformation of Scotland’s planning system.

You can also keep in touch with all the latest developments and opportunities to give your views by following us on Twitter @ScotGovPlanning and registering for our Planning & Building update emails.

The planning reform programme began in 2015 with the appointment of an independent panel of users of the planning system, to conduct a wider review and report to the Scottish Ministers. The Independent Panel’s findings formed the basis of public consultations and of the Planning (Scotland) Bill introduced in the Scottish Parliament in late 2017 – now the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 after being passed by the Parliament.

See further information and resources about earlier stages of the programme

The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 forms a key part of our wider planning reforms. With the Act in place, we are now progressing a detailed work programme which will implement the new Act, through further legislation alongside a suite of other actions to continue the transformation of our planning system in practice. This will involve extensive stakeholder engagement and public consultation to help shape the way the new system will operate.


See further information and resources about the work programme

This is a substantial programme of work.  For practicality and to enable effective engagement, we are taking forward the full planning reform implementation programme through these grouped work packages: community engagement; development planning; development management; leadership, skills and resourcing; permitted development; and planning obligations.

See further information and resources about the work packages.

Throughout our progress with the substantial Transforming Planning in Practice work programme, we will discuss and explore issues and options with stakeholders before implementing the detailed changes to planning legislation and guidance. This engagement will take different forms – both tailored to specific issues and more widely to look carefully at planning reform as a whole.


See further information and resources about this stakeholder engagement

We will conduct a number of public consultation processes to support and inform our thinking in developing further legislation and guidance. So far we have completed two consultations within the Transforming Planning in Practice programme, relating to: reviewing permitted development rights; and planning performance and fees.


See further information and resources about our public consultations

The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 was passed by the Scottish Parliament in June 2019. The implementation of the Act is underway and some of its provisions are now in force, while our Transforming Planning in Practice programme involves the development of further legislation both to implement the provisions of the Act and to take forward wider changes to Scotland’s planning system. We will provide links to all relevant legislation and supporting information on this site.


See further information and resources about new planning legislation

Last Updated: 07 Aug 2020

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