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Planning Obligations

The Planning Obligations work package includes implementation of Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 provisions relating to:

  • Modification and discharge of obligations
  • Publication and reporting on obligations
  • Clarifying the description of what an obligation can do

The provisions relating to the description of an obligation and the changes relating to the process for modification or discharge came into force in November 2020.  See the Legislation page for more details.

Review of planning obligations

Planning obligations are legal agreements (or unilateral undertakings) entered into under section 75 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997. Their purpose is to mitigate the impacts of proposed developments, in order to make them acceptable in planning terms.

Scottish Government policy on planning obligations is contained in Circular 3/2012, including the five tests governing their use. Subject to those tests, planning obligations can be used to secure financial contributions to - or in-kind provision of - infrastructure and affordable housing. In doing so, planning obligations can help to support good placemaking.

Planning obligations are commonly referred to as section 75 agreements. The term ‘developer contributions’ is sometimes used to refer to planning obligations and other mechanisms for seeking funding towards the cost of infrastructure and/or affordable housing.

As part of the planning reform programme, we are carrying out a review of existing developer contributions mechanisms, such as planning obligations. This was one of the recommendations of the Scottish Land Commission in their advice to Scottish Ministers on land value uplift capture.

The purpose of the review is to evaluate the effectiveness of planning obligations as a means of securing timely contributions to - and delivery of - the infrastructure and affordable housing that are necessary to create high quality places. The findings of the review help to inform the National Planning Framework, potential updates to Circular 3/2012 and (over the longer term) implementation of the infrastructure levy.

As a first step, we commissioned research on the value, incidence and impact of developer contributions in Scotland. This research, carried out by the London School of Economics, University of Sheffield, Stefano Smith Planning and Rettie & Co, was published on 9 July 2021.

Following the publication of the research, we will provide updates here setting out next steps.

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Last Updated: 21 Feb 2024