Planning & Environment

Every planner knows that, by law, a planning application must be determined in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise (T&CPSA section 25). However, the law says that there’s more than just this that a planner should have in mind when determining an application.

The Planning Acts also require planning authorities in taking their decisions to pay attention (in certain specified ways) to:

But it has become increasingly common for Parliament (both UK and Scottish) to pass laws with cross-cutting obligations that other bodies must comply with in the exercise of their functions. Here’s a quick trawl of examples that may have an effect on planning decisions:

Then there are sometimes broad duties imposed for the implementation of European Directives. Planning authorities are required to:

(which is not very helpful if you’re looking for guidance on precisely what your duties are).

And then there’s decisions on applications that will affect a site of special scientific interest … and so on.

Planning is a system that provides broad discretion to planning authorities and relies on policy to provide a reasonable measure of certainty in decision-making. Policy is capable of covering matters such as flooding, climate change, sustainability, biodiversity and so on, possibly better than law. How many of these legal duties imposed on decision-makers really add much other than complexity?

Fortunately courts don’t always insist a decision expressly considers each point the law says planners must have regard to, though planning authorities might want to show how they’ve discharged their duties.

The Scottish Government has produced a useful general guide to public authority decision-making. But perhaps it’s time it compiled a checklist specifically for planners of all the matters they are required to take into account in determining an application.


Planning & Environment