Although many people are enjoying their staycation, there's been lots happening in Scottish planning during July.

Removal of presumption in favour of sustainable development

In a climate emergency, it might seem strange to remove a presumption in favour of sustainable development, but that's what the Scottish Government propose to do:

"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."

This proposal is in the consultation paper on housing (below). However, the proposed amendment to the SPP appears to remove the presumption entirely, so it would no longer apply to other sectors. This is a significant concern for the renewables industry, given its sustainable development credentials.

Housing land supply

Elaine's blog noted that the court in Gladman Developments v Scottish Ministers underlined the need to have a generous housing land supply. 

The Scottish Government consultation paper – "The Scottish Planning Policy and Housing Technical Consultation On Proposed Policy Amendments" – acknowledges that the context for planning for housing in Scotland has changed significantly in recent months. The pandemic is delaying the review cycle of local development plans, and impacting on delivery programmes and the rate of housing completions.

The Scottish Government also consider that the Gladman decision raises a number of issues about the current wording of Scottish Planning Policy that require clarification.

Key objectives include:

  • 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.

That need for clarification is further highlighted by the decision of the Court of Session in Mactaggart & Mickel Homes Ltd and others v Inverclyde Council,  which resulted in the Inverclyde local development plan being quashed.

This continues the unusual run of successful legal challenges in housing cases, underlining the need for a re-think.

Housing supply in rural Scotland

The Scottish Land Commission have published a report by Savills "The Role of Land in Enabling New Housing Supply in Rural Scotland".  A key conclusion is:

"A more flexible and supportive planning system across the country has the potential to substantially increase housing supply. However, this needs to ensure that there is a focus on place and community driven planning whilst increasing the attractiveness of new housing to communities."

Town centre revitalisation

The Town Centre Expert Review Group has put out a call for written evidence on how to revitalise town centres in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Leigh Sparkes, who chairs the Expert Group, discussed the issues on our podcast

Planning performance

The Annual Planning Performance Statistics 2019/20 show that the number of planning applications has fallen, but it is taking longer for decisions to be made.


The Chief Planner issued a letter Planning - use of outdoors spaces and 'the ‘28-day rule’

Updated guidance has been issued for appeal reporters.  Arrangements are underway for inquiries to be held with social distancing, for example the Rothes III/ Clash Gour inquiry, scheduled to start on 1 September. 


Neil Collar