Evidence reports and gatechecks are part of the new landscape for preparation of local development plans (LDPs). Guidance has been provided by the Scottish Ministers.
The purpose of the evidence report is to set out the planning authority’s interpretation of the evidence gathered and its implications for the preparation of the LDP. It is not expected to contain all the detail of evidence - it should provide a summary of what the evidence means for the plan.
There is a statutory requirement to seek particular views in preparing the evidence report, but there is no requirement to consult on the report itself.
The evidence report may be collated around issues – either policy topics or places. The guidance includes a suggested template for presenting information within the evidence report.
It should include information on infrastructure capacity, conditions, needs and deliverability.
A site appraisal methodology should be included, for use in appraising sites to inform allocations for the LDP.
The evidence report should identify any potential gaps in the evidence gathered or uncertainty in data. It should also highlight areas where the authority is aware through discussions, forums or exchanges that stakeholders agree or disagree with the evidence.
The gatecheck is examination of the evidence report by a reporter appointed by the Scottish Ministers, to assess whether it contains sufficient information to enable the planning authority to prepare the LDP.
The intention is to reduce the level of debate when the draft LDP is examined, and to make for a better evidence-led plan. It should not be necessary for the sufficiency of evidence base to be revisited at the examination stage.
Where there are disputes over the sufficiency of evidence, it is expected that the majority of assessments will be carried out using written submissions, with a hearing only used where a particularly complex dispute is identified.
The guidance provides advice on relevant evidence for each of the NPF4 policy topics. That will depend on the issues relevant to the particular LDP – the guidance is not intended to be exhaustive.