From 19 May 2023, there is a new legal and policy landscape for Scottish planning authorities to take into account when preparing new Local Development Plans (LDPs), including the gateway procedure.
In preparing the LDP, the authority must fulfil its statutory duties: public sector equality; climate change; and natural heritage/ biodiversity. Also, there is the new purpose of planning: "to manage the development and use of land in the long term public interest".
National Planning Framework 4
The Ministers have set out in NPF4 their general expectations for LDPs:
"The focus for LDPs should be on land allocation through the spatial strategy and interpreting this national policy in a local context. There is no need for LDPs to replicate policies within NPF4, but authorities can add further detail including locally specific policies should they consider to be a need to do so, based on the area’s individual characteristics."
In addition, each of the NPF4 policies sets out objectives for LDPs.
There is no statutory requirement for LDPs to be consistent with the NPF, but consistency will presumably be a key issue considered by reporters when examining LDPs.
New considerations when preparing the LDP include:
- local outcomes improvement plan
- local place plan
- the desirability of preserving disused railway infrastructure
- the list published of persons seeking to acquire land in the area for self-build housing
- regional spatial strategy
- open space strategy
The spatial strategy in the LDP needs to take account of new considerations:
- the housing needs of the population of the area, including, in particular, the needs of persons undertaking further and higher education, older people and disabled people
- the availability of land for housing, including for older people and disabled people
- the desirability of allocating land for the purposes of resettlement
- health needs
- education needs
- rural areas where there has been substantial population decline
- maintaining an appropriate number and range of cultural venues and facilities
New procedures for preparation
There is a new requirement to promote and facilitate participation by children and young people (aged 25 and under) in the preparation of the LDP. Regard must also be had to any guidance issued by Scottish Ministers about undertaking effective community engagement.
Instead of main issues reports, before preparing the LDP, the planning authority must prepare an evidence report. The statutory provisions do not prescribe minimum evidence or data requirements, but the evidence report must include a play sufficiency assessment.
The evidence report will be examined by a reporter appointed by the Scottish Ministers. This is the "Gate Check" – assessment of whether the report contains sufficient information to enable the authority to prepare an LDP. The statutory provisions do not indicate what information will be "sufficient".
If the reporter is not satisfied there is sufficient information, that person prepares an assessment report, with recommendations for improving the evidence report. On receipt of an assessment report, the authority are to revise the evidence report and resubmit it to the Scottish Ministers.
The planning authority can prepare the proposed LDP after receiving notification that the evidence report is satisfactory.
The action programme has been renamed "delivery programme".
It will be daunting for planning authorities embarking on new LDPs: ensuring all the new requirements are followed, as well as fulfilling the aspirations of the Ministers that LDPs focus on land allocation. Preparing an evidence report will be particularly nerve-racking, until the first few emerge from the reporter gatecheck.