It might not compare to the pomp and ceremony of the Twelve Days of Christmas, but the Scottish Government has given us the early Christmas present of some Planning (Scotland) Act commencement:

National Scenic Area

From 1 December - special attention is to be paid to "safeguarding or enhancing its character or appearance", rather than the previous wording "the desirability of safeguarding or enhancing...".

Planning authorities and Reporters will need to make sure the correct wording is referred to, especially when deciding applications/ appeals which started prior to 1 December, where submissions might refer to the previous test.

Forestry and Woodland Strategy

From 1 December - planning authorities have a duty to prepare a forestry and woodland strategy. No time limit is specified.

The Scottish Government say that most authorities already have a strategy, and suggest that those authorities could set out their plans for revising the existing strategy.

Noise-sensitive development (Agent of Change)

From 20 December - when deciding an application or appeal for a "noise-sensitive development", particular account must be taken of whether the development includes sufficient measures to mitigate, minimise or manage the effect of noise on any existing cultural venues or facilities, or dwellings or businesses in the vicinity of the development.

"noise-sensitive development" is defined as a development where residents or occupiers are likely to be affected by significant noise from existing activity in the vicinity.

Although these noise impacts were generally taken into account anyway, planning authorities and Reporters will now have to demonstrate that "particular account" has been taken of these matters.


From 20 December - the levels of fines for breaches of enforcement and other notices have been changed. This applies to notices issued from 20 December.

Although it is rare for fines to be imposed, planning authorities will need to check that their notice templates have been amended to refer to the amended fines.

Powers of Scottish Ministers

From 1 December - changes are made to the Ministers' powers in relation to pre-application consultation, section 42 procedure for variation of conditions, biodiversity, changing place toilets, call-ins, planning fees, National Planning Improvement Co-ordinator, National Scenic Areas, applications for listed building consent.

These changes are likely to be pre-cursors to new Regulations introducing further changes.

1 March 2020

Although the next round of commencement is not until 1 March 2020, planning authorities should be checking their internal procedures now to ensure compliance from that date.

The changes will be:

  • new requirement to notify major applications to all Councillors, MSPs and MPs - will apply where the application is received from 1 March 2020
  • removal of requirement for full Council decision on applications requiring a pre-determination hearing
  • decision notices to include a statement of accordance with the development plan


Neil Collar