Although local place plans (LPPs) no longer feel new, arrangements are still being made for their introduction. The Scottish Government has issued a consultation paper on regulations to come into force around the end of 2021.

General approach

The approach is elastic, to give communities the flexibility to respond to their local circumstances. The intention is to empower communities, rather than constrain them by creating a rigid framework of rules and procedures.

A draft comprehensive How-to-Guide has been prepared, taking into account the experiences of preparing over 50 community-led plans from various parts of Scotland. 

What are LPPs?

The draft How-to-Guide describes LPPs as a tool for local communities to think about how to make their “place” better, agree priorities, and take action (often working with others) to make change happen.

The Guide contains "reality-checks", including comments that LPPs should not be seen as a wish list to demand unrealistic investment from others; or a means of stopping live development proposals.

Time and commitment

The Guide emphasises that preparation of an LPP will involve time (at least 12 months) and commitment.

The law

The general legal provisions on LPPs were introduced by the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019. These are discussed in our blog

  • Community bodies can prepare a LPP for their community area.
  • The LPP must have regard to the Local Development Plan and National Planning Framework
  • An LPP does not form part of the LDP
  • Planning authorities must take valid LPPs into account when preparing their LDP.

This differs from Neighbourhood Plans in England, which sit alongside the relevant Local Plan and form part of the development plan.

Thus there will be a non-dependent relationship between LPPs and LDPs. In the words of the Minister: "Our intention is for communities to lead the development of local place plans, working with rather than to local authorities"; and the Stage 1 Report on the Bill commented: "LPPs are not, however, a replacement for high quality, meaningful engagement on the local development plan…".

"Light touch" approach

The desirability of a "light touch" approach is acknowledged in the Consultation:

  • "a light-touch approach in legislation, thus allowing for flexibility to suit local circumstances"
  • "Whilst light-touch, the legislation and associated guidance will provide an appropriate balance, providing a robust framework for the development and consideration of LPPs."

This is the tension inherent in all plan-making: avoiding an overly bureaucratic framework, but at the same time ensuring procedures are in place for effective consultation and compliance with other plans and policies.

However, it is particularly important to strike the right balance for LPPs, because the Scottish Government financial estimates seem to envisage the community body doing the bulk of the work themselves, rather than employing professional advisers (the average cost is estimated at £15,000, some of which would be covered by volunteering or support from public or third sector bodies; the Guide mentions specialist support as an optional cost of up to £20,000).

The Consultation suggests community engagement or consultation could be dealt with through guidance, rather than legislation.

In contrast to this "light touch" approach, Neighbourhood Plans in England must be approved by a referendum held by the planning authority before a plan is adopted. Also, an independent examiner will consider the submitted Neighbourhood Plan to ensure the statutory requirements are met.

Planning authorities

There is no proposal to require planning authorities to support LPP preparation, in contrast to the position in England with Neighbourhood Plans. The Guide says the planning department should be able to provide useful advice, policy information, data, contacts and resources, with the caution that all local authorities have limited resources, and may not be able to offer as much help as they would like.

The role of planning authorities is largely to be restricted to keeping a register of LPPs, which also involves assessing each LPP for compliance with the basic statutory requirements.


LPPs offer the potential to channel the energy and ideas present in many communities. The proposed light touch approach avoids that energy being dissipated by complying with procedural requirements. The Guide will be a valuable tool for ensuring the robustness of the LPP is not undermined by weak consultation or other poor preparation.