In September 2015 the First Minister announced:

a root and branch review of the planning system with a particular emphasis on increasing the delivery of high quality housing developments.

After much consultation, the Planning (Scotland) Bill was published. That has completed its Stage 2 in the Scottish Parliament, so this is a good time to review progress with reform.

Planning (Scotland) Bill

The Stage 2 consideration in committee resulted in numerous amendments to the Bill. Those have (further) diluted the initial focus on delivery of housing.

Issues of interest to the rural sector include:

Agriculture and forestry - Andy Wightman withdrew his amendment, which would have brought these within planning control; another of his amendments, curtailing constructions of tracks, was defeated.

Short-term holiday lets - amendment - changing the use of a dwellinghouse to provide short term holiday lets is to require planning permission.

National Scenic Areas - amendment - instead of "special attention is to be paid to the desirability of safeguarding or enhancing ...", the duty will be "special attention is to be paid to safeguarding or enhancing ...".

Masterplan consent areas - amendment - renamed from simplified development zones - planning authorities are to have the power to give up-front consent for development. Pilot projects in Argyll and Bute, Dumfries and Galloway, and North Ayrshire are exploring potential uses, including for self- and custom-build housing.

Land value capture - amendment - local authorities to have a CPO power formasterplan consent areas, with a change to the rules about valuation of land to provide an element of land value capture for the local authority.

Third party right of appeal - the committee narrowly rejected an amendment to introduce a right of appeal to objectors against the grant of planning permission.

The next step, Stage 3, is for the whole Parliament to debate the Bill and then decide whether to pass it. Stage 3 is an opportunity for amendments - current/ failed/ new - to be debated.

The timing of Stage 3 is dependent on the Parliamentary Bureau: early in 2019 is likely. Once the Act receives Royal Assent, the new provisions are likely to be brought into force on a rolling basis over several years.

More legal changes

Once the Bill process is completed, the Scottish Government willconsult on other legal changes.

Of particular interest will be reform of permitted development rights. There are suggestions that new rights could be introduced for conversion of agricultural buildings to dwellinghouses. Existing rights might be curtailed, eg. construction of tracks (notwithstanding that proposed amendments to the Bill to restrict creation of tracks were voted down by the Committee at Stage 2).

National Planning Policy

Post Bill, there will be consultation on the Scottish Government's National Planning Framework, which is due to be replaced in 2020. The new NPF is intended to include replacement of the existing Scottish Planning Policy.


As planning reform continues during 2019, there are likely tobe manyissues of interest to therural sector.