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Planning's big day

17 August 09

Monday 3 August 2009 sees most of the changes to the development management system come into force

by Robert Seaton

Monday 3 August is another planning reform milestone – the day when most of the changes to the development management system (planning applications, appeals and reviews, and enforcement) take effect.

The overall framework remains very similar, although there are significant changes. The authority must still determine the application in accordance with the provisions of the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. However, as part of the drive for efficiency, the processing of applications will now depend on where they lie in the new hierarchy of development. This divides developments into national, major and local, and the procedures for determination now depend on the position in the hierarchy.

Significant changes to the system for processing applications include:

  • Developers to undertake pre-application consultation for national and major developments
  • Processing agreements to be used for major or national developments
  • New delegated powers for local authority officers to determine planning applications for local developments
  • Pre-determination hearings to be held by planning authorities for applications for national developments and major developments that are significantly contrary to the development plan
  • Planning permission in principle replaces outline planning permission
  • Planning permissions granted after 3 August will expire after three years (two years for planning permissions in principle)
  • Developers to notify initiation and completion of development.

Changes to planning appeals include:

  • Time limit for lodging appeal has been reduced from six months to three months
  • Full details of the appellant's case must be lodged with the notice of appeal - no new matters should be introduced from the application, and no amendments made after the appeal, so planning applications must be comprehensive
  • Where the application is determined by an officer under delegated powers, the right of appeal is to the local review body, which is made up of at least three local council members. Other than in very limited circumstances, there is no mechanism to circumvent the LRB and have the appeal determined by Scottish ministers/reporters
  • Appeals against decisions by councillors will continue to be determined by Scottish ministers/reporters.
  • Reporters and local review bodies (LRB) determine procedure. There is no right to oral hearing.

As a general rule, these changes will apply to applications made before 3 August (although planning permission already issued will not be affected). So:

  • Planning applications for outline permission will be transformed from 3 August into applications for planning permission in principle
  • Where an application is for a major development that is significantly contrary to the development plan or for a national development, it must have a pre-determination hearing before permission is granted
  • Determination of most local developments will be delegated in most planning authorities from 3 August to a council officer under a new scheme of delegation (and therefore any challenge to the decision will be to the LRB)
  • Appeals from 3 August will be determined under the new system, even if the application was determined before 3 August.


  • Where applications for national and major developments were submitted before 3 August, there is no need to go back and carry out 12-week pre-application consultation
  • For applications determined before 3 August, there will still be six months to appeal.

Most of the planning reforms have now been implemented. The exceptions are (with estimated dates for consultation by Scottish Government):

  • Remaining changes to permitted development rights (spring 2010)
  • Good neighbour agreements (July 2009!)
  • Tree preservation orders (TBC)
  • Planning application fees (TBC)
Robert Seaton, Senior Solicitor, Planning Team, Brodies LLP
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