Development Planning Update: September 2020

Scottish Borders Council’s Development Plan Scheme, approved in March 2019, indicated that the Proposed Local Development Plan (LDP2) would be published towards the end of 2019 with formal consultation during the winter of 2019/2020.  Local Development Plans (LDP) require to comply with the Strategic Development Plan (SDP) for the area.  The Strategic Development Plan for south-east Scotland (SDP1) was approved in June 2013 and is considerably out of date and Scottish Ministers rejected the proposed replacement SDP (SDP2), produced by the South East of Scotland Planning Authorities (SESplan), in May 2019.  This rejection was primarily on the grounds that the SDP did not take sufficient account of the relationship between land use and transport.  This decision had major implications for Scottish Borders Council in its review of the Local Development Plan. 

Furthermore, the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, which received Royal Assent on 25 July 2019, proposed to abolish SDPs and replace them with Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS), a long-term spatial strategy document required to inform the Scottish Government in its development of a National Planning Framework for the whole of Scotland.  The formal duty to prepare Regional Spatial Strategies has not yet been enacted but the Scottish Government expects planning authorities to prepare indicative or interim strategies for their area.  The Scottish Borders is in a unique position in that it is involved in two such spatial strategies and at its meeting on 25 September 2020, the council was asked to approve two Indicative Regional Spatial Strategies (IRSS).  The IRSS for the South of Scotland has been prepared jointly with Dumfries and Galloway Council and the IRSS for the South East of Scotland in association with the other five authorities that comprise the South East of Scotland Plan Area (SESplan) (City of Edinburgh, West Lothian, Midlothian, East Lothian and Fife Councils). 

The South of Scotland IRSS and the South East Scotland IRSS will be taken into account by the Scottish Government in its review of the National Planning Framework (NPF4); the draft NPF4 is not expected to be considered by the Scottish Parliament until autumn 2021, with the final document to be tabled for parliamentary approval in spring 2022.  The South of Scotland IRSS adopts the proposed NPF4 themes of climate change, economy, people, place and connectivity.  It identifies a number of strategic developments across the south of Scotland, including Tweedbank Business Park, Innerleithen Mountain Biking Centre, dualling of the A1, a Selkirk By-pass on the A7 and a new bridge over the Tweed in Peebles.  The majority of developments identified in the IRSS are projects and programmes identified through the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal.  The South East Scotland IRSS builds on the strategy of the approved Strategic Development Plan.  The key themes are regional recovery and renewal, a more adaptable, resilient region and an accessible region.  These reports may seem somewhat esoteric to the layman, and indeed to some councillors, but they set out the overall aims and vision for the area against which decisions are made on more specific development proposals and decisions are made on financial assistance from Government.

Back to the Local Development Plan (LDP2); the Main Issues Report (MIR), an important stage in the preparation of a local development plan, was the subject of a 12 week consultation period that closed on 31 January 2019 and in excess of 300 consultation responses were received.  The MIR was prepared to reflect the key objectives of the proposed replacement SDP (SDP2 and stated that the Proposed Local Development Plan (LDP2) would take account of the provisions of the submitted SESplan2 and any amendments made by Scottish Ministers.  The Scottish Ministers decision in May 2019 to reject the proposed SDP had major implications for the progress of the LDP2 and for the local development plans of the other planning authorities within the SESplan area.  Consequently, the strategic development plan (SDP1), approved in June 2013 together with the associated Housing Land Supplementary Guidance, adopted in October 2014, remains the relevant strategic planning guidance for the south east of Scotland and the local development plan.  However, supporting documents prepared as part of the production of SDP2, such as the Housing Needs and Demands Assessment are also relevant.

The Proposed Local Development Plan (LDP2) was due to be presented to the full Council meeting in March 2020 for approval and then distributed for formal public consultation.  The intervention of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown meant that all Council meetings were cancelled.  Meetings have now recommenced, remotely by Microsoft Teams, and the Proposed Local Development Plan (LDP2) was approved by the council at its meeting on 25 September 2020.  See my blog on the Proposed Local Development Plan 2020 for a summary of the main policies and proposals.

When published, the Local Development Plan (LDP2) will be made available for representations for a period of 12 weeks.  According to the report submitted to the council, alongside the formal adverts in the press, and the council’s website, the Plan will be made available for inspection at all public libraries and council contact centres if current COVID-19 restrictions allow.  Consultations will be carried out with the Scottish Government, key statutory agencies, neighbouring planning authorities and community councils as wells as public organisations and businesses and those members of the public who have expressed an interest in the LDP process and have submitted representations in response to the MIR.  Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the usual public consultation events/meetings/exhibitions are not possible.  Public consultation is therefore to be carried out via online video presentations; the details of which will be confirmed through press releases and the council’s website. The presentations will provide information on the background and purpose of the LDP, how it can be viewed and how representations can be submitted.  It is envisaged that it will be some time next year (2021) before a report on the representations received is available, after which the council must decide how to proceed; amend the LDP or submit the Plan to a Scottish Government Reporter for examination.