The Future of Local Place Plans?

Nick Wright reflects on his recent research commissioned by the Scottish Government in preparation of draft regulations and guidance for Local Place Plans.

This blog was first published by Nick Wright on 4th February 2020.

Local Place Plans – one of the provisions of the new Scottish planning system – are the subject of much uncertainty in the world of Scottish planning.

Have they started yet? What will they look like? How will they relate to Local Development Plans and other plans? Who will prepare them? Who will pay for them?

Uncertainty rules

The only one of these questions that can be answered is the first one: no, Local Place Plans have not been enacted yet. Until the Scottish Government publishes its regulations and guidance on Local Place Plans, scheduled to be in early 2021 according to their work programme, nobody know what they will look like – or the answers to any of the other questions.

Since we know that Local Place Plans are on the horizon, local authorities and others are gearing up to get ready for their appearance. Some local authorities, like Renfrewshire for example, have already prepared guidance for producing Local Place Plans in their area – click here for my blog post on Renfrewshire’s guide and pilot Local Place Plan.  PAS has recently produced a guide explaining their approach to producing Local Place Plans.

These are all welcome initiatives, as they share good practice about local community-led planning and are, I’m sure, useful to the Scottish Government in helping them draft the regulations and guidance. But nobody yet knows whether these initiatives will stand the test of time, because they anticipate what the regulations and guidance might say.

Moving towards certainty

The Scottish Government is of course working towards draft regulations and guidance on Local Place Plans. As part of that work, it commissioned Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC, who developed the National Standards for Community Engagement) and me to undertake action research to contribute to preparation of draft regulations and guidance for Local Place Plans.

Critically, we wanted to find out more about the implications of Local Place Plans for communities, and explore some big questions:

  • How might Local Place Plans help spatial planning, community planning and community empowerment align to support better places and communities?
  • What skills, capacities and resources might be needed amongst professionals and communities for effective Local Place Planning?
  • How might resources be managed so that Local Place Planning tackles inequality?

Most of the work took place in the first half of 2019, involving interviews, focus groups and a national seminar with planners, community development workers, community planners, community organisations, civil servants and built environment membership organisations.  has just been published.

The big opportunity: flipping the system

From all the research discussions across people from all sectors, it was clear that there was a big opportunity for Local Place Plans: they they could be a mechanism to ‘flip the system’, in the words of one civil servant.

What does “flipping the system” mean?

At the risk of over-simplifying with these cartoons, it means helping to deliver the public service reform agenda by moving from this:

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to this:

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Where do Local Place Plans fit into this? They would be the mechanism for enabling that “flip” to happen, by expressing the local community’s aspiration for its future, to inform service delivery and investment by the public sector, private and voluntary sectors.

In other words, the opportunity is for Local Place Plans to be a critical link in delivering community empowerment and the public service reform (in line with the aspirations of the Christie Commission), rather than merely another layer in the land use planning system.

Putting that into practice

The report outlines how Local Place Plans might be designed to “flip the system” as described above, including:

  • Ten principles for Local Place Plans (see below).
  • A summary process for producing a Local Place Plan.
  • Case studies of recent community-led plans which could form models for Local Place Plans.
  • Existing sources of further support and information that are already availably.
  • Recommendations for further work to support successful implementation of Local Place Plans.

These findings are all intended to feed into the Scottish Government’s preparation of regulations and guidance over the coming year. But remember, we won’t know if Local Place Plans will follow this model until the draft regulations and guidance are published!

10 guiding principles

As a taster of what’s in the report, here are the 10 guiding principles suggested to the government:

  1. Local Place Plans (LPPs) should be community led.
  2. LPPs should be prepared through inclusive and robust community engagement.
  3. LPPs should express a clear vision with key actions.
  4. LPPs should be co-produced and co-delivered.
  5. LPPs should reflect community aspirations, and should not be limited to spatial planning.
  6. The spatial elements of LPPs should inform Local Development Plans.
  7. LPPs should be tools for community empowerment and addressing inequality.
  8. LPPs should be tools to help community planning and land-use planning achieve better outcomes.
  9. LPP boundaries should reflect local community boundaries.
  10. LPPs and Community Action Plans can essentially be the same thing.

More information

There’s a lot more in the report itself. Click  to download the report (0.5mb PDF), and here for more information on the SCDC website.

Also, the Improvement Service held a webinar about the research just after its publication – click here to see the presentation and discussion on YouTube.