This page contains guidance on the formal part of community council’s responsibility in relation to planning applications. The texts are based on the following legislation and directives:
Community councils have a statutory right to be consulted on applications for planning permission and the community council has a special role, representing a broader yet still local view which can be set alongside the comments of those with a more individual interest.
Planning authorities also receive comments and objections on planning applications from statutory consultees like Scottish Natural Heritage or Historic Environment Scotland, from neighbours who are given special notification, and from a wide range of interested parties.
Authorities are obliged by law to decide planning applications in accordance with the development plan for the area (that is, where applicable, the approved strategic development plan and the adopted local development plan or local plan, taken together) unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Coming to a reasoned judgement on these matters lies at the heart of the planning authority’s' discretionary power to approve, refuse or modify applications under the law and within a framework of national policy guidance. The community council's key task is helping to provide an informed local context within which appropriate decisions can be made in the public interest.
Community councils are as individual as the areas they cover, so their approach to consultations and their capacity for response will vary a good deal. Each planning authority should therefore make a point of gaining a good working knowledge of the community councils in its area. Its liaison procedures should acknowledge local variations and be tailored to the characteristics of the community councils and local areas involved. Careful soundings and discussion in advance will help authorities to devise effective consultative arrangements with which those involved can feel comfortable. They may need to differ from one part of an authority's area to another. Occasional meetings between local authorities and community councils are recommended to keep these arrangements under review.
If community councils are to find, co-ordinate and express the views of the local community, both the community in general and the community council itself will need to have ready access to information on applications and development plans. It is therefore essential that planning authorities make this information available easily and promptly.
Each community council should appoint one person as their point of contact for the planning authority on all planning matters, provide holiday cover, and inform the authority accordingly. A useful way of securing that no information is lost during absence could be to set up a generic email account which can be accessed by other office bearers in the community council. Internal arrangements for considering applications will be for each community council to decide. A regular contact person in the authority's planning service should also be clearly identified for each community council. This will usually be the case officer for the area concerned.
The objective of PAC is for communities to be better informed about major and national development proposals and to have an opportunity to contribute their views before a formal planning application is submitted to the planning authority. This helps to: improve the quality of planning applications; mitigate negative impacts where possible; address misunderstandings; and to air and to address where practicable any community issues.
The prospective applicant must consult every community council any part of whose area is within or adjoins the land on which the proposed development is situated. This may include community councils in a neighbouring planning authority. The prospective applicant must also serve on these community councils the proposal of application notice.
Planning authorities are expected to develop and maintain up to date lists of bodies and interests with whom prospective applicants should consult in particular types of case. They should draw from those resources as appropriate to the particular proposal and its potential impacts.
Prospective applicants should have meaningful and proportionate engagement with those who represent the views of potentially affected communities, guided by PAN 3/2010: 'Community Engagement', the National Standards for Community Engagement or other locally agreed or adapted framework or set of principles.
After PAC, and once a planning application has been submitted to the planning authority, communities should ensure that any representations they wish to make on the proposal are submitted to that authority as part of the process of considering the planning application.
For more detailed information about the PAC process please go to: https://www.gov.scot/publications/proposed-changes-pre-application-consultation-requirements-planning-consultation/
Article 23 of The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2013 requires that community councils be sent a weekly list of all planning applications as a matter of course. Although the content of weekly lists may vary, and some authorities may prepare separate lists for parts of their area, each list is required to contain at least: the date of receipt of the application; its reference number; the site location: a description of the proposed development; and the name and address of the applicant or agent. As a matter of good practice, the weekly list should also explain the arrangements for obtaining details of a particular application, indicate the likely latest date for comments under these arrangements, and where possible give the name of the planning officer dealing with each case.
After studying the weekly list, community councils may wish to view particular applications in detail. Schedule 5, part 6 of The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2013 allows community councils to request formal consultation within 7 working days of the issuing date of the weekly list. The Development Management Procedure also allows for details of selected applications to be sent automatically, either where the application falls within a class of case or an area previously agreed between the community council and the authority, or where the authority considers that the application may affect local amenity. Under such arrangements the weekly list could be accompanied (or even preceded) by details of some applications, thus saving the community council from having to take the initiative to call for details of cases they are interested in and making it easier to comment in good time. Not all community councils may seek to be formally consulted; the ability to view locally, or borrow details on request after receipt of the weekly list, and then to submit comments like any other member of the public, may be all that is required. In all cases, community councils are advised to limit their attention to proposals which raise issues of genuine community interest: householder applications will rarely involve issues of this kind.
Community councils should not expect to be consulted on very minor changes which are sometimes made to applications either while they are being considered or after they have been approved. These 'non-material' amendments and variations carry no statutory provision for consultation. But where an application is to be amended in any material or substantial way, it will normally be submitted afresh and a new opportunity for consultation will arise.
It is important that consultation does not cause delay in the processing of planning applications. Community councils should therefore ensure that their method of working allows them to respond within the consultation period. The right for community councils to be consulted on applications is simply an extension of the right currently available to other consultees and no special arrangements are in place.
Article 25(3) of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2013 states that where a community council is being consulted, it must be given 14 days to make its comments on an application. The 14 days begins on the issuing date of details of the application. It will be for planning authorities and individual community councils to consider the most appropriate way of disseminating this information, which may be electronically. Where postage is used, authorities should as a matter of good practice allow some extra time based on their knowledge of the service in their area. 2 days should be sufficient extra time in most areas, with a maximum of 4 days in remote and island areas. The period allowed for comments should be clearly explained in the weekly list and shown on any additional details supplied.
Most cases should be handled within the timescale set out here. But the 14 day period is a minimum and it is open to a community council, like any other statutory consultee, to ask the authority to use its discretion to allow a reasonable extension in special cases: for example those which are unusually complex or controversial.
In some cases community councils may find it helpful to discuss applications with the planning authority. Authorities should respond constructively to requests for more information or discussion of particular proposals. Discussions on the planning merits of cases between applicants and community councils after a planning application has been submitted are strongly discouraged. It is for the planning authority to discuss issues with various parties if they think it necessary before coming to a decision.
As part of their commitment to the effective and efficient operation of the consultation arrangements, planning authorities should consider occasional training sessions for community councillors in their areas. This will help councils to make informed comments and gain a better understanding of how the planning system works. PAS (www.pas.org.uk) may also be able to help with training. The main approach to training should be informal, building up local understanding through the actual experience of consultation and the development of good working relationships.
- discuss consultation arrangements with authority
- select contact point within community council
- have a generic contact email with shared access
- agree contact point in the planning authority
- arrange for access to application documents
- arrange working to ensure comments on time
- ask what support and training you can get from the local authority
- contact all the community councils in the area
- agree consultation arrangements with each one
- supply background information (development plans, etc)
- agree main contact point in the planning authority
- arrange easy access to application information
- consider arrangements for local training