A bill aimed at simplifying and improving the planning system in Scotland has been introduced to Holyrood.

Local Government Minister Kevin Stewart said the Planning (Scotland) Bill, which builds on recommendations of an independent expert review carried out last year, would create "a new structure for a more proactive and enabling system", with clearer development plans, earlier engagement with communities, streamlined procedures and smarter resourcing.

Divided into six parts, the bill opens by adding to the input to revisions to the National Planning Framework and by requiring local authorities to prepare an "evidence report" ahead of a local development plan, while abolishing the requirement to prepare strategic development plans. Other sections include provision for "local place plans" prepared by community bodies.

Part 2 introduces simplified development zones; part 3 deals with development management, including new provision for schemes of delegation of certain planning decisions, duration of planning decisions, completion notices and objections thereto, and planning obligations. Part 4 covers fees, new enforcement provisions, training for taking planning decisions, and a. new regime for monitoring performance of planning authority functions; while part 5 brings in power to establish an infrastructure levy, following the recent Supreme Court decision that present legislation does not permit such a levy as a condition of planning permission (click here for report). Part 6 provides for commencement etc.

Mr Stewart commented: "Scotland’s economy needs a world-class planning system. Our planning system must take a strong and confident lead in securing the development of great places that will stand the test of time and this bill will encourage more people to play an active role in shaping these.

"In addition to restructuring and simplifying the system to provide greater certainty for investors and communities alike, it will reflect the importance of development and infrastructure to achieve our ambitions for housing, schools and regeneration – creating jobs and generating economic growth.

"Performance improvement will be formalised so applicants can rely on receiving a consistent service and local authorities will have greater powers to charge for their services. In short, this bill will reduce bureaucracy so that planners are better equipped to lead high-quality developments that support the economy and enhance our communities."

Click here to access the bill and related papers.