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The Development Plan

The planning system in Scotland is plan-led. Development Plans are at the heart of the planning system with a requirement set in law that planning decisions must be taken in line with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

They set out a long term vision and a framework for the future development of the area, addressing needs and opportunities in relation to housing, the economy, community facilities and infrastructure - as well as a basis for safeguarding and enhancing the natural and historic environment, mitigating and adapting to climate change. They identify the most appropriate locations for development to take place but they also identify and protect places where it should not. 

Prior to 13 February 2023, the development plan for West Lothian was comprised of two documents; the Strategic Development Plan for Edinburgh and South-East Scotland 2013 (SDP) and the West Lothian Local Development Plan 2018 (LDP 1). The SDP provided the strategic land-use framework at the regional level and established a policy context for the West Lothian Local Development Plan and contained policies and proposals that had secured the approval of Scottish Ministers.

However since that date, National Planning Framework 4 (opens new window) (NPF4) has been adopted and Scottish Ministers have given effect to provisions in Section 13 of the Planning (Scotland) Act which have made NPF4 part of the statutory development plan, replacing the SDP element. Strategic planning matters are now set out in NPF4.

NPF4 has been prepared by the Scottish Government and is a long-term plan looking to 2045 that is intended to guide spatial development, set out national planning policies, designate national developments and highlight regional spatial priorities.

The SDP, previous National Planning Framework 3 (NPF3), together with Scottish Planning Policy 2014, have been superseded and have ceased to have effect from that date.

To be clear, while the development plan still comprises two documents, these are now National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) and the West Lothian Local Development Plan 2018 (LDP 1).

The West Lothian Local Development Plan (LDP 1), which was adopted on 4 September 2018, remains part of the development plan (together with its associated Planning Guidance) and the existing land allocations it has made are maintained.

Preparation of a new LDP has been provisionally commenced and is being prepared on a timetable that expects to achieve its adoption before 2028. NPF4 will be a significant and material influence, being that it incorporates the most up to date national policies on a wide spectrum of planning topics.

Local Development Plans were previously required to be reviewed and replaced at five yearly intervals but recent changes to the development planning system introduced by the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 has increased this period to a ten-year cycle, or whenever required to do so by the Scottish Ministers.

While there is no legal requirement for new LDPs to be directly 'compatible' with NPF4, there is a statutory requirement under section 16(2)(a)(i) of the 1997 Act that planning authorities must take the NPF into account.

The development plan sets out agreed planning policies for the administrative area of West Lothian and is the background against which planning decisions are made by the council and has a strong role in day-to-day planning decision making.

NPF4 was adopted in February 2023 and therefore predates the preparation and adoption of LDP1 and there may be instances where policies in NPF4 are found to be incompatible with policies in LDP 1. In that event the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 (section 24(3) makes clear that whichever plan is the later in date is to prevail. As NPF4 is the most recent plan, it will take precedence.

In order to ensure that planning decisions are rational and consistent, they must be considered against the whole development plan and have proper regard for other relevant and material considerations. 

Before making a planning application (or commenting on a proposal) it is strongly recommended that the development plan is consulted in order to identify which policies (in both documents) are likely to be  materially relevant.

Other policies, information or studies which support the development plan

There are a number of documents and studies which support the delivery of the development plan:

  • Statutory and non-statutory planning guidance which address a number of subject matters to help support an up-to-date and consistent application of development plan policies (including developer contribution policies); and
  • Background information and studies; these include the annual Housing Land Audit (HLA), the West Lothian Retail Capacity Study and the West Lothian Local Landscape Designation Review amongst others.

This page was last updated: 13 February 2023