Innovation Exchange

Planning Validation


Key activities

Benefits and impacts


60% of planning applications submitted across Scottish Planning Authorities are invalid when first received.  In Argyll & Bute Council this figure can be as high as 77% for certain types of application.


The Planning System is not meant to be a barrier to development and yet unfortunately this is often the first impression that many of our customers are left with, due to these high figures. High levels of invalid applications also cause increasing resource pressures and can more than double the cost and time taken to validate an application. With only 61% (nationally) of all application processing costs being recovered through application fees we needed to review our current standards in terms of efficiency of process and in line with other Authorities requirements, to establish whether we were placing an overly onerous burden on applicants at validation stage. Argyll & Bute Council is committed to ensuring our region is “open for business” and recognising that we could do more to assist our customers through the planning application process and required a fresh approach to the form and content of our validation guidance notes to do so, as such our validation standards project was conceived.


We have also worked with Heads of Planning Scotland (HoPS) to make the new Validation Standard generic so it can be used by all Local Authorities Across Scotland.  Discussions are currently ongoing with Scottish Government to host the Validation Standards on their Website.


Aims of the Project were:

  • Review Argyll and Bute’s current Validation Guidance notes and produce a new series of ‘Validation Standards’  which could be rolled out Nationally
  • Review guidance currently available across Scotland to establish baseline for supporting documents/drawings required
  • Establish the minimum standards of documents/drawings required by our Planners in order for them to determine the various application types we most frequently receive – i.e. concentrate on ‘Development Types’
  • Establish and engage with external professional user group to gain their input to and acceptance of our proposed requirements
  • Make the new Validation Standards guidance as user friendly and accessible as possible
  • Engage with Rural Authority Benchmarking Group partners to gain their views on proposed minimum standards
  • Report the new Validation Standards to Heads of Planning Scotland and seek endorsement plus national roll out
argyll and bute council logo

Theme: Housing and Regeneration

The following is a breakdown of the key stages of this initiative and the actions taken therein:


  • Desk study of e-Planning and all other Scottish Planning Authorities guidance notes available online

  • Review user comments received since 2009 change in Development Management Regulations (customer complaints about validation)

  • Produce findings report and mock guidance note, outlining desired content and layout based on review findings

  • Authorisation to proceed from mock to draft stage

  • User groups formed – (Staff Group + External Customer / Agent Group)

  • Draft documents produced and issued to user groups

  • User group meetings held

  • User groups comments reviewed and amendments identified

  • Draft documents revised

  • Revised draft version issued for comment to user groups and benchmarking partner Authorities(Perth Council, Dumfries and Galloway, Highland, Borders)

  • Staff user group meeting to review and discuss comments received

  • Amendments authorised and finalised draft version approved

  • Presentation of Validation Standards to HoPS DM Sub Group

  • HoPS suggestions incorporated into documents with additional sections created

  • Guidance notes passed to Improvement Service to conduct national consultation with all Scottish Planning Authorities including the Scottish Governments Planning & Architecture Division

  • Comments from national and staff consultation reviewed

  • Final amendments approved by HoPS

  • Pilot of Validation Standards with Perth and Kinross & East Ayrshire Council  (February 2016)
  • Shared working / implementation between Councils to tackle a national issue

  • Benefits realisation too early as only went live in Feb 2016
  • Shared working / implementation between Councils to tackle a national issue

  • Learning realisation too early as only went live in Feb 2016

Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:


Ross McLaughlin

Development Manager

Argyll and Bute Council

01436 658 914

Case study added to site: June 2016

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