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Our role in the planning system

Longmore House, Historic Scotland headquarters, Edinburgh
Historic Scotland has a wide range of responsibilities for the historic environment, including statutory functions within the planning system.

The planning system has an important part to play in maintaining and enhancing those distinctive and high quality historic places which enrich our lives, contribute to our sense of identity and are an important resource for our tourism and leisure industries.  

The Agency’s planning engagement role is led by the Heritage Management Directorate. There are three area teams (North, West and East) and a strategic team (SHM) which operates on a Scotland-wide basis. The Heritage Management Director is Barbara Cummins.

Our role in the planning system

Our role in the planning system is to provide advice to planning authorities, developers and others on the potential impacts of development on the historic environment. In offering advice, we recognise that the historic environment is a fragile and irreplaceable resource, but also a dynamic one. While preserving the most significant features of our historic environment, we also recognise that the historic environment has a role as a catalyst for regeneration and business development.

The advice we offer as part of this process relates to scheduled monuments and their setting, category A listed buildings and their setting, Inventory battlefields and Inventory gardens and designed landscapes and historic marine protected areas.  Such advice will often be linked to our statutory functions as part of number of separate consenting processes – such as Listed Building, Scheduled Monument or Conservation Area Consent.

Development Planning

We work with planning authorities during the preparation of development plans to ensure that the historic environment is considered in a positive way. Our advice is targeted at assessing the likely effects of proposed allocations on Scotland’s protected sites. Along with SNH and SEPA, we also provide advice on the Strategic Environmental Assessment of development plans.

We also work with planning authorities on development plan delivery initiatives, such as the preparation of supplementary guidance, masterplans and development briefs.

Development Management

Historic Scotland is a statutory consultee for planning applications for works affecting A-listed buildings and their setting, scheduled monuments and their setting, Inventory battlefields or Inventory garden and designed landscapes. Where an application is accompanied by an Environmental Impact Assessment, Historic Scotland is also consulted.

We often work closely with developers before their application is lodged to ensure they are aware of issues relating to the historic environment, and ways in which impacts can be reduced.

In providing views on planning applications we consider various issues, including how the development might affect the appreciation of the site in its wider context, for example, if it would result in a major change in a key view within a designed landscape. In doing so we seek to help decision makers establish a clear understanding of heritage assets so that any impacts can be sensitively managed.  We also seek to maximise benefits arising for the historic environment as a consequence of new development and investment.

It is important to note that identification of a significant impact upon the historic environment does not necessarily mean that Historic Scotland would object to the application. Our primary role in the development management process is to ensure that the decision-maker is aware of all the relevant issues.

Key changes for the Agency as a result of Planning Reform

Pre-application engagement
We are a signatory to a recent Agency Joint Statement on Pre-application Engagement. Within that statement, pre-application engagement is highlighted as an integral part of the planning process. Effective pre-application engagement allows us to give clarity on the information we would regard as essential and to identify whether any consents will be required in addition to planning permission.

Planning performance
An efficient and well-functioning planning service plays an important role in delivering sustainable economic growth, facilitating development of the right quality in the right places.  

We have been working with key agencies to ensure that our assessments of applications are proportionate.

We are working with local authorities and other bodies to offer training opportunities to improve understanding of issues facing the historic environment and how to address them proportionately.

Along with other key agencies, Historic Scotland will publish an annual planning performance report on a range of service improvement indicators.


Contact us

Heritage Management
Historic Scotland
Longmore House
Salisbury Place
Edinburgh
EH9 1SH
Tel: +44(0) 131 668 8716

Planning Aid for Scotland

An independent charity which helps people engage in the planning system. It provides free, impartial advice on planning for individuals and community groups.

11a South Charlotte Street
Edinburgh
EH2 4AS
Tel: +44(0) 845 603 7602