Environmental evidence underpins everything we do to plan and make decisions on the design and delivery of high-quality, successful places in Scotland. New evidence approaches and collaboration need to be developed so that our key information can be used more effectively to help support the delivery of key priorities for our future places and people.

Key agencies sub-group

Understanding environmental evidence for planning policy

A collaboration between Scotland’s leading environment agencies and environmental research bodies are working with Scotland’s Development Planning Authorities to understand what new evidence approaches could help better inform the development, and delivery, of new planning policy approaches for Scotland’s future places and people.



Copyright © British Geological Survey

Who are we?

This group is a sub-group of the Key Agencies Group Scotland (KAG). The members of our sub-group and their expertise are detailed below.

The membership of the wider KAG can be found here. The KAG was established in 2008, with the aim of developing and supporting planning in Scotland through improved joint working. It is comprised of a ‘core’ group of statutory planning agencies, with wider organisations with relevant expertise contributing to the KAG sub-groups, such as this one.

Key Agencies Group Scotland

Key Agencies Group Scotland (KAG)

 British Geological Survey

The British Geological Survey is a world-leading geological survey. It focuses on public-good science for government, and research to understand earth and environmental processes.

 Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology is a world-class research organisation focussing on land and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere.

Historic Environment Scotland

Historic Environment Scotland, the lead public body set up to investigate, care for and promote Scotland’s historic environment.

Improvement Services

Improvement service (ISS) Scotland is the national improvement organisation for local government in Scotland.


The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) is Scotland’s principal environmental regulator, protecting and improving Scotland’s environment.

Scottish Forestry Logo

Scottish Forestry advises and implements forestry policy to protect and expand Scotland's forests and to increase their value to society and the environment.

Scottish Natural Heritage

NatureScot is funded by the Scottish Government. It’s purpose is to:

  • promote, care for, and improve our natural heritage
  • help people enjoy nature responsibly
  • enable greater understanding and awareness of nature
  • promote the sustainable use of Scotland's natural heritage.
The James Hutton Institute

The James Hutton vision is to be at the forefront of innovative and transformative science for sustainable management of land, crop and natural resources that supports thriving communities.

The Scottish Government

The Scottish Government is the devolved government for Scotland with responsibilities that include: the economy, education, health, justice, rural affairs, housing, environment, equal opportunities, consumer advocacy and advice, transport and taxation.

What we do

Our purpose

To enable a better understanding of how environmental information can be utilised more effectively in planning policy to help deliver key priorities for our future places and people.

The strategic aim and vision of the group is to:

  • To build improved accessibility and connectivity of environmental evidence to inform LDP preparation and strengthen placemaking in Scotland
  • To develop understanding of the required analytical pathways and communication of information - critically, an understanding of what types and scale of information and interrogation are required and appropriate to enable unlocks in strategic LDP planning.
  • To initiate and build a culture change in interaction between LAs and KAG – developing a coordinated, interactive collaboration and dialogue.

Informing LDP delivery - View the PDF version

Our work plan

Our work plan sets out our 12 month vision on how we will lead work with LDP teams in Scotland to develop new understanding of how environmental information can be used more effectively, and additively, to inform early strategic planning approaches.

Please click on the image below to view our Work Plan.

We would welcome any comments on our Work Plan (please email Helen Fallas (Bonsor) hfallas@bgs.ac.uk)

© British Geological Survey

Our work plan - View the full PDF version.

Work and findings so far

Since May 2018 the KAG sub-group has been working alongside 8 LDP teams* to develop in-depth user research through user stories, user interviews and focused workshop discussions, in three key areas.

The work and understanding being developed by the group is being used directly by Scottish Government (SG) to inform relevant areas of the broader SG Digital Planning transformation programme for an smart data driven planning system, and wider geospatial strategies and collaborations.

Emerging findings from the work are:

Wider suite of environmental information potentially relevant for LDP preparation:

  • There is emerging consensus between LDP teams and KAG sub-group that a wider suite of environmental information is potentially relevant to LDP preparation, and has measureable value to enabling unlocks through the planning process, ensuring consistent, proportionate, cost effective, and timely information requests.
  • Strategic Environmental Assessment of LDPs, LDP spatial approaches, and detailed LDP policies utilise a consitent information suite, but apply a different granulity of analysis.
  • Further learning is required to finalise and evidence conclusions around the exact information suite most pertinent to LDP preparation and enabling wider unlocks in delivering spatial planning approaches. See next steps.
  • Developing improved access, knowledge and confidence to the full range of potentially relevant information is essential to realise benefit and impact to LDP policies.

Appropriate linkage and cascade of information from LDPs – use cases and value:

  • It is recognised that many downstream benefits could be enabled from a more effective cascade of information through the planning process, from a richer evidence base at LDP preparation.
  • The work has begun to examine the use cases and potential efficiencies and unlock value from an improved cascade of information use from LDP preparation to subsequent stages of the planning process.

Improved information user guidance specific to planning:

  • Planning specific user guidance for information is needed to empower planning authorities, and support appropiate and consistent use of environemtnal information through the planning process.
  • Clear requirements to the scope, content and format have been input by the LDP teams to the group.

*LDP teams engaged in the work are:

Argyll and Bute Council, Cairngorms National Park, East Ayrshire Council, East Dunbartonshire Council, East Lothian Council, Glasgow City Council, Orkney Council and Perth and Kinross Council.

Next steps

  • Development of a prototype entry point and search tool for LDP environmental information, within Scotland Environment web (SEweb). This will not be the de facto deliverable, but will provide the required learning platform for the group to develop in depth understanding and evidence of what potential information suite and analytical pathways are required to enhance LDP preparation and policies.
  • Develop and test new information guidance, specific for planning.

Why is it needed?


Environmental spatial information developed and published by Scotland’s key agencies and research bodies have measureable value to inform early evidence approaches in planning policy – however, there is a need to improve the connectivity and accessibility of information, as well as understand new analytical pathways.

Discussions at national workshops (held in May 2017, February and May 2018), led by the Key Agencies sub-group and a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship, highlighted a recognised and urgent need to:

  • develop an improved collegiate understanding between Planning Authorities and national information providers of what are the most pertinent environmental information to LDP preparation; and
  • pilot new approaches to understand how evidence can be used in new pathways and more effectively to strengthen the capacity of planning policy.

This will enable us to develop:

  • better connectivity of information from existing web services and platforms; and
  • improved user based guidance for environmental evidence, increasing its accessibility to key users in policy.

LDP Evidence Workshop – COSLA, Edinburgh May 2018 - Copyright © British Geological Survey

Our approach

Learning pilots and wider validation

© British Geological Survey

Understanding what environmental information and evidence processes are relevant to the questions being asked in Local Development Plan (LDP) preparation is complex, and requires new collective learning between LDP teams and information providers.

Your input matters
















Sign up to our Knowledge Hub area

So that you can view and input your thoughts to the pilot outcomes and learning as things are posted and developed. We would like input from as many LDP teams in Scotland as possible.

Sign-up here: https://khub.net/sign-up

If you have any problems with signing up – please contact Iain Paton: Iain.Paton@improvementservice.org.uk

Send us your User Story

How do you need to use environmental information in LDP preparation?

Please tell us your thoughts, from your perspective and role in LDP preparation, by completing these 4 questions below, with a little or as much detail as you would like, and email it to us at: hfallas@bgs.ac.uk

LDP preparation User Stories

As a […]

When I am […]

I need to […]

So that I can […]

Let’s keep in touch

Improved communications and ongoing dialogue were highlighted as a priority at the national workshops.

We will be posting regular updates to this webpage about how our work progresses, the learning pilots, and key findings. Our communications will be going out to Heads of Planning, Strategic Environmental Assessment contacts and Local Development Plan policy and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) roles across Scotland’s planning authorities to ensure we connect to all relevant roles in this work area.

LDP Evidence Workshop – COSLA, Edinburgh - Copyright © British Geological Survey

Sign up for regular updates

Please contact Helen Fallas (Bonsor) hfallas@bgs.ac.uk if you would like to be added to our mailing list to receive regular updated about this work.

Follow us on social media

We will be posting updates on social media using #ScotPlanning and #LDPEvidence on the following social media channels:



Please share and join the conversation.

This page was updated on 26 Aug 2020

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