Interactions and Co-ordination
Issues between River Basin Management
Plans and Development Plans in Scotland
SEPA and the Scottish Executive commissioned Land Use Consultants
(LUC), through SNIFFER, to undertake a preparatory review of the
interactions between River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) and
Development Plans in Scotland. The aim of this review was to
identify key interactions and opportunities for co-ordinated working
between SEPA and planning authorities, particularly in the lead up to
preparation of the first RBMPs.
The Water Framework Directive
The Water Framework Directive (WFD) (2000/60/EC) establishes a
European-wide framework for the protection, improvement and sustainable
use of inland surface water, coastal water and groundwater. The Water
Environment and Water Services Act (WEWS) transposes the WFD in
Scotland. SEPA is the lead authority for implementing the
WEWS Act, working alongside ‘responsible
authorities’ including local authorities, Scottish Natural
Heritage (SNH), Scottish Water, The Forestry Commission, national park
authorities and district salmon fishery boards.
The WEWS Act introduces a planning system for the water environment,
requiring the preparation of RBMPs for River Basin Districts
(RBDs). A RBMP will be prepared for the Scotland RBD which
covers most of Scotland and further RBMPs for the Solway-Tweed and
Northumberland RBDs. The first RBMPs must be produced by
December 2009 and must establish environmental objectives for each
waterbody to protect and improve the water environment, with a
Programme of Measures to progressively achieve the objectives.
Whilst SEPA will lead and co-ordinate the river basin planning process,
it must develop an inclusive and collaborative approach to river basin
management planning involving other parties. SEPA published a
River Basin Planning Strategy for the Scotland RBD
(www.sepa.org.uk/wfd/rbmp/strategy.htm) in December 2005 detailing
actions to support the RBMP production process. These include
the formation of a National Advisory Group (NAG), along with eight Area
Advisory Groups (AAGs) charged with preparing Area Management Plans,
which together will form the RBMP for the district.
Land Use Planning
Protecting, enhancing and managing the water environment does not just
fall to RBMPs. Under the WEWS Act, it is a statutory
requirement that as far as practicable, all public bodies adopt an
integrated approach to this objective. Planning authorities
and SEPA must therefore exercise their respective land use planning and
environmental protection functions in a co-ordinated manner.
The land use planning system in Scotland guides the future development
and use of land in the public interest. It is a plan-led
system whereby Development Plans (i.e. Structure and Local Plans)
provide the basis for planning decisions. The Planning etc
(Scotland) Bill (hereafter referred to as ‘the Planning
Bill’) sets out major reform proposals for the delivery of a
modernised planning system in Scotland. Early discussions
with the Steering Group for this project confirmed that whilst emphasis
should be placed on the current land use planning system, the project
should have regard to the provisions of the modernising planning agenda.
Effective co-ordination between river basin management planning and
land use planning is essential to ensure that both systems deliver
sustainable outcomes and that their interface is well managed and
efficient. SEPA and planning authorities should seek to
ensure that their plans are co-ordinated and contribute to common
economic, social and environmental objectives. Ultimately,
Development Plans and RBMPs with significantly mismatching objectives
and policies could experience delays during plan approval
stages. Whilst the research focuses on the interaction
between RBMPs and Development Plans, the regulatory controls associated
with each system (i.e. the Controlled Activities Regulations and the
development management process) must also be well integrated.
SEPA and planning authorities are not starting ‘from
scratch’ in striving towards integrated protection of the
water environment. There are opportunities to build upon
existing good practice for co-ordinated working throughout Scotland,
and to establish the multi-disciplinary NAG and AAG
mechanisms. However, consultation on the draft Strategy for
the Scotland RBD revealed considerable stakeholder support, in
particular from planning authorities, for the development of additional
practical tools to specifically link river basin planning and land use
planning. Accordingly, the published Strategy proposes the
formation of a Planning Working Group (PWG) in mid 2006, with
membership from the Scottish Executive, SEPA and other planning
professionals to inform co-ordination between RBMPs and Development
Objectives of research
This research considers the interactions and co-ordination
opportunities between RBMPs and development plans and proposes
potential mechanisms to resolve problems, avoid conflicts and make the
interaction efficient and effective. The research will inform
the initial discussions of the PWG as it seeks to identify
opportunities for effective and complementary working and reports these
to the NAG, RBMP planners, and development planners.
Key findings and
The key interactions and co-ordination issues identified during the
research are as follows:
- Whilst existing arrangements for co-ordination between
planning authorities exist, RBMPs and the Planning Bill proposals will
provide a new dimension to this.
- Whilst the scope and purpose of RBMPs and Development
their required contents differ, related objectives and considerations
provide the potential for both processes to interact effectively.
- National guiding documents and policy statements
protection of the water environment consistently to promote effective
interaction between RBMPs and Development Plans at a strategic and
- Although the plan preparation programmes and review
inherently differ, SEPA and planning authorities should interact at key
stages of each plan–making process and should therefore be
aware of the consultation and communication arrangements associated
with each others’ plans.
- As the boundaries of the RBMPs and AAGs do not coincide
planning authority boundaries, SEPA should ensure that future
administrative arrangements to guide the preparation, implementation
and monitoring of RBMPs are fit for purpose and avoid unnecessary
duplication of effort.
- Opportunities for information exchange including
formats, e-planning and the use of GIS databases should focus on what
is realistically achievable.
- Supplementary planning guidance for Development Plans
sub-basin river management plans should consistently ensure appropriate
protection of the water environment at a more
- There is scope for SEPA and planning authorities to
at key Strategic Environmental Assessment stages, to share and exchange
information and avoid both duplication of efforts and inconsistencies.
- Effective co-ordination during plan preparation should
conflict between the two regulatory systems and reduce the scope for
delays in decision-making.
The key recommendations of the research are that:
Key words: Water Framework Directive, River Basin Management Plans,
SEPA and the Scottish Executive
should take forward the spatial expression of strategic water
management issues in the second National Planning Framework.
- The revision of PAN51: Planning and
Environmental Protection should incorporate planning advice on the
interactions between Development Plans and RBMPs.
- SEPA should provide consistent and
timeous advice to planning authorities and establish internal
monitoring and review procedures to measure the effectiveness of its
advice in achieving co-ordination between RBMPs and Development Plans.
- The Scottish Executive should consider
whether there is a need for ‘model’ policies
covering water management as relevant national planning policy is
drafted and/or revised. An alternative might be the
dissemination of suggested good practice policies.
- Planning authorities should use the
opportunity to comment on relevant aspects of SEPA’s draft
Significant Water Management Issues (SWMI) Report, particularly the
prioritisation of ‘significant’ issues and the
potential contribution of land use planning to delivering the
objectives of the RBMPs (2006/07).
- SEPA RBMP planners and planning
authorities should further consider how RBMP electronic information
could be shared to assist Development Plan preparation and, conversely,
how ‘e-planning’ could assist RBMP preparation.
- A strategically focused Planning
Working Group (PWG) should help raise awareness of the linkages between
RBMPs and land use planning, identify any significant co-ordination
issues and highlight any gaps and or inconsistencies in national
planning policy guidance.
- The PWG should provide a forum for
discussing co-ordination issues raised by area-based planning groups
and for disseminating examples of good practice to AAGs.
- The inaugural meeting of the PWG should establish the co-ordination
issues that warrant priority consideration, having regard to the
findings of this research.
- The RBMP Plan of Action Report due by
the end of December 2006 should include an update on the work of the
PWG to encourage wider dissemination and raise awareness of the
interaction between RBMPs and Development Plans.
Copies of this report are available from the Foundation, in electronic
format on CDRom at £20.00 + VAT or hard copy at
£25.00, less 20% to FWR members
N.B. The report is available for download from the SNIFFER Website