We offer a free, impartial and confidential Advice Service to help with any planning issues, whether about your own home or wider planning issues in your community. We also provide information about the planning system, with specific information sheets about common issues, and details of how to contact the planning authority in your local area.
The Scottish Government provides funding to support the development and running of the Advice Service.
- Submit an enquiry to the Advice Service
- Am I eligible for advice?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Information sheets
PAS provides a free, impartial, independent, enabling, and professional planning advice service (subject to eligibility) to help people understand and engage with the planning system. Our advice service is provided by volunteers, who are all chartered planners based throughout Scotland. Our planning advice service deals with hundreds of enquiries annually from members of the public and community groups.
We offer clients of the Advice Service advice on how to represent themselves, or how to secure the services of an appropriate professional. We do not have an advocacy role and do not submit planning applications or make representations on behalf of clients. Planning can be complex. We aim to make the system as straightforward and accessible for you as possible.
Please have a look at our Frequently Asked Questions tab to the right (or download the PDF here) to see if we have already answered your question.
Please complete the enquiry form here. Alternatively, you can contact us on 0300 323 7602. Calls cost no more than a national rate call.
Please note that we are currently experiencing a very high level of demand for our Advice Service and it is taking longer than usual to allocate cases to an advisor. Thank you for your patience during this time.
We can help
- Community Councils
- Community Groups
- Tenants’ Associations
- Residents’ Associations
- Social Enterprises
- Development Trusts
- First business start-ups (within 18 months of establishment and no affiliations with other businesses)
- Individuals building their own home
PAS aims to be to be as inclusive as possible in providing planning advice. In particular, we seek to assist those who may experience, or be at risk of, hardship or have difficulty engaging with the planning system, including seldom-heard groups such as ethnic minority groups.
We are not able to help
- Individuals employed as architects, surveyors, planning consultants, specialist planning lawyers, or other consultants, and seeking advice on behalf of a client
- Anyone who is currently using the services of professional consultants on the details of the enquiry, such as architects, surveyors, planning consultants, specialist planning lawyers, or other consultants
- Anyone who is seeking advice about building more than their own residential property
- Established businesses
- Statutory bodies
- Political parties (however, we encourage individual elected members, MSPs and MPs to refer their constituents to our service)
For more information on eligibility for our advice service please contact William at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also download these Frequently Asked Questions in a PDF here.
Q1. I want to extend the house. Do I need planning permission?
A1. It will depend upon a range of factors. These will include how large the extension is, whether it is single-storey or two-storey, whether it is at the front, side or back of your house and whether it is a listed building or in a Conservation Area. Generally, modest sized ground floor extensions to the rear of a house fall within what is termed as ‘Permitted Development’ and do not require the submission of a planning application unless the house is listed or in a conservation area. If your house is listed then you will require Listed Building Consent. Remember, if you do not own the house, you would probably need the owner’s consent to put on an extension. Furthermore, whilst your building work might not require planning permission it might still require a Building Warrant from the Council confirming that the work has been done to the required standard and not prejudiced the structural integrity of the structure.
Q2. One of my neighbours is wanting to extend their house. I am worried that it will cause me loss of privacy and change the character of the area. Can I object?
A2. If your neighbour is extending his or her house under permitted development then you will not be able to object since it does not require planning permission. However, if because of the size of the proposal they are having to apply for planning permission then you will be able to object. You should receive a notification from the Council giving you 21 days in which to make an objection. Your objection should focus on relevant planning issues such as the size, scale and appearance of the proposed development or its effect on your property. Your objection should be considered before a decision is made. And remember; you do not have to be a neighbour to make an objection. You can object to any planning application.
Q3. I want to build a summer house in the back garden. Does this need planning permission?
A3. Again, a new summer house might fall within the category of ‘permitted development’ and so not need submission of a planning application. It may be classed as a development ancillary to the enjoyment of the home. But it will depend upon how large the structure is likely to be, how tall it will be, how close to the boundary it will be and also how much of the total garden space it will occupy. Generally, the larger the structure, the more likely it is that you will need planning permission.
Q4. So, can I change my garage to an office without applying for planning permission?
A4. Yes, probably. However, although you will not be building a new structure you will probably be installing new windows and possibly skylights. These might change the character of the area and also might result in a loss of privacy for neighbours. You should therefore check with your council about this. Even if planning permission is not required the Council will probably advise you to apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness of the Existing Use and Development. This provides immunity against enforcement and removes any uncertainty about the lawfulness of the use. Also, when you come to sell your house, your solicitor would probably advise you to get the Certificate so that buyers are not worried about the possibility of any enforcement action.
Q5. If I do have to apply for planning permission to build something what does this involve?
A5. A planning application will require completion of a planning application form, submission of a set of drawings showing the location of the site, the current and proposed elevations and floorplans and the appropriate fee. If this sounds intimidating do not worry. You can use a professional to assist you, and this would usually be a planning consultant or an architect. They will be able to help you navigate your way through the planning process and advise you on how best to present your proposal. Ideally, planning consultants should be members of the Royal Town Planning Institute (MRTPI). For more complex proposals, the need to have a professional advisor is even more imperative.
Q6. There is somebody in our area who is using their property for a purpose which, I am sure, does not have planning permission. Is there anything that I can do about this?
A6. Yes. This might be what is known as an unauthorized use of land or buildings. Perhaps the occupant is using a field for the storage of caravans or old cars. Alternatively, somebody might have built a very large extension without planning permission. In either case you can report this to the Council and ask it to use its powers to investigate whether there has been a breach. If there has been a breach then the Council can take enforcement action and bring the unauthorized use to a halt or have the unauthorized structure removed. You should remember however that unauthorized buildings acquire immunity from enforcement action after 4 years and unauthorized uses of land acquire immunity after 10 years.
Q7. A development in our area was granted planning permission. However, the workers are on the site at an extremely early hour and are there until late in the evening. The noise is unbearable. Is this a planning matter?
A7. Possibly. It might be that the construction workers are in breach of a condition attached to the planning permission limiting the hours of work. Every planning permission has ‘conditions’ which must be complied with. These will cover what must be done before construction starts (such as ground contamination surveys), what must be done during the construction process (such as hours of building work), what the building must look like (it should accord with the approved plans) and what must be done during the lifetime of the building (such as hours of delivery or the need to keep landscaping schemes intact). You can check these on the decision notice which should be on the council’s web site. In this case, if you think that the condition is being breached you should report it to the Council and ask them to investigate. Again, if the council find that there has been a breach it can, if it thinks appropriate, use its enforcement powers to bring the situation into compliance.
Q8. How do the Council determine an application for planning permission? What sort of matters do they consider?
A8. The most important considerations in the determination of a planning application are the policies contained within the Local Development Plan. This is the land use document covering the whole district and has the force of law. You will be able to find this on the Council’s planning web site. But the planners will also have regard to other matters such as the Council’s own design guidance (often contained in what is called Supplementary Guidance) and the comments of interested parties such as neighbours.
Q9. I applied for planning permission for the extension of my dwelling but was refused. Is that the end of the process or can I appeal?
A9. If it is a small householder application that has been refused by a planning officer acting under delegated powers then you can ask the council to ‘review’ the decision. The request for a local review has to be made within 3 months of the date of the decision. Under this process, a group of three councillors will reconsider the application. If the councillors think that the application should have been approved, the original decision will be overturned and planning permission granted. If the application was refused by a council committee, then you will have the right to appeal to the Directorate of Planning & Environmental Appeals and have the case heard by a neutral planning reporter. This appeal must be lodged within 3 months of the date of the decision. Most appeals are conducted through written representations and do not require a public inquiry.
Q10. I have seen a plot of open land for sale but do not know whether I would get planning permission to build what I want. How do I find out what the council might allow on the site?
A10. You should consult the Local Development Plan. This document contains written policies and maps. All planning applications are determined primarily against the policies of the LDP as well as against any Supplementary Guidance the council has. You will find any supplementary guidance notes on the Council’s planning web site, usually under ‘Planning Policy’. In general terms, you will find that councils want to see new development focused on existing towns, villages and other small settlements but there is discretion within the system. If you are still unsure about what to do you should consult the council’s planning office and ask for a pre-application consultation. In this consultation the council’s planning officer will explain the policies and provide clear advice as to whether the council is likely to support the proposal. The advice is not binding but it should provide you with a clear picture to help you decide on whether to purchase the plot. There is a charge for this meeting which might typically be about £50-100.
Q11. Is it possible for members of the public to influence the content of the Local Development Plan?
A11. Yes. A new Local Development Plan should be prepared every 5 years or so. The process of preparation involves opportunities for the members of the public to submit comments to the council’s proposals. So, if you have heard that the Council is thinking about including an area of land for development and you do not think it would be a good idea, you should object to the draft policy. Alternatively, you might think a site which has not been proposed by the Council should be identified for development. If the Council does not accept this objection then it will be considered by a Scottish Government appointed planning reporter who will adjudicate between the different interests at what is called an Examination.
“Town Planning is not mere place-planning, nor even work planning. If it is to be successful it must be folk planning” – Patrick Geddes
Scotland’s planning system puts a strong emphasis on involving people and communities to have their say on the future development of their place. Planning determines where development should happen, where it should not happen, and how it affects and fits into its surroundings. The planning system is essential for economic growth, protecting the environment, promoting sustainability and creating places which improve the quality of life for all. We aim to simplify this process and encourage people to get more involved with the planning system.
Below are a series of information sheets on various aspects of the planning system.
- The Development Plan – Find out about how future land uses for your area are decided, planning policies, and how to get involved preparation of the development plan – download the Development Plan information sheet
- Development Management – Find out about how to apply for planning permission, how applications are determined and how to comment on applications – download the Development Management information sheet
- Material Considerations – Find out what are, and are not, relevant matters in commenting on planning applications – download the Material Considerations information sheet
- Planning Appeals and Local Reviews – Find out how decisions on planning applications can be challenged – download the Appeals and Local Reviews information sheet
- Enforcement – Find out how the planning system deals with unauthorised development – download the Enforcement information sheet
- Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas – Find out how planning protects our built heritage – download the Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas information sheet
- Rights and Challenges in the Scottish Planning System – A basic guide to the avenues available to anyone who does not agree with a planning decision – download the Rights and Challenges information sheet
- Planning and Transport – Find out how transport-related matters impact the planning system – download the Planning and Transport information sheet
- Glossary of Common Planning Terms in Scotland – download the Glossary information sheet
- Young People – Introduction to the Planning System – download the Young People info sheet here
Find out more about Local Place Plans – what they are and how your community might benefit from one – on our Local Place Plans page.
Planning (Scotland Act 2019 – The following information sheet provides an overview of the content of the new Planning (Scotland) Act 2019. Some parts of the new Act are already in force whilst regulations and guidance are currently being prepared for other aspects of the Act. This information sheet indicates which sections of the Act have been enacted so far (September 2020). We are grateful to one of our PAS volunteers for preparing this information sheet. Planning Act information sheet
You may also find useful information about the planning system on the following websites:
- Scottish Government
- Royal Town Planning Institute
- Architecture and Design Scotland
- Historic Scotland
- Scottish Environmental Protection Agency
- Scottish Natural Heritage
- Transport Scotland
- Royal Institute of Architects in Scotland
- Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
- Built Environment Forum Scotland
- Development Trust Association Scotland
- Citizens Advice Scotland
- Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations
- Scottish Community Development Centre
- Scottish Urban Regeneration Forum
- Sustainable Scotland Network
- The Scottish Public Service Ombudsman
If you are looking for advice about the planning system in England and Wales, please visit:
How do I contact my local planning authority?
The Development Plan is a document prepared by the local authority which sets out how your local area may change in the future. It explains what type of development (homes, shops, new schools etc.) should take place where e.g. preferred locations for new homes and businesses, and which areas should not be developed.
If you want to find out more about opportunities and timescales for becoming involved with local or strategic development plans, look for the Development Plan Scheme on your planning authority website.
Most planning authorities will have information about current consultations and how you can get involved in the development plan section of their website. Some have newsletters that you can sign up to in order to be kept informed.
Making your opinions known early on can be much more effective than trying to influence decisions on planning applications later on. To find out about the Development Plan in your area or otherwise contact your planning authority, click on the authority name below.
Current development plan
ePlanning team, Aberdeenshire Council, Viewmount, Arduthie Road, STONEHAVEN AB39 2DQ Tel.: 01467 534 333 Email: Contact Website: Aberdeenshire Council – Planning Aberdeen City and Shire Strategic Development Planning Authority: website Current Development Plan Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan (April 2017) Aberdeen City and Shire Strategic Development Plan (March 2014)
Argyll and Bute
Cairngorms National Park
City of Aberdeen
City of Dundee
Dundee City Council Dundee House (Floor 6) 50 North Lindsay Street Dundee DD1 1LS Tel.: 01382 434000 Email: Contact us Website: Planning Division – Dundee City Council TAYplan Strategic Development Planning Authority: Website
Current Development Plan
City of Edinburgh
Planning Helpdesk Waverley Court 4 East Market Street Edinburgh EH8 8BG Tel: 0131 529 3550 Email: Contact us Website: Planning and Building Standards – City of Edinburgh Council SESplan Strategic Development Planning Authority – website
Current Development Plan
City of Glasgow
Glasgow City Council 45 John Street, GLASGOW G1 1LY Tel.: 0141 287 6060 /8555 Email: Contact us Council Website: Planning Glasgow and Clyde Valley Strategic Development Planning Authority: Website Current Development Plan Glasgow City Development Plan (March 2017) Glasgow and Clyde Valley Strategic Development Plan (July 2017)
Dumfries and Galloway
Dumfries and Galloway Council Development Planning Militia House English Street Dumfries DG1 2HR Tel.: 030 33 33 3000 Ext: 64109 Email: Contact us Website: Dumfries & Galloway, Planning and Building Standards Current Development Plan Dumfries and Galloway Local Development Plan 2 (2019)
Development Services Kilncraigs Greenside Street ALLOA FK10 1EB Tel.: 01259 450000 Email: Contact us Website: Clackmannanshire Council Planning and Building Standards Current Development Plan Clackmannanshire Local Development Plan (August 2015)
Planning and Economic Development Opera House, 8 John Finnie Street, KILMARNOCK KA1 1DD Tel.:01563 576790 Email: Contact us Website: East Ayrshire Council: Planning and the Environment Current Development Plan East Ayrshire Local Development Plan (April 2017) Minerals Plan Minerals Local Development Plan (2020)
Planning Development and Enterprise East Dunbartonshire Council, Southbank House, Southbank Business Park,KIRKINTILLOCH G66 1XQ Tel.: 0300 123 4510 Email: Contact us Council Website: Planning and Building Standards Glasgow and Clyde Valley Strategic Development Planning Authority: Website Current Development Plan East Dunbartonshire Local Plan (February 2017) The Glasgow and Clyde Valley Strategic Development Plan (July 2017)
Development Planning and Policy John Muir House Court Street Haddington EH41 3HA Tel.: 01620 827 216 Email: Contact us Website: East Lothian Council – Planning and the Environment SESplan Strategic Development Planning Authority – website
Current Development Plan
East Renfrewshire Council Planning and Building Standards 2 Spiersbridge Way Spiersbridge Business Park Thornliebank G46 8NG Tel.: 0141 577 3001 Email: Contact us Website: Planning – East Renfrewshire Council Glasgow and Clyde Valley Strategic Development Planning Authority: Website Current Development Plan East Renfrewshire Local Development Plan (June 2015) Glasgow and Clyde Valley Strategic Development Plan (2017)
Current Development Plan
- The Highland-wide Local Development Plan (April 2012) is the overarching development plan for the Highland area and contains many of the general policies.
Alongside the Highland-wide plan, there are three area local development plans:
Development Management Regeneration and Planning Municipal Buildings Greenock PA15 1LY Tel.: 01475 712416 Email: Contact Us Council Website: Planning and the Environment Glasgow and Clyde Valley Strategic Development Planning Authority: Website Current Development Plan Inverclyde Local Development Plan (2019) Glasgow and Clyde Valley Strategic Development Plan (July 2017)
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
Development Management National Park HQ, Carrochan Road, Carrochan, Balloch, G83 8EG
Tel.: 01389 722615
Email: Contact Us Council Website: Planning Current Development Plan Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Local Development Plan 2017-2021
Planning and Development Midlothian Council Fairfield House 8 Lothian Road DALKEITH EH22 3ZN Tel.: 0131 2713 302 Email: Contact us Midlothian website: Planning SESplan Strategic Development Planning Authority – website
Current Development Plan
Planning & Development Moray Council Council Office High Street ELGIN IV30 1BX Tel.: 0300 123 4561 Email: Contact us Website: Planning and Building Standards Current Development Plan: Moray Local Development Plan (July 2015) Please note: the southern part of Moray, which lies within the Cairngorms National Park, is covered by the Cairngorms Park Local Plan.
Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles)
North Lanarkshire Council Fleming House 2 Tryst Road CUMBERNAULD G67 1JW Tel.: 01236 632500 Email: Contact us North Lanarkshire Planning and Building Standards: Website Glasgow and Clyde Valley Strategic Development Planning Authority: website Current Development Plans North Lanarkshire Local Plan (September 2012) Glasgow and Clyde Valley Strategic Development Plan (July 2017)
Development Services Orkney Islands Council Council Offices School Place Kirkwall ORKNEY KW15 1NY Tel.: 01856 873535 ext 2504 Email: Contact us Website: Planning Current Development Plan Orkney Islands Local Development Plan (April 2017)
Perth and Kinross
The Environment Service Perth & Kinross Council Pullar House 35 Kinnoull Street PERTH PH1 5DG Tel.: 01738 475300 Email: Contact us Perth and Kinross Council Planning: website TAYplan Strategic Development Planning Authority: website Current Development Plan Perth and Kinross Local Development Plan (2019) TAYplan Strategic Development Plan (October 2017)
Planning Renfrewshire House Cotton Street PAISLEY PA1 1LL Tel.: 0300 300 0144 Email: Contact us Renfrewshire Planning and Building Standards: Website Glasgow and Clyde Valley Strategic Development Planning Authority: Website Current Development Plan Renfrewshire Local Development Plan (Aug 2014) Glasgow and the Clyde Valley Strategic Development Plan (July 2017)
Planning and Building Standards Scottish Borders Council Council Headquarters Newtown St Boswells MELROSE TD6 0SA Tel.: 0300 100 1800 Email: Council Contact Form (Planning applications) (Development plan) Scottish Borders Planning and Building Standards: website SESplan Strategic Development Planning Authority: website Current Development Plan Scottish Borders Local Development Plan (2016) SESplan Strategic Development Plan (2013)
Planning and Building Standards Headquarters Montrose House 154 Montrose Crescent Hamilton ML3 6LB Phone: 0303 123 1015 Email: Contact us South Lanarkshire Planning and Building Standards: Website Glasgow and Clyde Valley Strategic Development Planning Authority: Website Current Development Plan South Lanarkshire Local Development Plan (June 2015) South Lanarkshire Minerals Local Plan (2012) The Glasgow and Clyde Valley Strategic Development Plan (July 2017)
Planning and Building Standards West Dunbartonshire Council Aurora House 3 Aurora Avenue CLYDEBANK G81 1BF Tel.: 0141 951 7930 Email: Contact us West Dunbartonshire Planning and Building Standards: Website Glasgow and Clyde Valley Strategic Development Planning Authority: Website Current Development Plan: West Dunbartonshire Local Plan (March 2010) The Glasgow and Clyde Valley Strategic Development Plan (July 2017)
Planning and Building Standards West Lothian Civic Centre Howden South Road Livingston EH54 6FF Tel.: 01506 280000 Email: Contact us Website: West Lothian Council – Planning and Building Standards SESplan Strategic Development Planning Authority – website
Current Development Plan
What people are saying about our Advice Service:
“I see the work of PAS as essential for communities to ensure they can respond appropriately”
“I’m so grateful, after only one phone call with a PAS volunteer the fear and stress of the whole scenario vanished. I’m so grateful. Thank you”
“This is an extremely helpful service – it makes planning issues much more equitable”