Advice and Support

Our role in planning

Discover how the historic environment is considered in the Scottish planning system and learn about our advisory role in planning.

1 Overview

Planning helps to maintain and enhance Scotland’s distinctive historic places. Such places enrich our lives, contribute to our sense of identity and add considerable value to our economy as tourism and leisure destinations.

Historic Environment Scotland has statutory functions within the planning system as part of our wide range of responsibilities for the historic environment.

Our Heritage Directorate leads on planning engagement. 

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More information about our role in planning can be found in the Historic Environment Scotland Circular.

Our Planning Service Standard sets out how we engage in the planning system. It provides information on the service that developers and planning authorities can expect from us including timescales for consultation.

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2 Our advisory role

Our role in the planning system is to provide advice on the potential impacts of development on the historic environment.

We advise:

  • planning authorities
  • developers
  • others involved in planning

The historic environment is a fragile and irreplaceable resource but also a dynamic one, and we are committed to preserving its most significant features.

At the same time, we recognise that the historic environment can form the focus for regeneration and business development.

We offer planning-related advice on:

We can offer advice on the impact of development proposals on these types of site throughout the development process. Such advice is often linked to our statutory functions relating to various consenting processes.

These processes include:

We are also a consultation body for developments requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment.

3 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.

This is part of our role as a member of the Scottish Government Key Agencies Group. Our advice focuses on making sure that the likely effects of proposals concerning Scotland’s protected sites are accurately assessed.

We are consulted on the Strategic Environmental Assessment of development plans.

We also work with planning authorities on projects linked to development plans.

This might involve helping to prepare:

  • supplementary guidance
  • masterplans
  • development briefs

4 Development management

Historic Environment Scotland is a statutory consultee for planning applications for works affecting:

We are also a consultation body for projects requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Identifying a significant potential impact on the historic environment doesn’t always mean we will object to an application.

Our main role in the development management process is to make sure that the decision maker is aware of all of the relevant issues.

Engagement and analysis

We often work closely with developers and planning authorities at the pre-application stage of a development proposal.

Developers can consult us to better understand:

  • issues relating to the historic environment
  • ways in which impacts can be sensitively managed and any negative effects mitigated

We then advise the decision maker. Our aim is to give the decision maker a clear understanding of the impact of the development on the heritage assets involved. They can then take this into account in their decision-making.


5 Pre-application engagement

Historic Environment Scotland welcomes the chance to engage with developers before they submit proposals. 

You can contact our Heritage Directorate to discuss a development proposal early on. Our response time for such consultations is 21 days.


Early engagement lets us clarify the information we believe is essential to a planning application.

Pre-application engagement is an integral part of the planning process as highlighted in the joint Key Agency Statement on Pre-Application Engagement (published 2012, updated 2018).

6 Planning performance

Sustainable economic growth is supported by an efficient and effective planning service that ensures that all relevant issues – including change to the historic environment – are considered.

To improve our own performance in planning, we:

  • work with key agencies to ensure that our assessment of planning applications is proportionate
  • offer training to planning authorities and other bodies to improve understanding of issues facing the historic environment
  • publish an annual planning performance report

Planning performance reporting was introduced for a number of key public agencies in 2012.

Download our 2020/21 report

7 Planning Aid for Scotland

This independent charity can help you to engage in the planning process. It provides free, impartial advice on planning to individuals and community groups. 

Planning Aid for Scotland (PAS)
11a South Charlotte Street

Telephone: 0845 603 7602