Skip to Content


Last modified: 31 May 2022 13:05

Course Overview

Planning Law in Scotland examines urban and rural land use. Set in the context of history, politics and international developments,  the law is considered in detail with examples of plans such as the National Planning Framework and topical and controversial planning applications used for  illustration. There is a body of case law and intricate legislative provisions and policy sources for all the key areas. This course mixes academic reflection with practical knowledge and application.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 4
Session Second Sub Session Credit Points 25 credits (12.5 ECTS credits)
Campus Aberdeen Sustained Study No
  • Prof Anne-Michelle Slater

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • One of Programme Level 3 or Programme Level 4 or Programme Level 5
  • Any Undergraduate Programme (Studied)
  • Law (LS) (Studied)
  • LS1025 Legal System (Passed)

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?

  • LS402J Planning Law Honours (Studied)
  • LX402J Planning Law Honours (Studied)

Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

The introductory lecture introduces the concept of a planned environment. It draws on legal and non-legal foundations to explain the main theories and influences on planning in the 21st century. The evolving role of planning law and how it intersects with socio-economic and political themes is explored. How the planning regime intersects with topical issues such as design, sustainable development, climate change targets is illustrated. It concludes by addressing why planning can be so controversial and establishing the role of law with in it.

Seminar 1 explores the role of the development plan in UK and Scottish planning Law. It examines the National Planning Framework for Scotland, Local Development Plans, Strategic Development Plans, Regional Strategies and Local Place Plans. It considers in detail the role of the ‘development plan’ as interpreted by case law and reflects on the changes implemented by the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 2019.

Seminar 2 considers planning applications and their pivotal place in planning law. There is a focus on community engagement and the role of local councils (planning authorities). The relationship between Scottish Government and local decision making on planning matters is also explored.

Seminar 3 examines planning conditions and planning obligations, covering the detail of the legislation and it’s interpretation by the courts. The use of these legal instruments to shape planning approvals is considered in detail.    Local examples, including the University of Aberdeen and Chapelton of Elsick will illustrate the ‘black letter’ law.

Seminar 4 explores the additional controls and protections associated with listed buildings and conservation areas. Legislation, case law and policy is examined to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this approach, including topics such as embedded carbon in old buildings and the ‘value’ of built environment heritage. 

Seminar 5 identifies where planning law and policy intersects with other key areas such as Net Zero targets, the Sustainable Development Goals, but also topical issues such as provision of affordable housing, a Just Energy Transition and habitat restoration. The planning system is often expected to operationalise policy outcomes and this seminar will critically evaluate the role of law in the process. 

Seminar 6:  reviews recent planning law reforms across the UK. It reflects on the changes to the planning system implemented since devolution in Scotland. It considers future directions for planning law, including the development of a US style zoning system and the increasing need for links between marine and terrestrial planning. 

Case studies of topical and noteworthy planning applications and international comparators will all add context and interest to this seminar-based course. Expert guest lectures in key topics may augment the seminars.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 31 August 2023 for 1st half-session courses and 22 December 2023 for 2nd half-session courses.

Summative Assessments

1st Attempt:

2 x 2,500 word essays (50% each)


Resubmission of failed element(s)

Formative Assessment

Discussion Boards

Objective Tests

Course Learning Outcomes

Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
ReflectionEvaluateDemonstrate research, analytical and evaluative skills by obtaining and utilising appropriate research materials on the regulation of the Planning Law and associated socio-legal issues
ProceduralUnderstandDemonstrate an understanding of the specific and the wider regulatory framework for UK planning law.
FactualUnderstandKnowledge of key legal concepts
ConceptualAnalyseDemonstrate the reasoning, research and communication skills to investigate, analyse, synethesise, evaluate, and critique relevant practices.

Compatibility Mode

We have detected that you are have compatibility mode enabled or are using an old version of Internet Explorer. You either need to switch off compatibility mode for this site or upgrade your browser.