Development Plan Charrettes - Design Led Planning

by Ewan Anderson, 7N Architects

The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Local Development Plan Charrette was a pilot initiative undertaken by the Scottish Government earlier this year, with the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority (LLTNPA), with the aim of transforming community engagement in the planning process in Scotland.

It formed part of the Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative and was one of a series of Charrettes which took place in Scotland in 2013 to test the possibilities and advantages of a collaborative dialogue between local communities, landowners, planning authorities and agencies to establish long term visions and strategies for settlements. In this instance, the Charrette outcomes will form a core part of the content for the next formal engagement step in the preparation of the Local Development Plan (LDP), the Main Issues Report. LDPs now have a statutory requirement to look beyond the lifespan of the LDP itself, to 20 years time and so are, in effect, long term blueprints for the future that will be revised in 5 year cycles.

This moves community consultation much further upstream in the planning process so that it proactively informs the Main Issues Report (MIR) rather than being a reaction to draft proposals prepared by the planning authority, as it is at present. This, critically, makes the consultation much more of a positive process of collaboration, that precedes and informs local development plans, rather than being a retrospective, often adversarial, response to them. The process also allows a much longer term view to be established that encapsulates shared visions and common goals in a way which integrates design thinking and placemaking into strategic planning to help ensure that the future physical and social wellbeing of the place is at the heart of the plan.

The LLTNPA selected four settlement areas within the National Park for this initiative; Aberfoyle; Drymen and Balmaha; Arrochar, Succoth and Tarbet and Tyndrum. Like many smaller rural communities in picturesque parts of Scotland, they share common issues, including the desire to maintain a diverse and active community in the face of challenges such as limited local employment opportunities and a lack of affordable homes.

The key agenda throughout the Charrette was to help to identify key strategies for the future of each settlement based on the desire to create places that people can enjoy and thrive in. The Charrette  team, in this design led process,  were the facilitators and agitators that helped to transform the ideas, needs and desires of the communities into a series of physical proposals, that encapsulated a shared vision. This involved working with the communities to identify the key strengths of the place, what makes it special, and helping to develop ways of enhancing this in the future and agreeing a clear shared goal that can shape all future initiatives and funding.

In a sense, the shared visions, and the communities’ support of them, was the key outcome of the Charrette with the land use strategies simply being the primary medium for realising them. This simple adjustment of moving public consultation upstream of the LDP process has the potential to transform planning in Scotland and the future civic wellbeing of rural settlements by helping to re-awaken a strong sense of common purpose.


Team:                                     7N Architects, Parsons Brinckerhoff,

                                               Jura Consultants, DPT Urban Design, BRE

Charrette Report: