Skip to content

Glossary of Planning Terms

Below is a list of planning terms and their meanings. This list is updated as often as possible to include comments from members of the public and new terms from changes to legislation and new planning policy documents. Please call or email us if you have any questions or require to know the meeting of other terms.

We have also included a list of useful reference documents that may also be able to provide members of the public with clarification on terms and wording used in planning.

Browse through the terms listed below or select a section alphabetically from the following links.



Action Programme

This programme is submitted to the Scottish Government alongside the Local Development Plan and is therefore seen to be the last stage in the preparation of a new Local Development Plan, Stage 6. The programme will set out how the Local Planning Authority proposes to implement the Local Development Plan. It will include a list of actions that are required to deliver the plan’s policies and proposals, the person to carry out this action and the timescale in which this will be carried out.

Adopted Local Development Plan

This is what the Local Development Plan is called when it has successfully gone through examination from the Scottish Government to make sure all processes have been completed correctly and that all comments raised have been satisfied; and subsequently adopted by a meeting of the full meeting Orkney Islands Council.

Affordable Housing

Subsidised housing which is aimed for those whose incomes generally deny them the opportunity to purchase a house on the open market.


Materials such as small stones or sand.

General Amenity

This is a planning term that refers to the general enjoyment that a use has of its site and surrounding area. The main amenity that is discussed in planning is residential amenity.

Ancillary Development

Development that does not form part of the main use of the site or the main building of the site. For example a domestic garage is an ancillary development to a dwelling house, and tracks and hardstandings are considered ancillary development to a wind turbine development.

Appropriate Assessment

Is an assessment that forms part of the Habitat Regulations Appraisal. It is completed on plans, guidance policies, planning applications and other activities then it is considered that they are likely to have a significant environmental effect on Natura 2000 sites (RAMSAR Sites, SPA, SAC).


A moulded surround to an opening or recess, generally an internal feature.

Area Waste Plan

Plans developed at a local level within a framework of the National Waste Strategy to ensure that both local and regional issues can be accounted for in the development of an integrated waste strategy for Scotland.


Masonry of large blocks in regular courses worked to even faces and carefully squared edges. The stones themselves are called ashlars.


A wooden glazing bar between panes, generally in masonry.



Comes from the words biological diverse and is defined as being the whole rich variety of life that surrounds and sustains us including all kinds of animals, plants and micro-organisms.


Refers to energy technologies fuelled by anything derived from plant or animal matter including for example wood, straw or agricultural waste.

Borrow Pitts

When material, mainly hard core, is taken or “borrowed” from one location on the site to be used in another location on the site.

Brownfield Site

A site that has previously been built on or used but has now ceased. This term may include disused buildings which could be reused or vacant or derelict land which may be cleared.

Buffer Zone

An area surrounding a particular point or area, usually offering protection from a certain kind of development.


A structure designed to prevent breaches or flooding. This can also be used to landscape a development or provide shelter from the weather.


Conservation Area

An area that is designated by the Council that is of special architectural or historic interest, with a character that it is desirable to preserve or enhance. There are additional planning controls within these areas.

Construction Phases

When a large scale development has planning permission there will be phases in which the development will be completed.

Contaminated Land

Land where a previous use has left contaminates.

Core Path Network

A system of key routes for outdoor access that are generally for walking and cycling.


A decorative moulding round the top of a wall or building.

Countryside Around Towns

From Policy LP/N4 of the current Local Plan that provides for a green setting for the two larger urban areas of Orkney. This policy is similar to a greenbelt policy.


Laying of stone work or bricks or blocks in courses, usually horizontal in consistent and in a regular arrangement.

Crow Stepped Gables

Square like steps at the edge of a gable of a building.

Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment

Additional information that would come with a planning application, when required, that would assess the potential effect that a development would have on cultural heritage assessments such as listed buildings, conservation areas, historic gardens and designed landscapes, scheduled ancient monuments, the world heritage site and other archaeological interests.


A drainage feature that transports generally water under ground. This structure can run under a road, railway or building.

Cumulative Impact

A collective impact of more than one that is a term used for visual and landscape impact assessment in wind farm developments.


A planning term for the area of land that generally is around a building. For example with a dwelling house it is seen to be the garden ground that is formally set out or enclosed with a wall.


Decommission or Decommissioning Statement

When a development has a limited life then there will be planning conditions that ask for the site to be returned back to its previous state or an improved state. This is generally done through a decommissioning statement.

Development Plan Scheme (DPS)

This the first stage of the review of the Development Plan and sets out the work programme for the review of the Development Plan and also sets out when members of the public and other planning stakeholders can get involved and have their say. The Development Plan Scheme has to be updated annually.

Design Brief

A site specific statement prepared in order to guide the design and layout of a site for development. This brief would have particular regard to architecture design and siting.

Design Statement

A statement that would come in with a planning application that would detail why the final design and layout has been selected by the applicant. The statement would discuss the processes that the designers and architectures would have gone through to the end design.

Detention Pond

A basin constructed to store water temporarily as part of a drainage system. Its job is to slow down the flow of water during heavy rain and then to discharge after the storm.

Development Plan

A Local Authority’s policies and proposals for the development and use of land. In Orkney it consists of the Orkney Structure Plan and the Orkney Local Plan.

Development Planning

The planning function within a local authority that writes and monitors local planning policies in response to land use changes and national planning policies. Also known as Forward Planning.

Development Brief

Site specific statement prepared in order to guide development, and which highlight any physical, technical and other design constraints and considerations, together with an indication of preferred land use types and layouts.

Development Density

The density of a development when the built form e.g. houses, garages, to open space e.g. garden, parking, is looked at.

Development Management

The planning function within a local authority that processes and makes decisions on planning applications. Formerly known as Development Control.

Dormer Windows

Term used to describe a window which projects from the pitch of a roof.

Drainage Assessment

This is a body of work that details the drainage issues of a proposed development site and the suitable means of providing drainage. May also be called a Drainage Impact Assessment.


A horizontal moulding to throw off water from a building.

Dry Dash

A 20th Century method of covering a building or harling a building in which the aggregate is put on dry and not incorporated into the mix.



An overhanging edge of a roof on a building.


Living organisms and non-functioning materials in an environment functioning as a single unit.

Electromagnetic Interference

Electromagnetic Interference or radio frequency interference is disturbance that affects an electrical circuit due to electromagnetic induction or electromagnetic radiation emitted from an external source (such as a wind turbine). The effect could be small or significant.

Embodied Energy

The energy required to produce a product which generally includes extraction of raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, construction, maintenance and repair.


The action that the local planning authority will take if a development is occurring without the right planning permissions.

Environmental Impact Assessment

A process which identifies the environmental effects, both positive and negative, of development proposal. It aims to prevent, reduce and offset any adverse impacts on the environment.



A glazed area above a door which can be rectangular or semi circular in shape.

Financial Bond

A document issued by a financial institution assuring payment. In planning it is often required to ensure that a developer can financially return a site back to its original condition after a grant of temporary planning permission or that a condition of planning can be adhered too.

Flood Plain

A generally flat area of land adjacent to a watercourse or sea where sea or water flows in time of flooding.

Flood Liaison and Advice Group (FLAG)

A non statutory advice group from the public and private sector convened by the Council to share concerns and knowledge on a range of flooding and planning issues.

Flood Prevention Measures

A component of a flood prevention scheme which could include walls, channels, embankments and flood storage areas.

Flood Prevention Scheme

A scheme of flood management measures.

Flood Risk Assessment

An assessment carried out to predict and assess the probability of flooding for a particular site or area and that recommends mitigation measures including maintenance.

Flood Warning System

This is a function of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) that gives out general alerts for the whole of Scotland - Flood Watch, and Flood Warnings for specific areas.

Freeboard Allowance

A height added to the predicted level of a flood to take account of the height of any waves or turbulence and the uncertainty in estimating the probability of flooding.

Functional Flood Plain

The areas of land where water flows in times of flood which should be safeguarded from further development because of their function as flood water storage areas. Alternatively known as Washland.



The end part of a building, generally the smallest walled part.


A coating of zinc over iron to protect it from rusting.

Geological Review Sites (GRS)

Areas within Sites Special Scientific Interest where the best geological and geomorphological features of Britain are protected. Features range from rocks, minerals, fossils to Ice Age landforms.


A heating source that is produced from the internal heat of the earth. For example ground source heat pumps.

Global Warming

The gradual increase in the overall temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere due to the greenhouse effect, caused by the increased level of greenhouse gases.

Green Travel Plan or Sustainable Travel Plan

A general requirement for larger planning applications where members of the public will be required to travel to and from the development proposed. A Green Travel Plan should consider modes of transport such as walking and cycling (active travel) as well as public transport. An aim of a Green Transport Plan should be to reduce the requirement for private car use.


An area of land surrounding a town or city, which is protected from development to provide a buffer between countryside and town.

Greenfield Site

Land which has not been developed except for agricultural use.

Green Roofs

A roof that is covered with vegetation which is seen to be energy efficient, reduce rainwater run off and has good bio-diversity value.

Grey Water

Wastewater from washing machines, baths, laundry and rainwater. All waste water apart from toilet waste. Can be recycled with the aid of filtration, holding tanks and treated before use. Generally used to flush toilets.


Habitats Regulations Appraisal

An appraisal of plans, guidance policies, planning applications and other activities to make sure they do not have a significant effect on Natura 2000 sites (SPA, SAC and RAMSAR Sites).


An area of hard core surface, which is usually used for the parking or manoeuvring of vehicles.


The Scottish form of roughcast in which the mixture of aggregate - small even sized pebbles, and binding materials - sand and lime, are dashed onto a wall.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES)

This is the Scottish Government agency which lists buildings for their architectural and historical importance and looks after Scheduled Ancient Monuments for Scotland. This was formerly called Historic Scotland.

Hipped Roof

A roof where the ends of the roof are sloped rather than vertical.


Rainwater head receiving water from gutters on buildings.


The Health and Safety Executive.


The study of the distribution, effects and movement of groundwater.


Infill Development

Development within an urban area that “fills” in a gap between existing built form.


Services within a given area, which are essential for its functioning, such as roads, water, electricity etc.


Kirkwall Airport Safeguarding Area

A zone surrounding Kirkwall Airport’s runways and its approaches, providing protection from inappropriate development which may interfere with operations.


Landscape Character Assessment

A detailed assessment of the landscape character, including likely pressures and opportunities for change in the landscape. An assessment of the sensitivity of the landscape to change. Guidelines on how landscape character may be conserved, enhanced or restructured as appropriate.

Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA)

An assessment of the likely landscape and visual effects of a proposal. This assessment will often consider of a Zone of Theoretical Visibility and photomontages. They will describe, classify and analysis the proposal effect of the development on visual amenity and the landscape. How these assessments are put together and then assessed is guided by Scottish Natural Heritage.

Letter of credit

A document issued by a financial institution assuring payment. In planning it is often required to ensure that a developer can financially return a site back to its original condition after a grant of temporary planning permission, or that a condition of planning can be adhered too.

Listed Building

A building that is judged by Historic Environment Scotland as being of architectural or historical importance. Significant alterations will require listed building consent from the Local Planning Authority.

Local Development Plan

This will be the end result of the review of the existing Development Plan for Orkney, one single Plan that will be shorter and more concise. Also known as the Adopted Local Development Plan.

Local Plan

Part of the Local Authority’s Development Plan that guides development.

Local Transport Strategy

Prepared by councils, setting out the authority’s plans and priorities for the development of an integrated transport policy within its area.


Main Issues Report

This is the report for the second stage in the review of the Development Plan. The Main Issues Report sets out the main planning issues for the Development Plan area and offers 2 to 3 options as to the planning policies that could be used in the Proposed Development Plan. One of the options is known as the Preferred Option. Members of the public and planning stakeholders are consulted on this Report so that the Planning Authority can gain their opinion.


A document which details the development of a large area, such as a town, village or district. It contains information on building styles, road layouts and specific land uses.


One million watts - unit of energy. Usually the measure of power which a wind turbine can create.

Method Statement

A statement that is asked for with a planning application or as part of a planning condition that will set out how some part of the development is to be carried out.

Micro-generation or micro-renewable

The generation of power on a small scale generally used at source by homes, businesses or community facilities. This could be done by wind turbines, solar panels and hydro.

Mineral Planning

Planning for mineral extraction, and the possible effects it may have on the environment and residential amenity.

Mitigating Measures

Measures taken to lessen the impact of a development, e.g. planting of trees and bushes to lessen the impact of a development on the landscape.

Mixed Use Area

An area which has been developed to encompass two or more types of use, rather than just a single use. This could be a mixed use of residential and business use.

Monitoring Statement

This statement is produced alongside the Main Issues Report, which is the 2nd stage in the process for the review of the Development Plan for Orkney. This Statement will set out the background work that has been completed or reviewed when the Local Planning Authority has identified the Main Planning Issues for the County.


Upright member dividing window panels on a building.


Natura 2000

Natural heritage sites that are covered by European Law. There are two catalogues here, Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA). These designations are found within Orkney.

Natural Heritage

The landscape, habitat and wildlife of an area. The term is not restricted to officially designated sites or remote areas and also covered species that are mobile.

National Scenic Area (NSA)

Nationally important areas of outstanding landscape value. In Orkney there is the Hoy and West Mainland NSA. Scottish Natural Heritage is responsible for designating new NSAs.


On-shore Wind Energy Development

Development of technology on shore which harnesses the power of the wind to create energy, mainly in the form of wind turbines.


The study of birds.

Open Space

Generally seen to include green spaces and civic spaces within or adjoining to an urban area. This can also include hard landscaping such as paved or cobbled areas, so as to provide a focus for pedestrian activity and connections.


Planning Advice Note (PAN)

Provides information on good practice and other relevant information, generally used to support a Scottish Planning Policy (SPP).

Permitted Development Rights (PDR)

The planning terms that details what different land users can do to their buildings and or land without the requirement for planning permission.


A photo where the proposed development is placed into the image. Guidance from Scottish Natural Heritage ensures that appropriate equipment and software is used so that this mock up is realistic.

Photovoltaic Modules (PV)

A form of solar energy that converts solar rays into power. Generally located on southerly roofs. First developed to help power satellites in space. The same technical principles are used on solar powered calculators.


The flat version of a column, consisting of a slim rectangle projecting from a wall.

Planning Condition

A condition that is attached to a grant of planning permission that will detail extra information that is needed before development commences or extra work that will be required to be done. It will relate to the planning permission and generally be on the site.

Priority Species

Species highlighted in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan as a priority for nature conservation or biodiversity.


Before a planning application is lodged with the Local Planning Authority, discussions and communication occurs beforehand.

Proposals Maps

Form part of a Local Development Plan and contain the mapped designations of the policies that are contained in a Local Development Plan.

Proposed Plan

This document is the third stage in the review of the Development Plan and is a Draft Local Development Plan for the area. Members of the public and planning stakeholders are consulted on the Proposed Plan so that the Planning Authority can gain their opinion.

Protected Species

European Protected Species: animals and plants protected under the Conservation Natural Habitats Regulations 1994, which implements the Habitats Directive (EC Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Flora and Fauna).

Public Drainage System

The drainage systems which are the statutory responsibility of the Roads Authority at Orkney Islands Council and the Water Authority at Scottish Water.



Stones larger than those of which a wall is composed, or better shaped and forming the corners of walls or door and or window openings.


Rainwater Harvesting

The collection of rainwater to use at source. Generally collected in water butts and used for domestic gardens. Can also be filtered, collected and treated and reused for flushing toilets.


Wetland sites designated for conservation under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. Often these sites are SPAs. These sites are found within Orkney.

Reed Bed Waste Water Treatment

An eco option for the treatment of foul drainage. The reed bed acts as a filter as the vegetation cleans the water.


A smooth coating of cement over a wall or masonry.


A source of energy that is not depleted by use.

Ribbon Development

Progression of development in a linear form usually along a road.


The line where two parts of a sloped roof meet. Ridge height refers to the height of this feature.

Roof Lights

Windows in the roof of a building that are flush with the roof. Also referred to as velux windows.

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments (RCAHMS)

Collects, records and interprets information on Scotland’s architectural, archaeological, industrial and maritime heritage. This has now merged with Historic Scotland, to form Historic Environment Scotland.

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

A charity which works towards the conservation of all bird species in the United Kingdom.

Rubble Masonry

Stonework that is not fully dressed and can be of boulders or random rubble with the use of smaller filler stone.

Running Width

The reduction in the width of an access road following construction.



Special Areas of Conservation, designated under the EU Habitats Directive.

Sash and Case

A window form where the glazing panels slides in two parallel frames within the case. The upper panel slides outward of the lower panel.

Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) Rating

A rating system that is generally used with Building Warrants and Energy Performance Certificates to rate the energy efficiency of new dwelling houses.

Scheduled Ancient Monument

An archaeological monument of national importance that is legally protected under the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. Alterations to Scheduled Ancient Monuments must be approved by Historic Environment Scotland.

Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)

The agency responsible for protecting the environmental quality such as water, waste treatment, quarries and waste disposal, including amenity sites.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)

The agency responsible for securing the conservation and enhancement of Scotland’s natural heritage.

Scottish Planning Policy (SPP)

Sets out the Scottish Government’s planning policies for land use planning and any other planning matter, such as flooding, renewable energy, land for housing and economic development.

Section 75 Agreement

A legal planning agreement that is made under Section 75 of the Town and Country Planning Scotland Act 1997, to regulate the future use of land.


A term that is generally used in landscape and the historic environment. It relates to how a feature is understood, appreciated and experienced, and this is referred to as its setting. It can often extends beyond the property boundary into a broader landscape context.

Shadow Flicker or Shadow Casting

Shadow Flicker is defined by the Scottish Government as when under certain combinations of geographical position, time of day and time of year, the sun may pass behind the rotor and cast a shadow over neighbouring properties. When the blades rotor, the shadow flickers on and off. It occurs only within buildings where the flicker appears through a narrow window opening.

Shelter Belts

Generally made up of shrub and tree planting that are located so as to minimise weather conditions on users of the land. Also provide screening for development so as to minimise the visual effect.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

Designated in accordance with the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as being biologically or geologically important. They can include land, freshwater and inter-tidal areas. These sites are found in Orkney.


The finishing of a gable which is up standing from the plane of the roof.

Social Housing

Housing which has been provided or funded by the state and not-for-profit companies, either for rent or shared ownership.


The underside of a cornice, stair or lintel on a building.

Spatial Planning

When the areas that planning policies affect (designations) are mapped. In the Local Development Plan this is contained in the Proposal Maps.

Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)

Areas designated under the EC Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds which form part of a European wide network of rare, endangered and vulnerable habitats and species of international importance.

Special Protection Areas (SPA)

An area defined under the EC Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds which is aimed at requiring member states to take special measures to conserve the habitats of certain rare or vulnerable species or regularly occurring migrating species.

Spatial Policies

The mapping policies that refer to areas of land that have been designated for different land uses or for the conservation or preservation of natural heritage or the historical environment.

Stall Riser

On a shop front, the panels below the window sill.

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

Under the Environmental Assessment Scotland Act 2005, an SEA has to be carried out on a plan, policy or strategy to make sure there is no environmental conflict.


The space between buildings on a street and the collective features it contains.

Street Furniture

Collective term for the many objects which are on a street, such as lamp posts, signs, benches etc.


Fine grained hard plaster used for precise finishes inside and outside of a building.


Masonry stonework picked to a consistent pattern.

Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS)

This describes a range of techniques for managing the flow of water run off from a site by treating it on site and so reducing the load on conventional piped drainage systems.

Supplementary Guidance (SG)

Sometimes referred to as Supplementary Planning Guidance, this is planning policy which supplements the guidance given in the local development plan, covering an area of particular importance in greater depth. Supplementary Guidance has undergone a period of public consultation and has been notified to Scottish Government Ministers.

Sustainable Development

Development which meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Our Common Future – 1987.



The Town and Country Planning General Permitted Development Scotland Order 1992, as amended. This is the act of law that discusses what different land users e.g. a residential dwelling house, can do without the requirement for planning permission.

Thermal Mass

Solid or liquid material that absorbs and stores warmth and coolness, thereby reducing temperature swings inside a building. Denser materials have higher thermal mass.

Thermal Solar Panels

Panels that are mounted to a southerly aspect, often on roof spaces, for the heating of water. It works by the sunshine heating up water. Therefore generally used in the summer months by dwelling houses.


The depiction of a town’s appearance. Tries to create a cohesion of the numerous elements of a town or city.

Townscape Heritage Initiative

An initiative funded by the Heritage Lottery Scheme, which provides funding for projects which renovate or improve Conservation Areas of social and cultural importance.

Traffic Impact Assessment

An assessment of the traffic impact associated with a new development, with emphasis on vehicle trips rather than person trips and no consideration of how to encourage more sustainable transport patterns.

Traffic Assessment

An assessment of the impact of a new development on travel and transport needs. It should highlight ways in which transport can be made more sustainable, especially reducing the impact of vehicular traffic.

Transport Impact Assessment

An assessment could be asked for through the planning application process when it is seen that a development proposal would have a negative effect on the existing transport infrastructure. The assessment would be used to indicate they type of effect and the location; and how it was proposed to mitigate this effect.

Travel Plan

Measures to reduce the amount of vehicle traffic associated with a new development by promoting a wider range of more environmentally friendly and healthy transport options, sometimes referred to as a Green Transport Plan.



A measure of the rate that heat is lost through a material. The lower the U-Value, the better the insulation value.


The block work that is under the floor level of a proposed building and generally used to balance different levels of a site.


Generally seen to be a settlement with a population of 3000 or more people.


Visual Impact Assessment

The assessment of the visual effects of a proposed development. This assessment will generally use photomontages to demonstrate the effect.


Waste Water Treatment Systems

The treatment system of foul water from a development. In Orkney waste water treatment can be private systems that are contained within a planning site i.e. septic tanks or public waste water treatment systems that are controlled and operated by Scottish Water generally in towns and villages.

Water Table

The level of ground water below which the ground is saturated.


All means of conveying water except a water main or sewer.


Form part of a Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment. It is a 3 dimensional representation of the landscape with the proposed development placed in it. It generally looks like a computer produced line drawing of a photomontage.

World Heritage Site (WHS)

Listed by UNESCO as areas of cultural or natural value considered to be of outstanding universal value which deserve protection for the benefit of the community. Orkney has a WHS that is referred to as The Heart of Neolithic Orkney, West Mainland.

Wet Dash

Traditional type of cover for buildings (harl) in which the aggregate of small evenly sized pebbles is incorporated into the mix.


Zero Carbon Building

This is a building that over the course of a year does not add any CO2 to the atmosphere.

Zone of Visual Influence

An area of land to which a particular significant feature can be seen and to where development restrictions will apply to protection this feature and its wider setting.

Zone of Theoretical Visibility

The area from which a development is theoretically visible. It is usually represented as a map using colour to indicate visibility. Zones of Visual Influence are used to identify the parts of a landscape that will be affected by a development. They form part of a Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment and are used extensively in wind farm development. A map will be created showing the number of Wind Turbine that are visible from a particular area. A cumulative Zone of Visual Influence is used to define the cumulative effects of many developments.

Useful Books

Brittain-Catlin, Timothy (2007), “How to Read a Building (Collins Need to Know?)”, Collins, London – Easy to read and gives a good illustrated introduction in to the many different styles of architecture.

School Place, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1NY |  01856 873535 | Translate | Accessibility | Copyright | Privacy | Investors In People Logo