Whereas much of the mainstream news can often feel a bit doom and gloom, it’s been great this month to see the extensive coverage of the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, and other space stories connected to that. In particular, our attention was caught by the headline that a toy Highland cow was sent into orbit to mark the links of the north and north-east to space travel over the past 50 years, a link that continues with proposals for the UK’s first vertical launch facility in Sutherland (a project we’re very excited to be involved in). Focusing on terrestrial planning matters though, here are some highlights of what’s been happening on the ground in Scotland this month.
Housing to 2040 - earlier this month, the Scottish Government published its draft vision for the future of housing, with a focus on improving quality and affordability. Formal consultation on the vision is expected in autumn, but meantime further information is available here. This is of particular interest given that one of the key aspirations of the Planning Bill (passed last month) was to increase the delivery of high quality housing but, as this publication shows, that requires more than just new legislation.
Planning application decision times - the Scottish Government has also this month published official statistics on the time taken to determine planning applications, available here. These show that major development applications were on average decided quicker in 2018 – 19 than in the previous year and, although the average decision time for local development applications is the same as last year, this matches the quickest average time from 2012 – 2013. While this will be welcome news to anyone with applications going through the planning process, the average time for all applications is still longer than the statutory targets, such that further improvements will continue to be called for.
On local government
Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan 2 - for housing related development or otherwise, there are now just a few days left to respond to the call for sites for the next Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan, and the call for Core Paths that’s running in parallel to this. Both of these close on 29 July 2019 and, for further details, please see last month’s Spotlights here.
On planning applications
Loch Lomond Banks, Balloch - in our April Spotlights, we touched on the proposed development by Flamingo Land and Scottish Enterprise in the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park (including housing, a hotel, holiday lodges, a brewery and a monorail), this being an application that has attracted both significant opposition and support. This month, neighbouring West Dumbartonshire Council has formally objected to the plans. The application is still to be determined by the Board of the National Park, but even before that decision has been made, there is talk of a legal challenge to it (as reported by, for example, Scottish Community Alliance here). This again demonstrates just how contentious the planning system can sometimes be. Is this a case in which new provisions on the use of mediation in planning as set out in the recent Planning Bill might help? It may be that this particular application has gone too far, but it is one which we will certainly continue to watch with interest.
On other matters
Allotments - after some success last year growing chillis and aubergines on the Aurora Planning windowsill, we were particularly interested to see that the Scottish Allotments and Garden Society has this month published a guide to planning for allotment sites, available here. This seeks to help inform planning authorities about the importance of local food growing initiatives, and to encourage the development of policies to support that. At the same time, it highlights inconsistencies that currently exist as to how allotments and food growing sites are treated in planning terms, and the relationship between planning and legislation on community empowerment. Well worth a read!
Nestrans 2040 – the Regional Transport Partnership for the north east of Scotland is seeking views on the future of transport for the next 20 years, with consultation topics ranging from affordability of transport to road safety, plus many others. Further information on this is available here and, with the importance of integrating land use planning and transportation policies being something we have often highlighted in the past, we would strongly encourage anyone with an interest in Aberdeen City and Shire to get involved.
With some better weather finally upon us, we took a wee trip out of the office earlier this month to see the puffins that take up residence on the Aberdeenshire cliffs at this time of the year, along with an incredible number of other sea birds. Not unlike human cities, the cliffs crowded with guilimots and razor bills may seem chaotic and noisy to an outsider, yet within this everyone (or bird!) has their place and, the more time that’s spent watching this, the more fascinating it is. We will stick to human town planning though!
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Thanks for reading!
Pippa and Maggie