Aurora Spotlights - August 2019

Aurora Spotlights - August 2019

by aurora planning

The big news from the past month is of course that, on 25 July 2019, the Planning (Scotland) Bill received Royal Assent, becoming the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019.  This is though not the end of the process to bring about the new planning system, but just the beginning, with significant work now required on the secondary legislation to bring the provisions of the new Act into effect.  In terms of what to expect from these provisions, we were delighted to be asked to provide an overview of the Act in this month’s edition of the Scottish Planning and Environmental Law journal where there are contributions from others covering all aspects of the Act.  You can also  read our thoughts on whether the new Act will deliver what it was intended to in last month’s blog here.  Meantime, for this month’s other planning highlights, read on below…
On Holyrood
Community right to buy land to further sustainable development – sustainable development has long been a key goal of the planning system, and Part 5 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 looks to make this a goal of the land ownership system too, with a new right for communities to buy land to this end.  We have touched on this previously in our blog on the relationship between the planning system, land ownership, and land-use decision making from the beginning of this year, and the Scottish Government is now consulting on the regulations required to bring the new right to buy into force.  The consultation document is available here, and we would encourage anyone with an interest in the use of land for sustainable development to respond to this.  The deadline for responses is 19 September. 
On the courts
Judicial review challenge for Edinburgh Concert Hall – plans for a new £45 million concert hall in Edinburgh are facing a legal challenge after developers behind the nearby St James development this month lodged a petition for judicial review of the Council’s decision to grant planning permission for the venue.  Interestingly, all parties seem to support the proposed new Concert Hall in principle, but views are deeply divided when it comes to the merits of the proposed design, and the impact that this might have on the Edinburgh skyline and World Heritage Site.  It is not though for the Court of Session to make a judgement on how aesthetically pleasing or otherwise the Hall might be, with the question for the Court instead being whether the Council’s decision on this was made lawfully and properly.  We will be looking out for that judgement.
On local government
Restaurants and bars on Princess Street, Edinburgh – the challenges facing high streets across Scotland are often reported on and now, in an attempt to revitalise Princess Street in Edinburgh, the City Council is revising its City Centre Shopping and Leisure Supplementary Guidance, with a consultation on the proposed changes underway.  Amongst other things, the revised guidance would allow significantly more flexibility when considering proposals for non-retail use in the city centre (including food, drink, assembly and leisure uses) in the hope that this will help fill units that are currently empty, and also bring increased footfall to existing units in retail use.  The draft Supplementary Guidance and consultation document is available here.
On planning applications
Costs for unreasonable refusal – in an appeal against Aberdeenshire Council’s refusal of planning permission for 121 houses at Newtonhill, near Stonehaven, the Reporter not only overturned the Council’s decision but found that the reasons given for the refusal were not supported by the facts, stating that: “the lack of supporting facts or arguments is so stark as to be unreasonable”. In making that decision, the Reporter then also awarded costs to the applicant.  This serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of decisions being justified properly and that, while awards of expenses may not be very common, they will be made where the circumstances merit it.  The full decision can be read here.
Canal regeneration – following our blog on the regeneration of Scotland’s canals earlier this year, we were interested to see that plans for a canal-side redevelopment project in London was this month refused on appeal due to concerns about the harm it would cause to locally listed buildings and the surrounding conservation area.  The project would have involved extensions to the listed buildings and replacement of 1980s offices, with the Mayor of London expressing strong support for this and the Planning Inspector agreeing that the additional office space provided would be in line with Local Plan Policy.  However, the potential harm to built heritage was considered to be decisive.  The full decision can be found here, and is indicative of the delicate balancing act that is often required when weighing up competing interests in planning matters.
On other matters
Designing cities for an ageing population – a report published by Arup at the end of last month, Cities Alive: Designing for Ageing Communities, indicates that significant changes are needed in how cities are designed, planned and operate in order to respond to the needs of an ageing population in an era of increased urbanisation.  In particular, the report highlights specific needs of the ageing population in terms of autonomy, health and well-being, social connectedness, and security and resilience, and proposes strategies and actions that cities can take to make communities more age-friendly. Given that none of us are getting any younger, this is surely something that we can all support!  
On us
As readers of this month’s guest blog Lessons from the Persian Bazaar will know, we are delighted to say that our intern from earlier this year, Negar Maydanchi, has secured a job as a local authority planner.  It’s great to see new people coming into planning, and we wish Negar all the very best in her career.  We will also be looking to continue our successful internship program next year, offering a recent graduate the opportunity to work with us for a month at the beginning of the summer and gain experience in all aspects of the work we do.  So, if you or anyone you know might be interested, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Likewise, to find out how we can help with any aspect of the planning process, please visit our website or email us at  Or, if you would like to see our other blogs or sign up for email updates, please click here.
Thanks for reading!

Pippa and Maggie

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