Aurora Spotlights - December 2019

Aurora Spotlights - December 2019

by aurora planning

As we approach the shortest day of the year, our thoughts very much turn to cosying up by the fire in a nice warm home and keeping the winter weather at bay…  These being everyday concerns, in which planning has a significant role to play!  For some examples of which, plus other planning matters from this past month, read on below.
On Holyrood
Planning performance and fees as we have highlighted in previous blogs on the Planning Bill, the link between fees and planning performance has long been an issue for debate.  The Scottish Government has now issued a consultation paper which proposes a new approach to how the performance of planning authorities is measured, the role of the planning improvement co-ordinator (introduced through the new Planning Act) and a structure for the planning fee regime, along with the introduction of additional services which authorities can charge for and the ability to waive or reduce planning fees in certain circumstances.  It is important that planning authorities are properly resourced to provide an efficient and effective service that we all need to deliver high quality places, and that fees are reasonable and proportionate for developers of all scales, and so we will certainly be looking closely at this consultation.  The closing date for comments is 14 February 2020.
Scottish Government Housing to 2040 consultation with the ambition of enabling everyone in Scotland to live in high quality, energy efficient homes that are affordable and that meet their needs, the Scottish Government’s Housing to 2040 consultation seeks views on their draft vision and principles for homes and communities in 2040, and suggestions for innovative, bold and imaginative proposals to deliver that vision. Consultation responses will help inform the Scottish Government’s final vision and route map to 2040, and the deadline for responding to the consultation is 28 February 2020.
Rise in number of new build homes completed related to providing the housing that Scotland needs, the Scottish Government also announced this month that there was an 18% rise in the number of new build homes completed over the year ending June 2019 compared to the previous year.  At the same time however, the number of long-term empty properties and second homes also increased over the past year, creating a less clear-cut picture overall.  Further details are available here.
On local government
Sustainable transport in Aberdeen one thing we particularly like about the Aurora Planning office is that its central location means that, even in the winter weather, it is easy to get to on foot, by bike, or by public transport.  It is though widely recognised that more needs to be done to encourage more people to use these modes of transport where possible. To this end, Aberdeen City Council recently approved a new Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP), included within which are a range of short, medium and long-term measures such as reducing speed limits on certain streets, exploring opportunities for walking, cycling and bus priority spaces, and improving cycling infrastructure.  The SUMP also seeks to ensure that accessibility by walking and cycling are prioritised in new developments.  An executive summary of the SUMP is available here, and we look forward to seeing this implemented over the coming years.
On planning applications
St Fergus multi-technology renewable energy park also on the subject of sustainability, a planning application has been submitted for what is said to be one of the first renewable energy parks of its kind in Scotland, combing both onshore wind and solar power with the means to store power during times of excess generation.  Specifically, this would comprise two wind turbines, a solar photovoltaic farm and battery storage units on land adjacent to the St Fergus Gas Terminal in Peterhead.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has attracted mixed responses, with letters of representation submitted both for and against the proposals, and particular concerns raised in terms of its close proximity to the existing gas terminal – as we’ve often highlighted, planning can be a controversial process, and so it will be interesting to see the outcome of this particular planning battle.
Longannet Power Station – meanwhile, a planning application has been approved this month for the redevelopment of Scotland’s last coal-fueled power station at Longannet in Fife, which closed in 2016.  The application for the 74 hectare site, made by Scottish Enterprise, is for a mix of business, general industrial and storage and distributions uses which create significant new employment and economic development opportunities, including a factory for the Spanish train manufacturer Talgo. 
On other matters
Local Place Plans throughout the passage through Parliament of the Planning Bill (now the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019), one of the provisions that particularly caught our attention was that for Local Place Plans.  In our blog on the passing of the Planning Bill earlier this year, we described these as:
“…giving communities the right to set out proposals for the development and use of land in their area – which may cynically be seen as justifying continued opposition to calls for a Third Party Right of appeal (with no such right introduced into the final Bill), while also adding another layer into an already trifle like process.”
We are now awaiting the secondary legislation needed to bring these into force, and seeing how they take shape in practice.  Meantime though, some guidance can be found from a Local Place Plan pilot in Foxbar in south-west Paisley, details of which are available here.  This gives an indication of what a Local Place Plan might look like, with a how-to guide published alongside this to help other communities prepare their own plans, providing an interesting insight into what might be to come.
Consultation on planning obligations a major bone of contention in many planning applications, planning obligations should ensure that development is accompanied by the infrastructure and facilities necessary to support it, but they are often seen as an area of uncertain cost and delay for developers, while many community activists complain that the process for determining the contributions is obscure and doesn’t necessarily deliver what is needed on the ground.  Against this background, the Law Society of Scotland is looking to identify evidence to support good practice in relation to planning obligations, with views sought from all interested stakeholders.  Further details on the consultation and how to respond are available here.
Floating homes in May this year, we published our blog on the role of canals as places for people to live, work and play, in light of which we concluded that canal boat homes increasingly seemed like a good idea.  And it seems that we’re not the only ones to reach that conclusion.  Notably, a report published this month highlights the contribution that waterways in London make to the city and its residents, and sets out a number of recommendations for policymakers and built environment practitioners to reflect this.  Of particular interest from our point of view, is the recommendation that the government develop land use classes (or should these perhaps be water use classes!?) and guidance for floating homes, floating lidos and co-mooring in order to address a current lack of clarity as to how such proposals should be treated.  We wonder if similar proposals might also be made here in Scotland in future?
On us
2019 has been a busy and rewarding year for us, and we’d like to thank everyone who has worked with us during this time.  We’re now looking forward to some rest and respite (again thinking of cosying up by the fire) over the Christmas period, and to seeing what 2020 brings!
On which, 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.

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Please note: our office will be closed from Friday 20 December until Monday 6 January.

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