It’s incredible how our whole world can change in the space of a few weeks – this time last month, Covid-19 was something that we read about in the news, now it is something that has directly affected how we all live and work. So, instead of our usual office view out over Rubislaw Terrace, we are working against the backdrop of our home windows (and very grateful that we are able to do so). Covid-19 also has significant implications for planning, and so this is the inevitable focus of this month’s Spotlights. For which, read on below…
National Planning Framework 4 – in our January Spotlights, we flagged up that the Scottish Government had issued a call for ideas to find out people’s thoughts and priorities for the new National Planning Framework (NPF4), with the deadline for responses being 31 March 2020. In light of the current situation with Covid-19 which, amongst other things, has caused a number of planned NPF4 roadshow events to be cancelled, that deadline has now been extended to 30 April 2020. Further information on how to be involved in the engagement process is available here.
Potential changes to Regulations – recognising that there are a number of areas of the planning system where current restrictions on gatherings of people do not sit well with statutory requirements, the Scottish Government is exploring options to make sure planning can continue to function during this time. This includes, for example, potential changes to Regulations relating to public events required as part of pre-application consultation for major developments. The exact details of those potential changes aren’t yet known, but we are expecting greater clarification over the next few days – watch this space.... And for some other changes that have been made already, see below.
On local government
Aberdeen Local Development Plan – on 2 March, the Proposed Aberdeen Local Development Plan was approved by Aberdeen City Council, subject to minor changes. Once those changes have been made, the Proposed Plan will be published for a 12 week consultation period, although we understand that the organisation of events has currently been paused while the Council looks at how to carry out the consultation safely, in line with Government advice. We are expecting a further update in due course, and would strongly encourage anyone with an interest in development in Aberdeen to respond to the consultation when the time comes. If we can be of any assistance in this regard, please do get in touch.
Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan – following hot on the heals of Aberdeen City, the 5 March saw the Proposed Local Development Plan for Aberdeenshire also approved for consultation. More information is available here, with the consultation period for this to run from 27 April to 19 June 2020. Again, please get in touch if we can be of any assistance in responding to the consultation on your behalf.
Edinburgh City Plan 2030 – in our January Spotlights, we reported on the start of the 8 week consultation period on the Main Issues Report for the new City of Edinburgh Choices for City Plan 2030, and this has now been extended until 30 April 2020 to ensure that everyone has a chance to give their views on the Plan. Details of the consultation are available here, and again please let us know if you require any help with your response to this.
On planning applications
Shetland Space Centre – at the start of the month, a Proposal of Application Notice was submitted by Shetland Space Centre for a vertical launch space port at Unst in Shetland, comprising a launch pad complex, mobile tracking stations and assembly hangar buildings at the far north east of the island. A public exhibition to allow people to view and comment on the proposals was due to take place on 5 – 7 May, so it is hoped that the anticipated new Regulations will allow planning applications such as this to progress without a public event, whilst of course ensuring that there are still adequate opportunities for public engagement in the process.
Cairngorm funicular – after months of speculation about the future of the Cairngorm funicular, which has been closed since September 2018 due to structural problems, a planning application has now been submitted for repairs to be carried out. The planned work is to return the railway to full operational use, subject to approval of the final business case and availability of funding. Meantime of course, the snow sport season at Cairngorm Mountain was brought to an early end last weekend due to Covid-19, and we now wait to see what the future brings.
Aberdeen Imax – we were delighted this month to secure planning consent (working with WCP Architects) for an extension to Cineworld at the Queen’s Links Leisure Park in Aberdeen to accommodate the City’s first Imax screen. This will offer an immersive cinematic experience not currently available in the North East and contribute to the regeneration of both the Leisure Park and the wider beach area. We’re looking forward to when we can gather in public places again and can go grab a film on the new screen!
On other matters
Relaxation of enforcement activity – in both Scotland and England, planning authorities have been advised that they should not seek to take enforcement action with regards to the opening hours of stores selling food and other essential items, the timings of deliveries of such items, or to prevent cafes, restaurants and bars from operating take-away/delivery services, all in response to increased pressures currently being experienced. This is advisory only, but it seems unlikely that planning authorities would go against that advice!
Changes of use – as well as cafes, restaurants and bars operating take-away/delivery services, other buildings are also undergoing changes of use to respond to the Covid-19 epidemic, most notably London’s ExCel centre which is to become a field hospital, with similar venues being looked at in other cities including Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh. More darkly, there are reports from Spain of Madrid’s ice rink being transformed into a mortuary. While such changes would usually be heavily regulated by the planning system, it is clear that times like these require a more flexible approach for such facilities.
While our office may be closed temporarily, we are well set up to work from home (and don’t just spend all our time looking out the window, honest!). So, in amongst all the uncertainty, we’re able to provide our clients with the same level of service as always.
On which, to find out how we can help with any aspect of the planning process, please visit our website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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