Aurora Spotlights - May 2020

Aurora Spotlights - May 2020

by aurora planning

This is now our third lockdown Spotlights, so the banner image is another home office window view.  And, as readers of our guest blog on home working from earlier this month will know, having a suitable window in any home office space is important!  The continuing impact of coronavirus is also once again very much the focus this month, although there are other things happening as well.  On which, read on below…
On Holyrood
Right to buy to further sustainable development – completely unrelated to coronavirus, the new community right to buy land to further sustainable development quietly came into force at the end of last month, allowing community bodies or nominated third parties to acquire land where:

  • it is likely to further the achievement of sustainable development in relation to the land;
  • it is in the public interest;
  • it is likely to result in significant benefit to the relevant community to which the application relates;
  • it is the only practicable, or the most practicable, way of achieving that significant benefit; and
  • not granting consent to the transfer of land is likely to result in harm to that community.

We have always seen a strong relationship between the planning system, land ownership, and land-use decision-making, and this new right is particularly significant in this regard, given that sustainable development has long been a key goal of the planning system.  It does though remain to be seen what the impact of this new right will actually be in practice.

On local government
‘Pop – up’ cycle lanes – in last month’s Spotlights we mentioned that, in a bid to create more room for cyclists and pedestrians to maintain social distancing, Edinburgh and Glasgow City Councils were looking at options for creating ‘pop-up’ cycle lanes by temporarily redrawing road markings.  Following this, changes are now underway, with a £10 million fund to support such projects announced at the end of last month, and our home city of Aberdeen also having secured a grant to implement active travel measures, including closing Union Street to vehicular traffic.  Time to get on our bikes!  
Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan – after a short delay as the Council looked at how best to carry out consultation on the Proposed Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan 2020 while not holding traditional public consultation events, this has now been published online and responses invited over the course of an 8 week period from 25 May to 17 July 2020.  The consultation process also includes a 360 degree virtual drop-in, providing all of the information that would usually be available at a public event in an online format.  If you have an interest in any development sites in Aberdeen, or in the policy direction that the Council is taking, and are looking for assistance in responding to the consultation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Aberdeen City Local Development Plan – following a similar process to Aberdeenshire, the Proposed Aberdeen Local Development Plan 2020 has also been published for consultation, albeit for an extended period, with responses invited up to 31 August 2020.  Again, if we can be of any assistance with regards to responding to the consultation, please do get in touch.
On planning applications
Hill of Rubislaw – as agents for this application, we’re pleased to have this week received a recommendation of approval for the proposed development of 245 private rented sector flats and associated facilities (including a residents' gym, residents' function room, public bistro and public promenade) at Rubislaw Quarry in Aberdeen.  This follows the refusal of a previous application, following which our client has worked hard to address concerns raised, and the officers’ committee report is clear that they have succeeded in doing that.  The application will now be determined by the Council’s Planning Development Management Committee, and we hope for a positive outcome then.
Culloden – continuing a familiar theme, there is a new battle at Culloden, as plans have been submitted for a holiday village, including 13 lodges, a 100 seat restaurant and café, and a shop, to be built a mile and a half from the battlefield site, on land that was reputedly the staging ground for Hanovarian troops ahead of the original battle for which the site is famous.  We will wait to see how this battle plays out.  
West Edinburgh ‘Garden District’ – planning permission has this month been granted for the first phase of a new ‘garden district’ in Edinburgh, comprising 1,350 homes (including 330 affordable homes) together with associated infrastructure.  This has not been without controversy, with the site forming part of the green belt in the Local Development Plan, but with the Scottish Ministers concluding that there were significant material considerations that outweighed this, including:
“the presumption in favour of development that represents sustainable development being a significant material consideration; the site being effective or capable of becoming effective in the relevant timeframe; defensible greenbelt boundary; significant contribution to housing land supply which the site would make; the location of the site adjacent to public transport and active travel opportunities; and the acceptable landscape and settlement fit of the proposal.”
While many will welcome the contribution this will make to the delivery of new housing, and the economic investment that represents, it does raise questions about the meaning of sustainable development, and when and how this might outweigh the provisions of the Development Plan.
Cairngorm furnicular – having been closed since September 2018 due to structural problems, the Cairngorm furnicular is now one step closer to re-opening, as the Cairgorms National Park Authority has granted planning permission for the necessary repairs (doing so at its first live-streamed public meeting).  Whether or not the works go ahead does though still depend on the outcomes of a detailed options appraisal being carried out by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the business case for this.  As is often the case, planning is just one part of the battle!
On other matters
Smart cities – in our April blog, we looked at the potential for smart cities technology to help support people and businesses through the coronavirus pandemic and into the future, including using drones to deliver medicines.  We were then very interested to see this happening in real life, with it being reported in the news this week that drones are being used to deliver personal protective equipment to a hospital on the Isle of Mull.  This is just a trial at present, but we understand that it could pave the way for drones to be used in the transport of medical test samples and other medical supplies in future.  What other elements of smart cities technology might we see being employed next?  
On us
As well as continuing to work from home, we have been taking the opportunity to do some online continuous professional development, and this month we particularly enjoyed a seminar organised by Women in Property on passivhaus building.  As we’re all spending more time in our homes, we are perhaps more conscious than ever of how these perform as places, and this provided a lot of food for thought with regards to how passivhaus standards contribute to that performance, not just in terms of energy efficiency (although that is perhaps the first thing that comes to most people's minds), but also in terms of comfort.  And of course, the RIBA award winner this year was a passive affordable housing project.  Will this all lead to increased interest in building to passivhaus standards in future?  We’ll wait and see.
Meantime, 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!
With many thanks to Pete Chamberlain of Chamber Design for our ‘stay at home’ logo!
Pippa and Maggie

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