Aurora Spotlights - July 2020

Aurora Spotlights - July 2020

by aurora planning

Will this be our last lockdown Spotlights?  In line with Scottish Government guidance, working from home continues to be the default position for us, but we will keep this under review when offices are allowed to re-open at the end of this month. Meantime, we’re re-adapting to the lifting of restrictions in all other areas of life, including the re-opening of cafes, bars and shops – for more on which, and on what’s needed to attract people back into our city centres again, check out our blog from earlier this month. And, on what else has been happening in planning this month, read on below.  
On Holyrood
Consultation on changes to Scottish Planning Policy – in last month’s Spotlights, we commented on the Gladman case, in which the Court of Session confirmed that the presumption in favour of sustainable development in Scottish Planning Policy meant that a ‘tilted balance’ in favour of the grant of planning permission applies in cases where there is a housing land shortage. Now, the Scottish Government is consulting on proposed amendments to Scottish Planning Policy that would see the removal of this presumption, along with a number of other changes, including: removing any specific policy provision for situations where a development plan is more than 5 years old; amending the definition and means of calculating the effective housing land supply; and stipulating that any shortfall in the 5-year effective housing land supply will simply be another material consideration to be taken into account in the decision making process, rather than tilting the balance in favour of development. The consultation paper can be accessed here and responses are invited up until 9 October 2020.  If you want to discuss how the proposed changes might affect you or your business, or if we can be of any assistance in responding to the consultation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Mediation – as part of the ongoing implementation of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, outline proposals for guidance on the promotion and use of mediation in planning have been published, with a survey seeking stakeholders’ views on how best to embed this into the Scottish planning system. Responses to the survey are invited until Friday 21st August 2020, and anyone with an interest in the future of the planning in Scotland, and how to make this less adversarial, is encouraged to do so.  
National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) Call for Ideas – the Scottish Government has now published the evidence gathered as part of the NPF4 call for ideas, with a formal analysis of nearly 350  written responses expected later in the summer. This will then be used to inform a position statement which is to be published in the autumn, and a draft NPF4 expected in autumn 2021.  Meantime, written responses, along with outputs from the Scotplan 2050 roadshow workshops, can be viewed here.
Coronavirus (COVID-19): planning - use of outdoor spaces and the ’28-day rule’ – at the beginning of this month, the Chief Planner and the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning provided further guidance on the temporary use of outdoor spaces by pubs, cafés and restaurants, including highlighting existing time-limited permitted development rights and re-iterating support for relaxing planning control at this time. This builds on guidance issued at the end of May and makes it clear that, in the main, the most appropriate, straightforward and efficient way planning can allow for reasonable temporary changes of use during this period is through relaxing planning controls informally; particularly by agreeing not to take enforcement action against acceptable planning breaches that will allow for businesses to operate and for some normality to return to life within local communities. The need for the guidance outlined in the letter will be reviewed in September, with the intention being to withdraw it once physical distancing is no longer required.
Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on safer public spaces guidance has also been issued on design principles for safer urban centres and green spaces in Scotland during the coronavirus crisis, including examples of interventions that may be undertaken by owners and operators of public spaces to keep people safe. Primarily, this is a practical guide to highlight issues that require to be considered now, but it also highlights possibilities for change over the longer term, for example in terms of encouraging increased use of active modes of travel (something that was also highlighted in our blog earlier this month). It is expected that this document will be updated over time, so watch this space for further updates…  
On Westminster
Changes to permitted development rights – a significant change to permitted development rights in England means that, from 1 August, up to two additional storeys can be built onto existing purpose-built blocks of flats without the need for planning permission, subject to certain conditions being met. More changes are also on the horizon, including proposals to give commercial, retail and leisure uses greater freedom to adapt to changing circumstances, and for permitted development rights to allow for vacant buildings to be demolished and replaced by residential properties within the same footprint. This reflects an aspiration to ‘build, build, build’, as recently expressed by the Prime Minister, with development seen as important to economic recovery, as well as being essential to meeting demand for new homes.  At the same time, it is essential to ensure the quality of those new homes, as well as the quantity of them, with concerns about the extent to which the broad application of permitted development rights may fail on the latter. That said, some of these concerns may be partly alleviated by the news that regulations have been laid before the Westminster Parliament which will require English homes delivered through permitted development rights to at least have windows! Currently, we are not aware of any similar proposals here in Scotland, but many in the development industry will be watching the implementation of the English changes with interest to see what the implications of these might be.
On planning applications
Space Hub Sutherland – in last month’s Spotlights, we reported that we were delighted to receive a recommendation of approval for the proposed development of the UK’s first orbital spaceport, located in north Sutherland. This month, we are even more delighted to say that The Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee agreed unanimously to approve the application at its meeting of 26 June 2020. In accordance with the Notification Direction issued to the Council at the end of May, Scottish Ministers now have 28 days from 8 July 2020 to decide whether to call the application in to be considered by them, so look out for the outcome of that in next month’s Spotlights!
On other matters
Rural homes – a new report commissioned by the Scottish Land Commission, The Role of land in Enabling New Housing Supply in Rural Scotland, provides an interesting insight into the extent to which land (specifically, the cost of and access to land) is a barrier to new housing delivery in rural and remote rural Scotland. This highlights that there are not enough homes being built in such areas to satisfy need and sets out a number of recommendations to address this. In particular, the report sees an important role for the public sector, as well as for not-for-profit organisations and smaller local builders (noting that large housebuilders are mostly inactive in rural Scotland, such that there is a need to support other providers and promote new delivery models). The Scottish Land Commission now intends to use the outputs of this report to support future interventions in relation to land and rural and remote housing, with this to also contribute to advice to Scottish Ministers with regards to the potential benefits of reforming housing land allocation so that it is led more by public interest than by market forces than at present.
On us
As a member of the British Chamber of Commerce’s expert planning panel, our Director Maggie had the opportunity this month to hear the views of colleagues from south of the border on planning in England during the coronavirus pandemic and their thoughts on anticipated planning reforms there. It is always useful to be able to share insight and experience, and to learn from what others are doing elsewhere.
And, on the subject of working with planners from across the UK, we’re pleased to support the RTPI’s ‘Plan the World We Need Campaign’ which launched this month. This  calls on governments across the UK and Ireland to capitalise on the expertise and role of planners to achieve a sustainable, resilient and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, including by prioritising greenspaces, transport, housing and jobs, aspirations that we can all surely get behind.
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.
Thanks for reading!

Pippa and Maggie

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