As summer comes to an end, extreme weather events have again been in the news this month and, as with floods experienced earlier in the year, we have seen some devastating impacts as a result. Back in March, we looked at some of the issues around the provision of flood mitigation schemes in our blog, The art of flood defence, and this is still as pertinent as ever. At the same time, as Aberdeen emerges from re-imposed lockdown restrictions, we’re very conscious of the need for our built environment to be resilient not just to a changing climate environmentally, but also socially, economically, and in terms of public health. And of course, planning is central to this. So, for what’s been happening in the world of planning this month, read on…
Provisions of the Coronavirus Acts extended – having come into force in April this year (on which, see our April Spotlights), emergency provisions which have ensured the planning system has continued to function during the Coronavirus pandemic are set to be extended until 31 March 2021, subject to the agreement of Parliament. This means that consents that have not been implemented will not lapse in this time, planning committees can continue to meet remotely, and pre-application consultation can continue to be done online, rather than holding a traditional public event. Given ongoing concerns about Coronavirus cases rising again as we come out of lockdown and (as we in Aberdeen are all too aware) the potential for lockdown restrictions to be re-instated at short notice, this extension is to be welcomed.
Consultation on proposed changes to pre-application consultation requirements – pre-application consultation is a hot topic this month because, as well as extending emergency legislation on this as set out above, the Scottish Government is consulting on more permanent changes. Interestingly though, while anecdotal evidence suggests that the temporary use of online events during the Coronavirus pandemic has actually encouraged greater numbers of people to engage with the system in some cases, the consultation proposes to keep the requirement for this to be done in public, and to increase the minimum number of public events required to two. Further details and information on how to respond to the consultation are available here.
National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) Call for Ideas – following receipt of nearly 350 responses to its Call for Ideas for NPF4 as noted in last month’s Spotlights, the Scottish Government has this month published an analysis of those responses. This shows a wide range of interest groups inputting to the development of NPF4, including local authorities and other public bodies, development organisations, environmental bodies, transport partnerships and community groups. It will no doubt be a challenge for the Government to balance some of the competing views submitted but then, as we always say, that is one of the key roles of planning!
Planning for the future – as well as the changes to permitted development rights mentioned in last month’s Spotlights, the Westminster Government has published a White Paper, ‘Planning for the future’, setting out other proposed changes to the planning system in England. This claims to be “Radical reform unlike anything we have seen since the Second World War”, with the key impetus being the delivery of more new housing through a simpler, clearer and quicker system. Sound familiar?
Most notably, unlike the reform of planning in Scotland, this proposes a zoning system in which places will be zoned as being either for growth, for renewal or for protection and, if proposals accord with the code for the zone, then they can go ahead. On the face of it, this makes the system simpler and more predictable. On the other hand, if high quality development is to be delivered, then the code which says what can or cannot be built within a certain zone will need to be very detailed and prescriptive, with this then being a somewhat rigid and blunt instrument. Alternatively, if the code is more permissive, then quality may suffer. There are also questions about how the delivery of affordable housing and infrastructure required to support development would be ensured and, with a lot of the focus of the White Paper being on housing, what the implications of this for other types of development might be. Suffice to say, we have some concerns about what’s proposed, but will watch with interest how things progress.
On local government
Aberdeen City and Shire Strategic Development Plan 2020 – the Aberdeen City and Shire Strategic Development Plan 2020 was approved by Scottish Ministers on 12 August and replaces the current Strategic Development Plan with immediate effect, setting the strategic framework for investment in jobs, homes and infrastructure for the city region over the next 20 years.
South Lanarkshire Local Development Plan 2 – the Report of the Examination on the emerging South Lanarkshire Local Development Plan 2 was published on 17 August and, with the recommendations within this being largely binding on the Council, a modified Proposed Local Development Plan 2 will now be prepared for submission to the Scottish Ministers. It is anticipated that the new Plan will be adopted in early 2021.
City of Edinburgh Local Development Plan – as highlighted in our January Spotlights, the City of Edinburgh Council recently consulted on its Choices for City Plan 2030, the responses to which were reported to the Council’s Planning Committee this month, along with a timetable for the remaining stages of the Plan preparation process. Within that timetable, publication of the Proposed City Plan 2030 is expected in January next year.
On planning applications
Space Hub Sutherland – it feels like we’ve been getting a little closer to this each month for the past few months, but we have now formally received planning permission for the UK’s first vertical launch spaceport, to be located in Sutherland. This is a tremendously exciting first which will play a vital role in our understanding of climate change and its impact through the monitoring of key indicators such as icecaps, ozone and the health of oceans, and we very much look forward to seeing the development take shape. See here for further information on this project, including what we think is a very cool flyover of how the Space Hub will take shape.
On other matters
Scottish Land Commission (SLC) protocols – SLC has this month published 3 new protocols which, in different ways, relate to the use of land:
- the first of these sets out how landowners can help achieve a more diverse pattern of land ownership and tenure, on the basis that this allows businesses, organisations, individuals and communities to pursue projects of all scales and purposes including supporting sustainable local economic development, providing spaces for social and amenity activities and improving access to green spaces;
- the second encourages landowners to take steps to facilitate greater community ownership, lease and use of land, supporting local people to meet community needs and to use land and buildings to provide housing, business opportunities, community facilities and greenspace to enhance their wellbeing; and
- the third promotes good stewardship of land, suggesting that owners and managers should routinely consider whether there are opportunities to make more productive use of land or buildings, including actively considerin the long-term impacts that decisions about land and buildings might have on the environment and on local communities, and taking action to ensure that property assets that are at risk of becoming surplus are maintained in a reasonable condition awaiting re-use.
All three of these make for interesting reading!
Lockdown has enabled us to participate in a number of on-line training and networking events and, this month, our Director Pippa was pleased to be invited to participate in a Mastermind session organised by our client XUSA. This was a great opportunity to share experience on how the planning system in Scotland works, some of the challenges in that, and how best to navigate the way through it, with recent work with XUSA on plans to convert a vacant office in Aberdeen to an exciting mixed-use development providing an ideal case study. It was also a chance to reflect on recent changes in England, and potential implications of these (on which, look out for a blog coming soon….).
Meantime, to find out how we can help with any aspect of the planning process, please visit our website or email us at email@example.com. 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