With just a few days to go until the US presidential election, it’s hard to avoid any mention of Trump in the news. And this month’s Spotlights is no different, although we’re just looking at his planning interests here! For more on which, and on other planning news from October, read on…

On Holyrood

Reviewing and Extending Permitted Development Rights in Scotland – the Scottish Government is consulting on Phase 1 proposals to extend permitted development rights, with responses invited by 12 November 2020. As part of the current phase, it is proposed to extend permitted development rights for digital telecommunications, agricultural developments, peatland restoration, and active travel. Of these, the last one is perhaps particularly pertinent in light of a reported uptake in cycling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with the new permitted development rights allowing greater flexibility in where cycle storage sheds can be built. Full details of the consultation are available here.

Draft Infrastructure Investment Plan 2021‑2022 to 2025‑2026 – at the end of last month, the Scottish Government unveiled its draft Infrastructure Investment Plan for consultation, which looks to stimulate Scotland’s green economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and respond to other long term trends (climate change, technology and demography) with investment to decarbonise business, industry and buildings, provide new health facilities and schools, and support manufacturing innovation. It includes proposals to invest over £2.8bn in direct capital grant funding to deliver more affordable and social homes, over £8bn for environmental sustainability and the transition to net zero emissions, and £275m to revitalise town centres. In doing this, one element that we particularly welcome is that the draft Plan places a new emphasis on enhancing and finding new uses for existing infrastructure before embarking on new projects, with this being something that we have always considered to be key to ensuring that future development is sustainable. The Draft Plan is available here, with consultation responses due by 19 November 2020.

Proposed changes to pre-application consultation requirements – our August Spotlights highlighted that the Scottish Government had begun consulting on changes to pre-application consultation requirements for major development applications, including proposals to increase the minimum number of public events required from one to two. There is now just a short time left to respond to that consultation, with the deadline for doing so being 6 November 2020.

On Westminster

Planning for the future – in both our August Spotlights and our September blog we looked at proposed changes to the planning system in England, including proposals for a zoning system, with the key impetus being the delivery of more new housing through a simpler, clearer and quicker system. As we highlighted in our August Spotlights though, there are questions about how the delivery of affordable housing and of the infrastructure required to support development would be ensured. There are also concerns about proposals to use an algorithm to plan housing supplies, and the extent to which this would actually deliver the right homes in the right places. In light of these concerns, MPs this month backed a motion urging the Government to delay the introduction of the new system until the Commons has had a chance to fully debate and hold a meaningful vote on it. Amongst criticisms that the current planning system is ‘painfully slow’, it seems change is not going to come quickly, but hopefully any changes that are eventually made will be better for the debate.

On planning applications

Second Trump golf course at Menie – some 5 years after a planning application was submitted, permission was this month granted for the construction of a second 18-hole golf course and ancillary facilities at Trump’s Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire. Although the decision to grant planning permission has sparked local criticism, this is not to the extent that the original planning application for the Menie Estate development did, perhaps reflecting the fact that this is now an allocated site, such that the principle of development here has effectively been established. Depending on the outcome of next week’s presidential election, might Mr Trump be looking to spend more time golfing in Scotland?

Paid-for donkey rides – in December last year, our blog looked at what constituted a building for the purposes of planning, but we have to admit that it hadn’t crossed our minds to consider whether or not donkey riding was a use that required planning permission. But it turns out that paid-for donkey rides do. This month, a planning inspector in England determined that paid-for donkey riding was a material change of use of a farm in Devon due to the commericalisation of that and the associated increase in traffic movements. For the farmer, this is no doubt a bit of a pain in the ass!

On other matters

Aberdeen wind farm value to local economy – in news that is likely to be less pleasing to Trump, a report by Oxford Brookes University has shown that the Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm (which Trump strongly objected to) will benefit the Aberdeenshire economy to the tune of more than £100m, including the creation of around 50 new jobs a year in the local supply chain. At the same time, the researchers behind the report highlighted the importance of studying the social and economic impacts of offshore wind farms, with the findings of the study likely to boost hopes that the development of renewable energy sector can provide a boost to Scotland’s economy.

Transforming Scotland’s Approach to Vacant and Derelict Land – back in our September 2018 Spotlights, we commented on that month’s announcement of the establishment of the Vacant and Derelict Land Taskforce to transform Scotland’s approach to tackling vacant and derelict land, create the conditions necessary for eradicating persistent dereliction in urban communities and realise the social, economic and environmental benefits of returning unloved derelict urban land back to productive use. The Taskforce has now published its recommendations, and these call for a commitment to responsible practice by landowners, as well as for the use of planning guidelines, tax laws and other actions, such as compulsory sales orders, to prevent land remaining vacant. Specifically related to planning, the recommendations stress the need for vacant and derelict sites to play a more direct role in guiding planning outcomes through, for example, making better use of the Vacant and Derelict Land Register, considering potential barriers to reuse when designating sites in Local Development Plans, and a more flexible approach that allows designations to change if it becomes clear that development will not come forward. The report also recommends that National Planning Framework 4 should prioritise brownfield sites for development, that Scottish Planning Policy should incorporate a stronger focus on place-based regeneration, and that the remediation of brownfield sites should be recognised as an infrastructure investment priority. Much of this chimes with our own thoughts on sustainable land use and so it will be interesting to see if and how these recommendations are now taken forward.

On us

It may feel like it is one consultation after the other at the moment – at the beginning of the month, we responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on proposed changes to Scottish Planning Policy (for a summary of views on which, see our blog), and we’re now working on our responses to the current consultations on permitted development rights and pre-application consultation requirements… We do though welcome these opportunities to be involved in the shaping of planning policy and legislation, and look forward to seeing the outcome of these consultation processes.

Meantime, to find out how we can help with any aspect of the planning process, please visit our website or email us at info@auroraplanning.co.uk. If you would like to keep up to date with our blogs and bulletins, sign up using the form below.

Thanks for reading!

And happy Halloween!

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