Aurora Spotlights - January 2021

Aurora Spotlights - January 2021

by aurora planning

The new year may now seem like a very distant memory but, with this our first Spotlights of 2021, it still seems like a good time to take stock and look ahead to what the coming year might bring. And there is a lot on the horizon. The implementation of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 is set to continue, a Scottish Parliament election is coming up, and there is of course an ongoing need for the planning system to play its role in addressing the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. On all of which and more, read on below…
On Holyrood
NPF4 Position Statement – keeping the discussion going – following on from the publication of the NPF4 Position Statement last month (on which, see our December Spotlights), and with comments on that invited until 19 February 2021, the Scottish Government has produced a number of resources to stimulate discussions around this. These include:

Plenty to read, think about, and discuss!
Designation of Short-Term Let Control Areas – as part of the implementation of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, draft regulations have been laid before the Scottish Parliament to allow for the designation of short-term let control areas, within which planning permission will be required for a home to be used as a short-term let. This does not though exclude the possibility that planning permission may still be required outside such areas where a material change of use is deemed to have taken place. The regulations will, we are sure, be welcomed by many who have raised concerns about the impact that the use of properties for short term lets is having on many popular tourist areas, although it remains to be seen how many such areas are designated in practice and how effective they are. Subject to approval by the Scottish Parliament, the regulations will come into force on 1 April 2021.
Reviewing and extending permitted development rights – following consultation last year (see our October Spotlights), regulations have now been laid before the Scottish Parliament to bring changes to existing permitted development rights into force in April this year. This includes new rights allowing changes of use from agricultural buildings to residential or commercial uses without the need to apply for planning permission, although elements of such developments will still require prior approval. It will be interesting to see how these new rights will operate in practice, and whether they achieve the Government’s objectives of supporting agricultural diversification and the delivery of new homes in rural areas. Meantime, an analysis of the responses to the consultation is available here, and the new regulations themselves are available here.
On Local Government
Inner Moray Firth 2 Main Issues Report – The Highland Council is preparing a second local development plan for the Inner Moray Firth area (covering Nairnshire, Inverness district and the eastern part of Ross and Cromarty), the Main Issues Report for which is to be published at the end of this month. This will ask for people’s views on development site options and issues affecting the area (including climate change, economic recovery and delivering affordable housing), and suggest ways in which local planning policy and decisions can best address these issues. Comments must be received no later than 5pm on Thursday 1st April 2021, and we would strongly recommend that anyone with an interest in the Inner Moray Firth area make a submission (and if we can be of any assistance in that then please don’t hesitate to get in touch). 
Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan 2021 – Aberdeenshire Council has announced a revised timetable for the submission of its Proposed Local Development Plan to Scottish Ministers for Examination, with it understood that this will now be done by the end of February at the latest.
Aberdeen’s high rises listed (for now at least) – in the culmination of a consultation that has been ongoing since 2019, eight blocks of 1960s multi-story flats in Aberdeen were awarded category A listed status for their architectural and historical merit earlier this month, with Historic Environment Scotland describing them as being of “outstanding” importance. Aberdeen City Council has however said that they will appeal the decision, with Councillors citing concerns about higher maintenance costs as a result of the listing, and querying the need for all eight blocks to have been listed. For more on which, watch this space…
On planning applications
Shetland Space Centre – following the grant of planning permission for the UK’s first vertical launch spaceport in Sutherland in August last year (see our August Spotlights for more details), plans for another spaceport have now been submitted to Shetland Islands Council on behalf of Shetland Space Centre. These proposals include three launch pads and associated infrastructure, incorporating a satellite tracking facility, hangarage and integration facilities, the creation of a range control centre at the former RAF Saxa Vord complex, use of the fuel storage facility at Ordale Airport at Baltasound, and improvements to the launch site’s approach roads, with the development anticipated to make a significant contribution to the local economy. There are though also a number of environmental sensitivities to be addressed and, as we know from our own experience working on the Space Hub Sutherland application, it is important to get this right!
On other matters
RTPI manifesto – ahead of the Scottish Parliament election in May this year, the Royal Town Planning Institute has published a manifesto calling on the next Scottish Government make a number of planning related commitments, including investing in planning services, supporting communities to shape where they live, and increasing the number of planners to support recovery. All things worth raising with local candidates if the opportunity arises.
RTPI post COVID cities report – in addition to the call for the next Scottish Government to increase the number of planners to support recovery, the RTPI has published a report on post COVID cities, drawing on the views of the public with regards to the future of high streets and town centres in particular. Interestingly, this finds that there is very little difference between comments made about the future of the high street before and after the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, with many commentators believing that the pandemic is mainly acting as a 'catalyst for change'; accelerating a transformation process that had commenced before the pandemic. The key now is to look at what needs to be done to deliver positive change as a result, with some thoughts on that in the context of Aberdeen City Centre highlighted in our November 2020 blog, Rising from the ashes.
Tay Cities Deal – arrangements for £700 million worth of investment in the Tay Cities region (covering Angus, Dundee, Fife and Perth & Kinross) have been announced by way of the Tay Cities Deal, with this involving a number of interesting projects such as a drone port at Montrose in Angus, the creation of an advanced plastics recycling facility, and the Eden Campus, a Centre of Excellence in Low Carbon and Renewable Energy innovation at the University of St Andrews. Many of these projects will of course require planning input and will contribute to wider placemaking, and we will be following progress with these with interest.  
On us
With the new year having been accompanied by a new lockdown, we are continuing to work from home, and to offer virtual work experience to our intern Martin (for the value of which, check out his blog post from earlier this month, if you haven’t read it already). And, from our respective homes, we are looking forward to seeing what 2021 brings, with a number of exciting projects keeping us busy at the moment and hopefully more to come.
So, if 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!

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