February may be a short month, but it has not been short on activity, with Regulations being laid in Parliament and withdrawn in quick succession, coronavirus continuing to feature in the world of planning, and RTPI Scotland having been so active that they merit a section all of their own. For more on all of which and more, read on below…

On Holyrood

Planning (Scotland) Act 2019: Pre-application consultation regulations – following consultation last year (on which, see our August 2020 Spotlights), Regulations to change pre-application consultation requirements have been laid before the Scottish Parliament, along with an accompanying Policy Note. As anticipated, the new Regulations increase the minimum number of physical public events which must be held (when such events can be held again) to two, as well as making a number of other associated changes. In particular, while it won’t be necessary to have an online equivalent of a live event, information will need to be made available electronically as well as in physical format, with it hoped that this will make it easier for a greater number of people to get involved in consultations. The changes are due to come into effect on 1 October this year, with guidance on the new Regulations to be published in due course.

Draft guidance on short-term lets – along with Regulations to allow Councils to designate short-term let control areas (on which, see our January 2021 Spotlights), an Order had been laid before Parliament last month to allow Councils to implement a licensing scheme for such lets. However, to address concerns with regards to the content of that Order, this has now been withdrawn, giving time for draft guidance to be developed before the Order is re-laid in June. A stakeholder working group has been established to develop the guidance and identify any changes to the legislation that may be needed. Meantime, the Government this month approved the Town and Country Planning (Short-term Let Control Areas) (Scotland) Regulations 2021, allowing councils to designate short-term let control areas from 1 April 2021.

Coronavirus Acts: Duration of planning permission – as reported in our April 2020 Spotlights, one of the ways in which the Scottish Government has sought to mitigate the impacts of coronavirus on the delivery of development has been to extend the time period in which planning consent requires to be implemented. Initially, this allowed consents which would have lapsed if not implanted before a date during the emergency period of the pandemic to be kept alive until 6 April 2021, with this subsequently having been extended to 30 September 2021. In light of the ongoing pandemic, further Regulations have now been laid before the Scottish Parliament to again extend that period to 31 March 2022, which will be good news for anyone with a consent which might otherwise lapse between now and then.

Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2021 – planning also continues to play a role in tackling the spread of coronavirus and treating those unfortunate enough to contract the virus, with temporary permitted development rights which were introduced in response to the pandemic to be extended until the end of 2021, allowing facilities such as temporary hospitals, testing centres and vaccination centres to be delivered by local authorities and health services without the need for them to apply for planning permission for these.

On local government

Edinburgh mobility plan – a 10-year blueprint to deliver a better connected, net-zero carbon transport system for Edinburgh was signed off by the City Council on 19  February, replacing Edinburgh’s previous local transport strategy.  The new plan aims to create more liveable places by building on the city’s network of walking, wheeling and cycling routes and champions 20 minute neighbourhoods.  It envisages a transformed city by the beginning of the next decade, with an extended tram network, upgraded park and rides, arterial routes in use for mass commuting by bike, a largely car free city centre, and implementation of the Waverly Station masterplan underway. While the inclusion of extensions to the tram network will inevitably be controversial, measures to facilitate more walking, cycling and use of public transport are always to be welcomed, with the contribution that these make to the delivery of sustainable neighbourhoods meaning that they are important in both town planning and transport terms.

Argyll and Bute Growth Deal – the UK and Scottish Governments have signed heads of terms for a £70 million Rural Growth Deal for Argyll and Bute, in terms of which each Government will contribute £25 million, with at least £20 million also to come from Argyll and Bute Council and partners. These heads of terms set out several themes for a 10-to-15 year programme of investment, with aquaculture, tourism, housing, digital connectivity and skills for a rural economy among the sectors set for development. As with other growth deals, there will be a close relationship between this and wider place-making objectives, with it therefore being of significant interest from a planning point of view, as well as an economic one.

Draft Inverness Airport Master Plan – a draft Master Plan has been published for Inverness Airport, setting out a development strategy for its future expansion over the next 25 years, whilst also improving the overall experience for customers. Notably, whilst is the Master Plan recognises that Covid-19 will result in lower growth than would otherwise have been expected, at least in the short-term, it is still believed that expansion will be required regardless. There is still just time to have your say on this if you wish to, with the public consultation on the draft document running until 28 February.

Dynamically Different Dumfries – Dumfries and Galloway Council has taken an innovative approach to the prominent challenge of town centre regeneration by convening an independent group of local businesses, community groups and agencies as an advisory and reference group to shape a vision and delivery plan for Dumfries town centre. As a volunteer, our intern Martin was also involved in helping to facilitate online public consultations and described this as a great experience that allowed for issues to be discussed with people passionate about Dumfries. It sounds like a valuable example of good public engagement in planning, and one which it is hoped could be replicated elsewhere.

On planning applications

Everton FC Bramley-Moore Dock stadium – football fans (of which Martin is one!) will be pleased to know that Everton Football Club’s plans to build a new 52,000-seater stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock have taken a huge step forward after planning consent was granted this month by Liverpool City Council. Everton’s chief executive officer has said this will be the “most inclusive and sustainable” stadium in the UK, with the plans showing that this could be used to host pop concerts and events and conferences, as well as football games, while the Club’s current site is earmarked for conversion to affordable housing, a health centre, retail and leisure spaces and a youth enterprise zone. However, Historic England objected to the new stadium due to concerns that it would fundamentally change the historic character of the area, which is a World Heritage Site, and the proposals will now be referred to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government for consideration. So, we don’t yet know what the final score on this will be….

On RTPI Scotland

Response to NPF4 Position Statement – RTPI Scotland has responded to the NPF4 Position Statement published in December last year (on which, see our December Spotlights), in terms of which the direction of travel has been broadly welcomed, with the response stating that RTPI Scotland is in no doubt that NPF4 has the potential to help transform Scotland’s environment, places, communities and economy. The response does though highlight that NPF4 must be supported by resources to deliver its ambitions through a linked capital investment programme, coordination between other national strategies and stakeholders, and a commitment to making NPF4 a key corporate document that serves as the core of future policy development in Scotland.  Related to this, RTPI Scotland also wants to see a clear emphasis on deliverability and action plans and clearly defined success metrics. We would echo RTPI Scotland’s views on this (and would say the same about all planning policy documents), and look forward to seeing the consultation draft NPF4 which is expected in the Autumn.

A new future for Scotland’s town centres – having published their own post COVID cities report last month (on which, see our January 2021 Spotlights, as well as our own thoughts on the subject in our April 2020 blog), RTPI Scotland has publicly welcomed the publication this month of the findings of the Scottish Government commissioned review of Scotland’s town centres, the report on which recognises that urban planning plays a crucial role in the revival of these. In particular, the report points to the use of NPF4 to strengthen the position of town centres and advocates the 20 minute neighbourhood policy, which the RTPI has repeatedly called to be embedded in national policy. Following on from this, the Institute has made it clear that they would like the review to now prompt a strengthening of the Town Centre First and Place Principles, and that a strong stance should be taken on stopping future out of town development. It does though remain to be seen what will happen with these and other recommendations in practice.

Skills in Planning Research Paper – a research paper commissioned by Skills Development Scotland for Partners in Planning (of which the RTPI is a member) has set out 25 recommendations to raise the profile of planning and attract more students and young people into the profession, including proposals to develop an apprenticeship scheme for urban planners. This comes as the planning workforce in Scotland faces significant demographic challenges, with an ageing workforce and a lack of younger workers and graduates entering the sector meaning that there is expected to be a need for around 500 new planners over the next 15 years as older planners retire. Amongst other things, RTPI Scotland has highlighted the importance of finding new ways of making planning a career option for more people, and opening up different entry routes to the profession to help meet the demand for new talent and address identified skills shortages. From our own experience of employing interns over the past few years, we know first-hand just how hard it can be for young people to enter the profession, and just how much they have to offer when given the opportunity to do so, and we certainly welcome any proposals to make this easier!

On us

On the subject of interns, the end of this month will see us bid farewell to our intern Martin, who has been a great addition to the team over the past few months, including once again contributing to the preparation of Spotlights. Martin is now focusing on completing his masters degree and applying for graduate jobs, and we wish him all the best in his future planning career.

And, to finish on a high, we learned this month that Aurora Planning has been shortlisted for Small Planning Consultancy of the Year at the RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence 2021. Having been running for over 40 years, these awards celebrate exceptional examples of planning and the contribution planners make to society, and we are delighted to have made the shortlist. The winners will be announced during a virtual ceremony on Thursday 29 April, which we are very much looking forward to!

Meantime, if 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!

Pippa, Martin and Maggie

Back to blog and bulletins