This month has of course been Scottish Parliament election month, as a result of which Scotland has a new minister responsible for planning; Tom Arthur MSP (Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth). And, while there was little said about planning in the SNP’s election manifesto, we will be looking to the new minister to continue to promote the role of planning in creating better places, not just to address the immediate challenges as we emerge from the Coronavirus pandemic, but also well into the future. Meantime, planning does not stop for elections and, for our round up of what has been happening while votes were being cast and counted and the new cabinet appointed, read on below…
Scottish Government strategy on digital planning – following the launch of the Scottish Government’s strategy on digital planning in November 2020, the Royal Town Planning Institute is seeking to examine the operating environment to embed digital planning into the Scottish planning system, including carrying out a survey on digital skills. Digital transformation is seen as playing an important role in enabling planning to realise its potential to deliver great places, and input is sought from as many people who are involved in the planning system as possible. So, as readers of this clearly have an interest in planning, we would encourage you to respond, with the deadline for doing so being Monday 14 June.
Local Place Plans – in our March Spotlights, we highlighted the launch of the Scottish Government’s consultation on proposed regulations for the preparation, content, submission and registration of Local Place Plans, the closing date for which is 25 June. The Scottish Government has now also published a blog on engagement with this consultation, setting out their strategy for the coming weeks and how different interest groups can get involved, which we would encourage people to read.
Planning Bill – as well as elections in Scotland, this was also a significant month in Westminster politics, with the Queen’s Speech setting out the programme of legislation that the Westminster Government intends to pursue in the forthcoming parliamentary session. This includes a high profile Planning Bill, which draws on the ‘Planning for the Future’ white paper published last year (on which, see our blog from September 2020), and is intended to create a simpler planning system with a view to significantly increasing the number of homes built each year. As highlighted in our blog from December 2020 though, there are concerns that the proposed changes could impact on the quality of housing being delivered, in particular for affordable housing. As always, the devil will be in the detail of the Bill, and we await that somewhat anxiously.
On the courts
Virtual committee meetings – as highlighted in our blog from earlier this month, a High Court judgement has found that, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, references to “meetings” in the Local Government Act 1972 can only be interpreted to mean “in person meetings taking place at a particular geographical location”, such that council committee meetings (including planning committee meetings) can no longer be held virtually in these jurisdictions. It does though seem that virtual meetings are likely to continue to be commonplace in Scotland for now (at least until the end of September) and, for the reasons given in our blog, we think this is to be welcomed.
On local government
Aberdeen regeneration – just as the weather has finally started getting warmer and our thoughts are starting to turn to summer days at the beach, Aberdeen City Council’s City Growth and Resources Committee this month approved the commissioning of a new masterplan for the Aberdeen beach area as part of an update to the wider city centre masterplan prepared in 2015. A key element of the beach masterplan is the Council’s bid to convince Aberdeen Football Club to remain in this area, rather than relocating to its potential new stadium at Kingsford on the edge of the city. A public survey and feasibility studies are now to be carried out, with it hoped that the masterplan proposals will contribute to economic recovery, and maximise the potential of the beach as an opportunity and tourism asset. At the same meeting, the Committee also agreed an outline business case for the purchase of the former Aberdeen Market and BHS building to create a destination venue featuring international-style food and drink outlets, again with a focus on facilitating Aberdeen’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. We look forward to seeing progress on these projects in our home town.
On planning applications
Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice, Glasgow – amongst other innovative means to meet the housing needs of all sectors of the community, we have long been advocates of shared housing (for more on the benefits of which, see our February blog), in particular where this can be delivered on brownfield sites. As such, we are pleased to see proposals for 155 purpose built co-living studio flats at the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice site in Glasgow, along with shared facilities which are intended to create a sense of community amongst residents, although it will of course be necessary to see the detailed plans to ensure that the proposed flats provide an appropriate level of amenity. Pre-application consultation on the proposals close at the end of this month, and we will follow the progress of this development with great interest.
On other matters
Aberdeen Inspired – also related to the regeneration of Aberdeen city centre is the opening this month of the ballot for the renewal of the mandate for Aberdeen Inspired (the city’s award winning Business Improvement District (BID)) to operate. As highlighted in our July 2020 blog, BIDs play an important role in improving the trading environment within their defined boundaries and, through a combination of partnership working, innovative thinking and culture change, they will be crucial to the future prosperity of our town and city centres. As such, we are keeping our fingers firmly crossed for Aberdeen Inspired.
Eden Project Dundee – continuing the theme of regeneration, we were very excited by the announcement this month that a preferred site has now been selected for the Eden Project Dundee, at the former Dundee Gasworks on East Dock Street. This is a high profile site on the Aberdeen to Dundee railway line and the siting of the Eden Project here will certainly be transformational, with this set to be a huge asset not just to Dundee but to Scotland as a whole.
Toolkit for neurodiversity – recognising that neurodivergent conditions such as dyslexia, autism, ADHD and dyspraxia can often result in people with them being excluded from engaging in the planning process, the organisation Neurodiversity in Planning, communications consultancy BECG and a working group of industry professionals have launched a toolkit that seeks to promote best practice when consulting with neurodivergent people about the built environment. This includes seven principles that aim to ensure consultations are accessible to a neurodiverse audience, with the intention being to support people to contribute to the planning system in a way that suits them best, rather than what is easiest for industry professionals, and we would certainly encourage anyone undertaking consultation activities to refer to the toolkit.
Having taken on an intern in each of the years we have been in business so far (and with each of them securing employment as a result!), we are now in the process of recruiting for this year’s 4 week internship over the summer. We’re delighted to have received a number of expressions of interest and are looking forward to interviewing potentially suitable candidates over the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, if we can help with any aspect of the planning process, please visit our website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if you would like to see our other blogs or sign up for email updates, please click here.
Pippa and Maggie