We’re now over half way through the year, and well into summer holiday season, but there is still a lot going on in the world of planning, both holiday related and otherwise! So, whether on holiday or not, read on below…
Promotion and use of mediation in the Scottish planning system – as part of the ongoing implementation of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, the Scottish Government has published Planning Circular 2/2021, which provides guidance on the promotion and use of mediation in the Scottish planning system. This guidance aims to promote mediation as a means of exploring, resolving or reducing disagreements, but makes it clear that this is very much a voluntary process. Given the voluntary nature of mediation, and the often contentious nature of many planning matters, it will be interesting to see just how effective the guidance is in encouraging the use of this, and the impacts of that.
Research on the value, incidence and impact of developer contributions – also as part of the ongoing implementation of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, the Scottish Government is currently carrying out a review of existing developer contribution mechanisms in order to evaluate the effectiveness of these, with the results of research to inform this having been published this month. This indicates that the developer contribution system is generally accepted by developers and working well in operational terms, although the level of funding secured via developer contributions is heavily concentrated in a small number of authorities with high land values. This latter finding in particular is not unexpected, with this being an issue that is often cited in support of introducing an Infrastructure Levy under the 2019 Act, although there are still questions about how such a levy might operate in order to be effective. The Scottish Government is understood to now be looking at the next steps in the review process but, meantime, it doesn’t look like there are going to be any substantial changes to the development contributions system anytime soon.
Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Bill – at the end of last month, MSPs voted to pass the Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Bill which, amongst other things, extends any planning permission or listed building consent which was due to expire between April 2020 and 30 September 2021 to 31 March of 2022. This will likely be a relief to many with extant consents that have not yet been implemented as a result of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
On the courts
Judicial review of changes to Scottish Planning Policy – in our December 2020 Spotlights, we looked at amendments made to Scottish Planning Policy in an attempt to make the system more transparent, including the removal of provisions that made the ‘presumption in favour of development that contributes to sustainable development’ a significant material consideration in circumstances where Development Plans are out of date, or where there is a shortfall in the housing land supply. Now, the Court of Session has granted a degree of reduction of these amendments, and PAN 1/2020 that was published alongside them, on the basis that the consultation process that informed these was considered to be so unfair as to be unlawful. Other grounds of challenge to the amendments, asserting irrationality on the part of the Scottish Ministers in making them, were not however upheld. As such, the Scottish Ministers might be expected to simply repeat the consultation process to ensure that it is done fairly before remaking the amendments but, to date, there has been no formal announcement on this and, meantime, we are back to where we were with Scottish Planning Policy prior to December 2020 (for our views on which, see our October 2020 blog, ‘Presumption is our natural and original malady’).
On other matters
Liverpool’s UNESCO heritage status – in a case that has generated debate about the relationship between preservation and regeneration, and what regeneration should look like, the World Heritage Committee has decided to remove Liverpool’s UNESCO world heritage status due to concerns about the extent to which the Liverpool Waters project and plans for Everton Football Club’s new stadium will deteriorate the area. In response, Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham commented that, while proud of the city’s history: “That does not mean that we should sit by and allow the city itself to become a museum…”. Historic England has though said that they are disappointed in the decision, while residents who have been interviewed about this don’t seem overly concerned about whether the city has world heritage status or not, but they are concerned that regeneration projects risk making Liverpool look like any other city, rather than developing its own unique character. Only time will tell what the city looks like in the future, and whether there may be a move for it to re-apply for world heritage status in due course.
New policies on second homes in prospect in Wales – as highlighted in last month’s blog ‘We’re all goin’ on a summer holiday’, the number of people in the UK looking to spend their holidays on our own shores is raising a number of planning challenges, as record levels of interest in second homes and rental properties in popular holiday spots is placing significant pressure on the availability and affordability of homes for people who live and work in these places year round. In a bid to address this, part of Wales is to become a pilot area for new measures, such as changes to tax and planning regulations, although details of these have yet to be confirmed. This will though certainly be watched with interest by people in holiday hotspots across the UK.
On the subject of summer holidays, our Director Maggie is embracing the theme of this month’s blog, Happy campers, and is currently off doing further blog research in her motorhome. Meanwhile, back in the office, we were delighted to hear that the Royal Town Planning Institute has donated trees to the National Forest on behalf of winners of the 2021 Awards for Planning Excellence, including ourselves. As the proverb goes: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
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Pippa and Maggie