This has been a month which has exemplified the importance of planning in all aspects of our lives, including many where it may not be immediately obvious, from what we eat and drink, to meeting net zero ambitions and delivering a green recovery for our country as a whole. And there is of course also the role that planning continues to play in the country’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic. For more on all of which and more, read on below…
Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Act 2021 – having received Royal Assent on the 4th August, the Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Act 2021 temporarily extends existing legislative measures contained in the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 and the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020 which otherwise would have expired on 30 September this year, including measures which allow planning committees to be held virtually. Broadly, measures have now been extended for 6 months to the end of March 2022, with the potential for further extension by secondary legislation to September 2022, subject to the agreement of the Scottish Parliament. Meantime, the Scottish Government is also consulting on a review of the legislative powers that have supported the response to the Covid-19 pandemic and proposals to make a number of provisions within this permanent. Unfortunately though, there do not currently seem to be any proposals to make permanent the provisions allowing for virtual planning committees, which is something that we would like to see considered for the reasons set out in our blog Democracy is not a spectator sport.
Bute House Agreement – although not the most talked about part of the power-sharing deal stuck this month between the SNP and the Scottish Green Party, we are pleased to see that the shared policy programme express a belief that the planning system should be a positive force for vital change and improvement in Scotland’s places, with particular reference made to meeting net zero ambitions and delivering a green recovery. To this end, the program contains a number of planning related commitments, including agreeing that all renewable energy projects over 50MW should be designated as national developments in National Planning Framework 4, supporting and guiding positive choices that will help Scotland achieve a 20% car kilometre reduction by 2030, and delivering natural solutions to climate change in a way that enhances biodiversity. At the same time, the program sets out the Parties’ agreement to, amongst other things, explore land value capture for public benefit, place controls on development of new energy from waste facilities, and the need for public bodies to have effective land assembly powers in order to support regeneration and the reuse of vacant land and property. We will certainly be watching the delivery of this agreed policy program with interest.
Local food strategy consultation – what we eat and drink may not be the first thing many people think about in terms of planning, but planning plays a fundamental role in determining what spaces are available for both the growing and distribution of food. And this is now more pertinent than ever, as the Scottish Government has launched a consultation on the development of a local food strategy, which looks to encourage more locally based food production (including enabling more people to be able to grow their own). We will be responding to this to highlight the importance of having appropriate planning policies in place to facilitate the creation of food growing spaces in communities across Scotland (as per our Sowing the seeds blog), and would encourage others to do the same, with the consultation running until 26 November 2021, allowing plenty of time to do so.
On local government
Aberdeen masterplans – following consultation earlier this year (on which, see our June Spotlights) Aberdeen City councillors have voted to take proposals for a beach masterplan forward to the next stage, including instructing officers to look at what medium and long-term strategic interventions could be made in the Aberdeen beach area, and to progress discussions with the existing owners/occupiers of the properties at the Queens Links Leisure Park as to opportunities to improve accessibility to the beach front from existing and future properties. Meantime, the Council is also preparing to devise a ‘mini-masterplan’ for George Street to try to turn around the area’s fortunes following the closure of the John Lewis department store.
Short term let control area in Edinburgh – Edinburgh City Council has voted to open a consultation on the proposed designation of the whole of the city as a short term let control area, such that the use of a residential property as a short term let would require planning permission (for more details on which see our blog We’re all goin’ on a summer holiday). The consultation is due to start next month so watch this space for further information…
On the courts
Petition for judicial review of decision to grant planning permission for Space Hub Sutherland – we are delighted that the Court of Session has refused the petition raised by Wildland Ltd for judicial review of The Highland Council’s decision to grant planning permission for the UK’s first vertical launch space port in Sutherland, confirming that decision for was taken properly and lawfully, with due care for the natural environment. HIE, the applicant behind the planning application, has also welcomed the decision, highlighting that care for the natural environment has always been a key element of the plans, with the intention being to develop the world’s greenest spaceport. This decision brings the prospect of small satellites being launched from this, and the jobs and infrastructure associated with that, one step closer to reality.
On other matters
Children and town planning: Creating places to grow – recognising the importance of growing up in a quality built and natural environment, a new practice note published by the Royal Town Planning Institute at the end of last month looks for the scope of what is currently understood as planning for children to be expanded beyond planning for play towards a more inclusive approach that encompasses all aspects of children’s lives. It also highlights that, for this to be effective, children and young people should be actively engaged in the planning process. The practice note then gives advice on how town planners can work within the current UK and Ireland planning systems and with other professionals to plan child-friendly places that, amongst other things, facilitate positive healthy lifestyle options, have high quality schools and housing, and allow children to enjoy everyday freedoms with safe and accessible routes to their destinations. All of which we would certainly be keen to see in practice.
Housing land reform – in a report that has been described as having the potential to transform the way that housing is delivered across Scotland, the Scottish Land Commission has this month published a review and recommendations to Scottish Ministers about land for housing, proposing a new model where the public sector takes a leading role in the housing land market to create places people want to live at prices they can afford. This is the culmination of two years’ work on the topic, with research finding that speculative developments create housing stock that relies too much on greenfield development, delivers insufficient new housing in rural Scotland and regeneration areas, and does not meet the needs of large parts of society (for example, younger and older people). This makes for pretty damning reading of the current system, which many will no doubt look to disagree with. However, few can argue with the need to deliver more of the right types of housing in the right places to meet people’s needs, and any recommendations that help achieve this are to be welcomed.
Continuing our tradition of taking on an intern each year, this week sees us welcome Varshini Gorjala to our team for 4 weeks. Varshini has a background in architecture as well as having recently completed a MSc in Spatial Planning and Sustainable Urban Design at the University of Dundee, and we look forward to working with her. Also in accordance with tradition, we will be asking her to prepare a future edition of Spotlights as part of her internship, so look out for her insights into current planning matters then!
Meantime, if we can help with any aspect of the planning process, please visit our website or email us at email@example.com. Or, if you would like to see our other blogs or sign up for email updates, please click here.
Thanks for reading!
Pippa and Maggie