As trailed last month, this month’s Spotlights has been co-prepared by our intern, Varshini, who has selected a number of the items below. With a background in architecture before electing to study for a MSc in planning, Varshini has a particular interest in how brownfield sites can be redeveloped in a way that positively impacts on people’s lives, with some interesting examples of this below. For more on which and more, read on…

On the courts

Judicial review of Dundee City Council’s e-bike station planning approval – in the latest in what seems to have been a flurry of judicial review decisions recently, the Court of Session has quashed Dundee City Council’s decision to grant planning permission for an e-bike docking station outside a Category B listed tenement building in the city because a design statement had not been submitted, or requested, in support of the application, as is required by the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2013. In reaching this decision, the judge concluded that the outcome on the application may have been different if a design statement had been submitted and made available for public consultation, such that the failure to provide this invalidated the approval of the application. This serves as an important reminder to make sure that all required documents are submitted with an application, particularly when development is proposed in a sensitive location!

Space Hub Sutherland (SHS) Scottish Land Court decision – as highlighted in our blog No man is an island earlier this month, planning does not exist in isolation, with the Land Court’s decision to allow an area of croft land to be resumed and used for the building of SHS highlighting the relationship between planning and crofting legislation relating to the use of land. In particular, in demonstrating that the development would be in the public interest and that the crofters would not be disadvantaged by that, as required to comply with crofting legislation, there was considerable overlap in terms of the expert evidence provided by economic and environmental consultants in both processes. Perhaps most importantly though, the Land Court case could not have been made confidently without planning permission being in place, and the Land Court decision was required to enable the development to be implemented.

On Holyrood

New Chief Planner Dr Fiona Simpson has been appointed as Scotland’s new Chief Planner having occupied the role on a temporary basis since John McNairney retired in August this year. Fiona was also named in the Royal Town Planning Institute’s Women of Influence in 2021 for her work in leading planning reform in Scotland, with that having been described as being founded in an “inclusive, collaborative approach”. We warmly welcome Fiona to her new role.

The Town and Country Planning (Miscellaneous Temporary Modifications) (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 – following the news last month that legislative measures introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic (including those allowing planning committees to be held virtually, and extending the duration of planning and listed building consents) had been extended to the end of March 2022, Regulations made this month have further amended some of these measures. Now, consents which would otherwise have lapsed at the end of March 2022 will remain live until the end of September 2022. However, measures which temporarily suspended the requirement for Local Review Body meetings to be held in public will be removed from the end of this month, although no modifications were made to those which allow the public to be excluded from planning committee meetings, or which temporarily suspend the requirement for pre-application consultation events to be held in public, such that these are still set to expire at the end of March 2022. Meantime, wider changes to pre-application consultation requirements which were due to come into force next month (on which, see our February Spotlights) will not now take effect until 1 April 2022.

On local government

Aberdeen City and Shire Housing Land Audit consultation – as part of the process of preparing the Aberdeen City and Shire Housing Land Audit 2021, a draft version of this has been published for consultation and is available here. This provides information on the supply and availability of land for house building across Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire, including details of the sites available, the number of houses built each year, and expected future house building rates for housing market areas, administrative areas, towns and villages. The consultation runs until 18 October, and is likely to be of interest to anyone with a stake in housebuilding in Aberdeen City or Aberdeenshire. If we can be of any assistance in responding to the consultation, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Cross Tay Link Road – the Cross Tay Link Road, linking the A9 at Perth over the River Tay to communities to the east, is of particular interest to Varshini who lives and studies in nearby Dundee and, this month, the contractor has been appointed to deliver the detailed planning and design of the link. Although there are clearly both pros and cons associated with any new road building, the route corridor for the link is included in the Perth and Kinross Local Development Plan as a fundamental element of the Council’s aspiration to strategically improve connectivity, and the Council supports the scheme on the basis of it diverting traffic away from Perth city centre and Bridgend, improving air quality there and creating capacity to enable a shift to greener modes of transport, while also facilitating the release of new housing sites and the sustainable economic development of Perth and the surrounding area.

Short-term holiday lets – in last month’s Spotlights, we highlighted that consultation on the designation of a short-term holiday let control area in Edinburgh was due to commence this month, 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).That consultation is now open and can be accessed here, with responses invited until 5 November this year. Meantime, The Highland Council has this month also agreed a draft proposal to designate a short term let control area covering Badenoch & Strathspey due to concerns regarding the impact on the local housing market. There has also been significant interest in this from people living in other areas in Highland experiencing housing shortages and pressure from short-term lets, in particular the islands of Skye and Raasay. Consultation on the proposed designation for Badenoch and Strathspey is expected in due course, so watch this space.

Christmas markets – following controversy in previous years arising from the erection of Christmas markets without planning permission (see our blog Bah Humbug), and having been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic last year, Christmas celebrations are set to return to Scotland’s cities this year. In our home city of Aberdeen, the ‘Christmas in Aberdeen’ festivities are seen as an important part of delivering on the Aberdeen City Centre Masterplan’s aspirations of making the city an even more vibrant place to live, work and visit by encouraging people back into the city centre to improve the recreational and commercial economies. This is still though subject to planning permission being granted, with the same applying to markets elsewhere, and we’ll be watching progress with the required planning applications with interest.

On planning applications

Out with the old and in with the new – as the development industry starts to pick up again following the coronavirus pandemic, there are many interesting new proposals which seek to address changing patterns of land use and the ongoing demand for housing. For example, the local artistic community of the Canonmills area of Edinburgh is hoping to get affordable contemporary studio space along with new build to rent homes as part of the redevelopment of a 1.25 acre site currently occupied by Beavherall House. At the same time, with her architecture background, Varshini’s eye was caught by the submission of a planning application for the redevelopment of the site of the former Edinburgh Tramway depot in the Old Silvermills area of Edinburgh for new housing in a way that seeks to incorporate references to the historical industrial use of the site.

On other matters

Vacant and derelict land – touching on an issue that Aurora Planning has long been interested in (see, for example, our October 2020 Spotlights and our blog All change for better places), the first grants to be awarded from a new £50 million low carbon Vacant and Derelict Land Investment Programme have been announced with a view to breathing new life into some of Scotland’s most long-standing derelict sites. This sees grants of more than £5 million made to support place based approaches to tackling persistent vacant and derelict land, delivering regeneration and sustainable inclusive growth as part of the green recovery. Some of the successful projects include: transforming derelict land into a riverbed and riverside greenspace in Barrhead; the transformation of a part of the abandoned Bellgrove Meat Market site in Glasgow into community growing spaces; and the creation of a cycle park and active travel hub on a site in South Lanarkshire that has been derelict since the 1960s. The next round of the Investment Programme is now open to applications for funding in 2022 to 2023, with further information available here.

Energy efficiency – whilst planning plays an important role in supporting the energy efficiency of new developments, it is difficult for it to exert any influence over existing stock. So, in the spirit of recognising that planning cannot achieve everything on its own, it’s great to see Scotland Excel’s energy efficiency contractors’ framework now officially open for business, with this helping social landlords procure goods and services that will benefit current and future generations and improve their housing stock, reduce fuel poverty and achieve national net zero targets.

And finally

“Your proposal is whack” – at the end of last month, Swale Borough Council made the news for erroneously publishing five planning decisions which a junior member of staff believed to be contained within a test environment. Worse, the reasons given for the decisions included that “your proposal is whack”, “no mate, proper whack”, and  “Why am I doing this, am I the chosen one?”. The Council is now trying to reverse the wrong doing but, while the decisions were removed from the Council’s website immediately after discovery, they have been advised that these remain legally binding and must be quashed before new decisions can be issued, with it thought that this will require judicial review action at a cost of some £8,000. This raises interesting questions about the procedure to be followed (on which, look out for a future blog), as well as serving as a warning to Councils to be very careful about their procedures behind the scenes, and the potential implications of making errors!

On us

Firstly, and most importantly, many thanks to Varshini for her contributions to this month’s Spotlights. As was the case with our last intern, this internship has been carried out entirely remotely, although we have now started a phased return to our office, and are looking forward to spending more time there again – while we have been very lucky to be able to do what we do from home, we greatly value collaborative working and the human interaction that being in the office brings.

So, if you would like to say hello either virtually or in person, please do get in touch. Or, to find out more about how aurora planning can assist you in any aspect of the planning process, please visit If you would like to keep up to date with our blogs and bulletins, sign up using the form below.

Pippa and Maggie, and Varshini

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