Aurora Spotlights - October 2021

Aurora Spotlights - October 2021


by aurora planning

As Scotland prepares for the start of COP26 in Glasgow, a frequent theme in the news over the past few weeks has been how we manage the climate impact of our use of land, with the long term sustainable use of land of course being the ultimate goal of the planning system. For more on all of which and more, read on below…
 
On Westminster
 
Budget – as well as the headline grabbing cuts to air passenger duty and the cost of a pint of beer, this year’s budget included a number of planning-related measures, including investment for the decarbonisation of housing and for the delivery of new housing on derelict or unused land and support for the digitisation of the planning process in England, and the allocation of the first round of bids from the Levelling Up fund. Of particular interest to us in respect of the last of these is funding that has been made available for regeneration projects across Scotland such as, for example, £20m for the Aberdeen city centre masterplan and £16.48m for Edinburgh’s Granton Gas Holder (Waterfront Cultural Regeneration), as well as £20m and £23.69m for infrastructure improvements in Falkirk and North Ayrshire respectively. This serves as a timely reminder that, as we are often known to say, planning does not exist in isolation, with politics and economics also playing an important role in how land is managed and used.
 
Carbon capture and storage – although many had hoped that Peterhead could provide the UK’s first carbon and capture storage facility (with this identified as a national development in Scotland’s Third National Planning Framework (NPF3)), the UK Government has instead announced its backing for two sites in the north of England to deliver the first phase of its carbon capture plan, both of which will qualify for support through a new £1bn carbon capture fund if they can prove that they offer energy billpayers good value for money. Meantime, the Peterhead facility will be eligible for funding only if one of the other projects fails. This is clearly disappointing to many involved in promoting the facility, both at a political level and through NPF3, with it remaining to be seen what the status of this in NPF4 might now be.
 
On Holyrood
 
National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) – as part of the preparation of the draft NPF4, the Scottish Government has published a participation statement outlining how and when consultation on this will be carried out. This states that consultation is likely to take place from autumn 2021, but doesn’t give any more precise dates, with it not yet clear when the draft will be laid before Parliament and consultation will commence. It does, however, contain details of who will be consulted and how, including proposals for a series of on-line public consultation events. Support for community engagement is also proposed by way of a small grants scheme and the provision of a range of support material, with it hoped that these initiatives will ensure that all sectors of the community can participate in this important element of the Scottish planning system.
 
Local Place Plans (LPPs) – following consultation earlier this year (on which, see our March Spotlights) regulations regarding the preparation, submission and registration of LPPs have been laid in the Scottish Parliament and, subject to being approved, are due to come into force in January 2022. These include requirements with regards to the form and content of LPPs, making it clear that these must to be map based, but with the regulations otherwise being largely permissive in nature, allowing flexibility as to how LPPs may ultimately look in practice.
 
Heat in Buildings Strategy – recognising the importance of reducing emissions from our homes and buildings, the Scottish Government has published a new Heat in Buildings Strategy which provides a pathway to zero emissions buildings by 2045, and details of the actions and commitments that will be required to achieve this. Those actions includes a requirement for all new buildings from 2024 to use zero direct emissions heating, and to feature high levels of fabric energy efficiency to reduce overall heat demand so that they do not need to be retrofitted in the future. It is though stated that this will apply to building warrant applications from that date, indicating that this will be controlled through building standards, rather than the planning process.
 
Planning and Environmental Appeals Division website: user guidance – new guidance has been published on a range of matters relating to the use of the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division's (DPEA) case publication website and the related DPEA portal, including guidance on accessing cases and running searches on the website, navigating the case portal, and managing a case portal account. It is anticipated that these will make the website and case portal more accessible, although only time will tell how effective that is.
 
On local government
 
Glasgow active travel consultation – Glasgow City Council has launched a public consultation on a £470m citywide active travel strategy which includes 270km of new, high-quality cycleways, and improved footways along the city’s main roads. This is intended to support a shift to walking, wheeling and cycling as part of the wider effort to reduce the city’s carbon footprint and improve air quality, whilst also helping to reconnect communities and enabling neighbourhoods to flourish. Further details are available here, with responses to the consultation invited until 22nd November.
 
Cairngorm supplementary and non-statutory guidance – the Cairngorms National Park Authority is consulting on draft Supplementary Guidance related to Policy 1: Housing and Policy 11: Developer Obligations of the adopted Local Development Plan, along with non-statutory guidance on design and placemaking. This includes some significant changes to provisions with regards to the payment of commuted sums for affordable housing, with the level of contribution that will be sought to be significantly higher than that previously, albeit this will be phased in to allow landowners and developers time to prepare for this. Further details are available here, with responses to the consultation to be made by 19th November.
 
On planning applications
 
We were delighted this month to have secured planning permission for the conversion of the former Frederick Street Business Centre (which had previously been a school) in Aberdeen to allow it to be used as a place of worship by Aberdeen Mosque and Islamic Centre (AMIC), as well as for community activities, such as after school groups, lifestyle and wellbeing classes, youth programmes and a food bank. With the building having lain empty for a number of years, we are looking forward to seeing AMIC bring this back into use in a way that makes a positive contribution to the community and the area in which it is located.
 
On us
 
As part of the run up to COP26, we enjoyed an informative webinar on climate change litigation and planning this week, with significant increases in climate related litigation in recent years meaning that this is important to be aware of! In addition, our Director Maggie enjoyed a trip to the Highland Wildlife Park earlier in the month, where we have an adopted polar bear, with the impact that a changing climate has on these animals really bringing home the importance of taking action to address the current climate crisis, and planning obviously having an important role to play in this. You can check out our polar bear here, with the great photograph courtesy of Dawn Ramsay. 
 
We were also delighted to have been featured in this month’s edition of the Planner magazine, with a piece on our journey from starting up just over four years ago to being named the Royal Town Planning Institute’s small planning consultancy of the year earlier this year – many thanks to the Planner for the coverage!

And of course, we are looking forward to celebrating Halloween this weekend, with this always being a time to reflect on how walkable our neighbourhoods are, and therefore how sustainable they are from that point of view (as well as a time to break out our Halloween themed logo of course - for which, see below : ).
 
Meantime, if we can help with any aspect of the planning process, please visit our website or email us at info@auroraplanning.co.uk. Or, if you would like to see our other blogs or sign up for email updates, please click here.

Thanks for reading, and happy Halloween!

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