As we come to the end of May and into the beginning of summer, it seems fitting that it has been a month for looking to the future in many ways, with ongoing changes to the planning system continuing apace, and a number of things to look forward to on the horizon…for more on all of which and more, read on below!

On Holyrood

Draft Fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4) – as highlighted in last month’s Spotlights and our recent blog Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth…, the Scottish Government is currently analysing responses to the recent consultation on draft NPF4, with feedback that had come into the public domain giving the impression that stakeholders generally consider there to be a lot of positive elements to this, but that there are also concerns relating to the detail of what is proposed and how this might be implemented. Now, in the past week, the Scottish Government has published responses on the consultation website and, as these will give a more complete view of how the draft has been received, they are likely to make for interesting reading.

Permitted development rights (PDRs) – having introduced a number of new PDRs in April last year (on which, see our April 2021 Spotlights), the Scottish Government is now consulting on proposals to extend existing rights further as part of Phase 2 of its ongoing review of these. Specifically, the Phase 2 proposals relate to:

– electric vehicle charging infrastructure – with it proposed to allow off-street infrastructure to be installed in more places and consideration being given to whether there might be merit in using PDRs to facilitate the roll-out of chargers located on or adjacent to pavements, as well as the conversion of petrol stations to charging forecourts.

– changes of use in town centres and other locations – recognising the challenges that many town centres face, the consultation proposes new PDRs allowing (i) certain buildings (most likely those in Class 1, 2, or 3 use) to be converted to small-scale office spaces and (ii) the placement of moveable furniture outside food and drink premises, with the potential for these new PDRs to be complemented by the introduction of a new town centre use class. Although the consultation document is unclear as to what this new use class would entail and how it would work in practice, the general idea is that it will bring together a variety of uses commonly found in, or associated with, town centres which currently sit in different use classes (possibly Class 1, 2 and 3 uses, along with some Class 10 and 11 uses), meaning that any change of use within the town centre use class would not require planning permission, thereby allowing more flexibility for businesses to adapt to changing circumstances.

– port development – with views being sought on changing the wording of current PDRs so that these more closely align with those applicable to airport operators, and on whether there is potential to widen the scope of existing PDRs for ports further, as well as on whether Masterplan Consent Areas could be a useful tool to provide more extensive planning freedoms and flexibilities to Scotland’s ports.

Given the potential significance of some of the proposed changes, we would urge you to have a look at and respond to the consultation, full details of which are available here, with the consultation running until 3 August.

Consultation on new Scottish national parks following up on its commitment to establishing at least one new national park in Scotland by the end of the current parliamentary session (2026), the Scottish Government is now seeking views on what people value about Scottish national parks, and the criteria that should be used to decide where any new national parks should be, with this to then form the basis on which any areas put forward for designation will be assessed. Views can be submitted here until 6 June 2022, after which there will be a longer period during which communities, local government and other organisations will be encouraged, and supported, to develop specific proposals for new parks, and further consultation on proposed candidate areas will be carried out.

On Scotland’s cities

Scotland’s Urban AGE 2022 (SUA-2) following the publication of the first Scotland’s Urban AGE report (SUA-1) in 2018, which considered the international context to Scotland’s biggest cities (Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh), reviewed their performance against a range of measures, and made a series of recommendations about the future, SUA-2 now updates that in the light of the coronavirus pandemic, the challenges of the climate emergency, the legacy of the global financial crash and Brexit. At the heart of this, the key questions are whether our cities are ready for the challenges coming their way and, if not, what interventions are required to equip these critical drivers of our economy with the tools they need to thrive and be globally competitive cities in their own right, with the report making for important reading in this regard!

City Centre Recovery Task Force, 2021-22 in 2021, the Scottish Government and Scotland’s seven cities established a Task Force to identify the actions needed to support city centre recovery from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the report of which was published this month. Notably, this includes a number of actions, such as increased residential capacity, and a reduction in the amount of vacant and derelict land and property, which planning will play a key role in the delivery of, as well as identifying the need for faster and more agile planning decisions, something that we would certainly support in principle.

Aberdeen city centre – more specifically in respect of Aberdeen, May has seen a couple of major steps forward in the transformation of the city centre, with the approval of the planning application for a new Aberdeen Market, which is anticipated to become a destination venue featuring international-style food and drink outlets, while also creating a pedestrian connection between Union Street and the bus and railway stations.

Also, as part of the ongoing implementation of Aberdeen’s City Centre Masterplan, and following the success of temporary measures to allow businesses to trade outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic, Aberdeen City Council has this month been consulting on plans to introduce a permanent café culture to the city’s Belmont Street Quarter, with both an on-line consultation and an opportunity to meet members of the design team and relevant Council officers in person. While we are always conscious of our home city’s sometimes inclement weather, we are excited by the prospect of the Belmont Street Quarter developing as an attractive food and drink destination to complement that of the new Market, and will be looking forward to seeing what the outcome of this month’s consultation is in due course…

On us

We were delighted to see planning for the growing space sector, and our contribution to that, given a high profile in The Planner magazine this month, particularly as this coincided with our client Orbex unveiling its protype Prime rocket at its test site in Kinloss (for which we helped secure planning consent). With Orbex being the launch service provider for Space Hub Sutherland (for which we also helped secure planning consent), this represents a major milestone for the first vertical launch of a Scottish rocket from Scottish soil.

And on the theme of looking to the future, we are excited to end the month with a new intern starting with us – Ross McFarlane is currently studying for a MA (Hons) in Urban Planning and joins us for a month, during which time we hope to give him an insight into all aspects of our work, and we are delighted to welcome him to the team!

Meantime, to find out how we can help with any aspect of the planning process, please visit our website or email us at 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

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