Whilst the changing of the clocks this month marks the end of British summer time, with that also comes the glorious colours of autumn and the stunning sunsets we can look forward to seeing from our office window.  And, for what’s been colourful in planning this month, read on below….

On Holyrood

Letter from Minister and Chief Planner – the Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth, Tom Arthur, and Scottish Government Chief Planner, Fiona Simpson, issued a letter to stakeholders on 11 October outlining how the planning system should respond to current challenges including:

  • asking all planning authorities to support the provision of short-term accommodation for Ukrainian refugees, where possible and appropriate, and to take account of that need by exercising discretion in allowing temporary breaches of planning control to enable land or buildings to be swiftly made available for this purpose; and
  • encouraging planning authorities to prioritise planning applications that in some way help build resilience in the face of the cost of living crisis, with that including, for example, applications for the installation of alternative energy generation in homes or businesses, or proposals which help businesses to diversify or adjust their operating arrangements.

At the same time, the letter advised that Regulations to introduce changes to permitted development rights (PDRs) which were consulted on earlier this year (on which, see our May 2022 Spotlights) will be introduced at the earliest opportunity, including a new PDR for outdoor seating associated with existing hospitality premises, and that planning authorities should take this evolving context into account when considering the expediency of any planning enforcement action against such areas that may have been set up without planning permission in the meantime.

Circular 3/2022: Development Management Procedures – following changes introduced under the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, the Scottish Government has now published Circular 3/2022: Development Management Procedures (superseding Circular 3/2013), providing  updated guidance on development management processes, including requirements in respect of pre-application consultation, the content of planning applications, how these are processed and determined, and how these differ for local, major, and national developments. While much of this is substantially the same as it was previously, some notable changes include a requirement for two in-person pre-application consultation events to be held rather than just one, and the lifetime of a Proposal of Application Notice being limited to 18 months. It is clearly important that all stakeholders in the planning process, whether involved in submitting planning applications, or potentially affected by them, are aware of these new procedures and so we would recommend taking particular note of this.

Coal extraction: preferred policy position – the Scottish Government has issued a statement setting out its preferred policy position of no support for coal extraction in Scotland, with this to be a material consideration in the event that planning permission for any coal extraction works is sought. The statement also highlights that the draft National Planning Framework 4, which was published for consultation last year, includes proposed planning policies in terms of which the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels would not be supported, other than in exceptional circumstances aligned with national policy on energy and climate. This preferred policy position will now be subject to statutory and other assessments before the policy-making process can be completed and the finalised policy position confirmed.

New national park – following consultation earlier this year on what people value about Scottish national parks, and the criteria that should be used to decide where any new national parks should be (on which, see our May 2022 Spotlights) a further consultation has now been launched to canvas views on how a new national park in Scotland will protect and restore nature, tackle climate change and promote sustainable land use. Importantly from a planning point of view, any new national park will require the creation of a new national park authority, which will then also play a key role in the planning system, including the preparation of a new local development plan for the national park area, with national park status necessarily having an impact on what development might be appropriate here. We would therefore encourage people to take part in the consultation, which runs until 30 November.

On Westminster

Investment Zones – in last month’s Spotlights, we noted the introduction of low tax investment zones in England, announced as part of the UK Government’s mini-budget, with the aim of those being to facilitate growth through a combination of time-limited tax incentives and the relaxation of environmental protections and planning regulations. The deadline for expressions of interest in creating such zones ended this month, with it understood that there have been over 70 areas put forward, and that those include large greenfield sites, ports and commercial units. Environmental organisations have been widely critical of these proposed new zones, fearing the potential adverse impacts that the relaxation of controls may have. The future of these may, however, be uncertain given the tax liability they will create (estimated to be up to £12bn a year) for economic activity that would have occurred anyway, and no details having yet been announced on how they will be implemented.

On the Welsh Government

Second homes and short-term lets as heralded earlier in our July 2022 Spotlights, the Welsh Government has this month enacted new statutory instruments to control second homes and short term lets within its jurisdiction, with complementary changes also made to Planning Policy Wales (PPW). Those changes include the introduction of three new use classes (dwellinghouses, dwellinghouses used otherwise than as sole or main residences, and short-term lets), allowing planning authorities to consider whether planning permission is required to change from one use class to another to control the number of second homes and short-term lets in an area. In addition, PPW now makes it explicit that, where relevant, the prevalence of second homes and short-term lets in a local area must be taken into account when considering housing requirements and policy approaches in local development plans.  It will be interesting to see what impact these changes will have and if there are then any lessons to be learned for Scotland.

On local government

FIFEplan – as part of the process of preparing the next Local Development Plan, Fife Council is running a number of surveys over the next couple of months, namely:

  • a children’s survey, which seeks to capture the views of children across the whole of Fife to help shape the future of the region and runs until 19 December 2022; and
  • a LDP2 survey, which will give everyone across Fife an early opportunity to have their say and help shape the preparation of the new Plan, with a link to this survey to be made available at www.fife.gov.uk/LDP once this goes live on 7 November.

In addition, a living well locally survey, seeking to assess the quality and accessibility of services and facilities in the three case study areas of (i) Cowdenbeath, (ii) Auchtermuchty, Dunshalt, Falkland and Newton of Falkland, Feuchie, Strathmiglo, and Gateside, and (iii) Saline and Steelend ended this month, and  the Council recently held an information session on creating Local Place Plans which is available to view on their ‘Is a local Place Plan right for your community?’ webpage.

On planning applications

Overhill battery energy storage system, Rothienorman with energy costs being a key contributor to the current cost of living crisis, and the on-going need to tackle the climate emergency, we were pleased this month to have submitted a planning application for the installation of a battery energy storage system near Rothienorman in Aberdeenshire, following having secured consent for a similar development in Glasgow earlier this year.  Battery energy storage systems are recognised as being crucial to providing robust, low carbon, secure and flexible energy systems which allow energy to be stored during peak renewable energy generation periods and released when demand outstrips generation. The developments proposed by way of these applications will therefore enable a faster transition to a low carbon future powered by renewable sources and help meet the Scottish Government’s target for Scotland to be carbon neutral by 2045.

On awards

Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Awards for Planning Excellence the national finalists for this year’s RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence have now been announced, with a number of the Scottish finalists (Edinburgh City Centre Transformation, Fraserburgh 2021 project, Dundee Waterfront Place, Fife Pilgrim Way, Edinburgh Strategic Green Blue Network, Gannochy Estate Housing Expansion, Kevin Murray Associates, Jane Tennant and Rhiannon Moore) having been put forward as a result of winning the Scottish Awards, for which Maggie was a member of the judging panel. We wish them all the best of luck for the Award ceremony to be held at the end of next month, and will be delighted to hand over our mantel of Small Planning Consultancy of the Year to Kevin Murray Associates!

On us

It’s been a busy month for us, with highlights including Maggie having been out to visit Waterfront Place Dundee and the new St Andrews Links Trust headquarters building in her capacity as a judge for the 2023 Civic Trust Awards, while Pippa was invited to speak at a webinar on planning to community landowners and enjoyed some lively discussion at that. Combined, these experiences really show the passion there is for high-quality placemaking across Scotland, and the importance of planning in that, and remind us of why we do what we do.

On which, to find out how 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!

Pippa and Maggie


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