With this month having included both COP27 and World Town Planning Day, the role of planning in addressing climate change has been at the forefront of many planners’ minds. This though takes many forms, from placing a need to give significant weight to the global climate and nature crises at the heart of national planning policy (as the revised draft fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4) does), to creating more liveable urban cores at a local level, with it often being necessary for different disciplines and stakeholders to work together to achieve this. On which and more, read on below…

On Holyrood

Revised draft NPF4 following the publication of the draft NPF4 for consultation this time last year (on which, see our blog Should planning be a friend of the earth?), a revised draft was published and presented to the Scottish Parliament at the beginning of this month, along with an analysis of responses to the consultation on the original draft, and an Explanatory Report which sets out the key changes that have been incorporated into this. For example, one notable change in the revised draft is the restructuring of the policies, such that these are now grouped into three broad topic areas of ‘sustainable places’, ‘liveable places’, and ‘productive places’, with no universal policy section and no separate topic area of ‘distinctive places’ as there was previously, and with a number of changes also made to individual policies within these. Perhaps most importantly though, whilst many of the policy changes are minor edits, they do generally make the document more user friendly, particularly in terms of providing clarity on the intent on policies. The revised draft will now be before the Parliament for six weeks and, subject to being approved, is expected to be adopted in the middle of February 2023. It does though remain to be seen how this is received by the Parliament, so this timeframe may still be subject to change.

Analysis of recent consultations the Scottish Government has also this month published its analysis of responses to the consultation on draft Open Space Strategies regulations and Play Sufficiency Assessments regulations, as well as its analysis of responses to the public consultation on draft local development planning regulations and guidance, both of which were  carried out earlier this year (for further details on which, see our December 2021 Spotlights). Notably, the proposed regulations on Open Space Strategies and Play Sufficiency Assessments appeared to receive general support, whilst the proposed local development planning regulations raised more issues, particularly regarding the need for local development planning regulations to allow for local variations to policy, and a need for clarification around the indicative and prescriptive elements of the guidance. Further updates with regards to the proposed new regulations and guidance will be issued in due course, and we will look out for those with interest.

On local government

Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan having previously expected the next Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan to be adopted this month, the Scottish Government has advised the Council that they require more time to consider where this should be further modified first, with it now hoped that authority to adopt the Plan will be given on or before 15 December.

Meantime, the Council’s policy team has prepared over 20 elements of planning guidance to support the Local Development Plan, covering a wide range of topics. And, while these are not yet available on the Council’s website, copies are available on request to support pre-application discussions.

Lastly, over the next two months, the Council will be publishing two new surveys on the LDP Engagement Hub, seeking views on how the Council has managed communications regarding the preparation of the emerging Local Development Plan, and on whether previous local development plans have delivered on their higher-level objectives, and we would encourage anybody with an interest in Aberdeenshire to respond to these.

Fife Local Development Plan – as one of the first stages in the preparation of the next Local Development Plan, and as trailed in our October Spotlights, Fife Council is now inviting anyone who lives in, works in, or visits Fife to give their views on issues such as the local economy, affordable homes, transport, community facilities, green spaces and play facilities, with consultation on this running until 19 December 2022.

In parallel with this, the Living Well Locally children’s survey that was also referred our October Spotlights is still open until 19 December 2022, with this providing a fun and accessible way for children to have their say and help shape where they live.

Further information on both surveys and the latest information with regards to the preparation of the next Local Development Plan is available here. And again, we would encourage anyone with an interest in Fife to get involved.

Dundee City Centre Strategic Investment Plan Dundee City Council has launched its draft City Centre Strategic Investment Plan for consultation, which sets out a long-term vision for the city centre, together with indicative plans and visuals for strategic development opportunities within this. And, while this Plan does not form part of the Development Plan against which planning applications will be determined, it will be a material consideration, with express links to the statutory development plan included. For example, one of the ambitions of the Plan is to double the resident population living in and around the city centre, with a number of actions which should be taken to achieve this identified in the draft, including reviewing relevant policies in the next Dundee Local Development Plan to help secure new residential development and conversions here.

Consultation on this is now running until 13 December 2022, following which a finalised plan is expected to be approved in early 2023, with that to be reviewed every 5 years thereafter.

On other matters

Call for views on community planning – we often say that land use planning does not exist in isolation, and have long supported greater integration between this and community planning, which seeks to improve how organisations such as local government, health boards, and the police work together with other partners to improve local outcomes in an area. We were therefore interested to see that the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee has launched a call for views on the impact of Community Planning Partnerships, and the ability of these to respond to significant events such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis, in order to understand what further improvements may be required to truly empower communities, tackle inequalities, and bring about real change. Further information on this and how to respond is available here, with the call for views closing on 30 December.

UK’s first feminist city – at the end of last month, Glasgow City Council unanimously passed a motion that “in order to create public spaces that are safe and inclusive for women and accessible to all members of the community it is fundamental that women are central to all aspects of planning, public realm design, policy development and budgets”, believed to be the first of its kind in the UK. The City is now to carry out public consultation before making any changes, so what this will mean in practice is still to be determined, but the main features of a gender equal city are cited as including walkability, proximity to services, safe public spaces and open green spaces. In turn, this invites consideration to be given to interventions such as improved street lighting, wider pavements, and/or more public toilets, and we will look out for the outcomes of the upcoming consultation with interest.

On us

This month saw our director Maggie, in her capacity as vice chair of Nestrans (the regional transport partnership for the North East of Scotland) travelling to Belfast to hear about and experience the city’s Glider, the rapid transit system that has transformed the public transport system there, resulting in a 70% increase in patronage per annum (pre-pandemic). The visit was to inform the development of Aberdeen Rapid Transit (ART), to bring high-quality, fast and sustainable public transport to the North East, connecting people to the places they want to go. This was an inspiring trip, yet again emphasising the important link between planning and transport, with the Glider delivering clear regeneration and urban realm benefits, as well as improving accessibility and linking people to jobs, shops, leisure, health and education services. So, having now returned home, we will look forward to work progressing on ART here.

Meantime, 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!

Pippa and Maggie



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