May 172012

Planning ReformThe Government’s “Planning Reform – Next Steps” document summarises a package of proposals which aim to help the planning system reach its potential in supporting economic recovery. The emphasis is on non-legislative measures but legislative changes will be brought forward where necessary – and some are.

The key priorities for the next stages of planning modernisation are stated to be :-

  • promoting the plan-led system
  • driving improved performance
  • simplifying and streamlining processes
  • delivering development.

The Government invites comment on five consultation papers, which are summarised below.  Perhaps the most significant is a thorough revision of planning fees, most of which will rise – in some cases substantially.   The previously-expressed wish that fees are related to performance is given scant attention.

Planning fees

Audits by councils on the cost of running their planning service reveal that fee levels do not reflect the resources needed to process planning applications.   The fee for a minor, straightforward planning application may exceed the cost of processing it, and fees for major applications are unlikely to cover the processing cost.  The philosophy for this may in part reflect a recent revision of the English planning fee structure where the maximum planning fee for major application is now £250,000; whereas in Scotland it is £15,950; and house extensions are £150 in England and £160 in Scotland.

The structure of the fee system is proposed to change, with the following key changes :

  • The maximum fee will rise from £15,950 to £100,000
  • Planning permission in Principle will have a maximum of £50,000, with fees calculated at £500 per 0.1ha.
  • One house : £800, two to forty-nine houses : £500 per house; 50 houses would be £24,800 with subsequent houses at £200 until  the maximum of £100,000 is reached.
  • Retail and leisure developments, like many other categories will now have their own fee scale.  £200 for up to 50 sqm; then £1000 for the first 50 – 100 sqm;  £500 per 100 sqm thereafter up to 2500 sqm :  then £800 per 100 sqm up to the maximum.  For example, the fee for a 10,000 sqm shop will rise from £15,950 to £73,000.
  • Business and commercial fees would be £200 for up to 50 sqm; then  £600 for the first 100 sqm;  then £300 per additional 100 sqm up to the maximum.
  • Separate categories of fees for agricultural buildings, wind farms, other energy, minerals, waste, plant & machinery, car parks, drilling for oil and gas, and marine development.
  • Building changes of use will have two categories :  change of a building to residential use will be the same scale as for new housing developments on the basis of the number of units being created (see above), and others at £500 per application.
  • Land changes of use (a new category) will be at £500 for the first 0.1ha, and £200 for each 0.1ha thereafter up to the maximum.
  • Fees are to be introduced for “Section 42” applications to amend planning conditions, and where permitted development rights are withdrawn in conservation areas, etc.

Another part of the fee consultation concerns linking fees to performance, though little detail is given.

You can make your views known to the Government by 22nd June, and see the full document at the following link :   or contact us for assistance.

Development Plan Examinations. 

A controversial aspect is the suggestion that Councils should once again be able to disregard the Reporters’ findings on their Development Plans.  Making Reporters’ development plan reports binding on Councils was one of the positive aspects of the new Scottish Planning system, and ended the practice where Councils could ignore the results of hard-fought inquiry sessions.   We suspect that the pressure for this is being led by Councils which do not allocate sufficient development land in the first place, and lose their arguments when the Plan goes to examination.

Other concepts in this consultation are :

  • Allowing planning authorities to decide what matters are to be considered at examination (inquiry or hearing).
  • Allowing planning authorities to avoid independent examination of development plans.

We wonder if these extreme options are included to make the first one seem not so bad in comparison!

You can make your views known to the Government by 22nd June, and see the full document at the following link :  or contact us for assistance.

Development Delivery

This consultation paper seeks initial views from all sectors of the development industry on current issues and opportunities for facilitating development and infrastructure provision. The intention is to use the findings and output from this consultation to inform a second consultation (Stage 2) which shall investigate the detail of potential proposals or measures to assist with development delivery.

The purpose of the consultation is to “garner views on the efficacy of current processes in delivering development”; and to invite views on what could assist the delivery of development and infrastructure.  The Government is investigating the potential to introduce a development charge system where developers could pay for infrastructure downstream, as units are built or sold.

You can make your views known to the Government by 22nd June, and see the full document at the following link :   or contact us for assistance.

Amendments to the General Permitted Development Order 

The General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) grants planning permission for types of development which are judged to be of sufficiently minor scale that they will have no adverse effect on neighbours or the environment. Such developments are called “permitted development” and therefore do not need planning permission from a local authority.

The Government proposes to increase the list of such developments, some examples being :

  • formation of an access ramp to any non-domestic building.
  • extension or alteration of a shop or a financial or professional services establishment, including provision of free standing trolley stores.
  • minor extensions of office buildings.
  • extension and alteration of buildings used as Hospitals, Universities, Colleges, Schools, Nurseries, and Care Homes
  • temporary use of land as an open air market.
  • provision of a pavement café.
  • Installation of both freestanding and wall mounted Electric Vehicle Charging Points.

Alteration of some existing permitted development rights is proposed – an example being a limit on permitted development rights for new hill tracks.

You can make your views known to the Government by 22nd June, and see the full document at the following link :   or contact us for assistance.

Amending planning conditions

If you wish to amend or remove a planning condition, an application is made to the planning authority under “Section 42” of the 2006 Act.   Perhaps as an unintended consequence of the way the Act was worded, Section 42 applications which relate to “major” developments are subject to the pre-application consultation process.  This can lead to absurd situations where community consultation takes place for minor matters that are of little interest to, and have no adverse impact on neighbours.

The Government now propose to remove the requirement for pre-application consultation on Section 42 applications. This is part of the “other changes” consultation described below, but in our view is a significant and welcome change.

You can make your views known to the Government by 22nd June, and see the full document at the following link :   or contact us for assistance.

Other changes

Fees for the advertising of a planning application 

These adverts are required when neighbouring land has no buildings on it, because the development is categorised as a “bad neighbour” under Schedule 2 of the General Permitted Development Order, or because a development is contrary to the development plan.   The Government propose that the cost of the advertising comes out of the new (increased) planning fees, rather than as separate charges.

Other changes, include :

  • Minor changes to neighbour notification requirements,
  • Notification of Network Rail by planning authorities where a development is within 10m of a railway line,
  • Changes to delegation of applications where there is a local authority interest,
  • Allowing extension of the determining period for “minor” delegated applications, to bring these into line with the same facility that exists for non-delegated applications.
  • Extending the period in which a Local Review Body must determine each case from two months to three months.  This is to give the LRBs more time, thereby lessening the opportunity for an appeal to be made to the Government.

You can make your views known to the Government by 22nd June, and see the full document at the following link :   or contact us for assistance.

May 172012

Development Plan Review May 2012

May 2012

Recent headline events have seen West Lothian Council circulate a questionnaire to those promoting sites for development allocation, which is designed to test whether sites are likely to be “effective” in delivering housing land during the Plan period.   South Ayrshire has produced a Draft Plan which is very limited in its allocation of development land.  Legal challenges to the Aberdeen Local Development Plan (by Tesco) , and to the Cairngorms National Park Local Plan continue.  Our favourite Strategic Development Plan “Tayplan”, completed its Reporters examination in April and was awarded the RTPI Silver Jubilee Cup, receiving very high praise.  The Reporters’ findings on our unfavoured plan, Glasgow and the Clyde Valley Strategic Development Plan, were released in April with considerable comment on its approach to strategic housing land.

Progress made recently has been publication of a number of Main Issues Reports (MIR).  Few new draft development plans have appeared since our last bulletin in February.  At that time several councils appeared to be avoiding controversial decisions by delaying publication until after the Local Government elections, and that is basically what happened.

In the two central belt city-regions, councils are awaiting the approval of Strategic Development Plans before drafting new local development plans.

The February bulletin included an explanation of the many acronyms that are found in development planning :  if you see one below that you don’t understand, click back to the February bulletin here.

Some forthcoming dates for development plans throughout Scotland 

Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan
The Council expect that this plan will be adopted on 1st June 2012, being the first “new style” plan to complete the process.

Highland Council Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan
The MIR has been published, with comments to be in by 6th July.  The plan covers an area centred on Inverness and bounded by Nairn, Tain and Fort Augustus.

Moray Local Development Plan
The MIR is expected to be published during May.

Scottish Borders Local Development Plan
The MIR has been published, with comments to be in by 25th June.

South Ayrshire Draft Local Plan
This is expected to be formally published during May, but can already be viewed on the Council website.

South Lanarkshire Draft Local Plan
The Main Issues Report (MIR) has been published, with comments to be in by 29th June.

West Lothian Council
As mentioned above, a consultation is underway with those who have already made representations to the “Call for sites”, taking the form of an “effectiveness” questionnaire which is to be returned to the council by 1st June.

West Dunbartonshire
The MIR has been published, with comments to be in by 22nd June.

May 2012

Dec 012011

The Scottish Government have harmonised appeal arrangements so that similar procedures introduced in 2008 for planning appeals apply to listed building and conservation area appeals.  These include removal of the right to be heard in inquiries and hearings, reduction in the length of period in which an appeal can be submitted from 6 to 3 months following planning authority decision, and various transitional provisions.