Oct 042012
October 2012 Scottish Planning Newsletter


Welcome to our October 2012 Scottish Planning Newsletter

Recent headline events have been :

  • the Government starting the process towards a new National Planning Framework and “Scottish Planning Policy”, and publishing the results of the consultations held earlier in the year on further changes to the planning system.  (See next section below).
  • A very “cautious” approach by Councils is becoming evident towards housing land allocations.   Such an approach has been taken to extreme in East Renfrewshire which has decided to under-allocate to the extent of 1600 units below the Glasgow & Clyde Valley Strategic Development Plan target.  Click here for further information.
  • East Dunbartonshire has put its Local Development Plan process on hold pending discussions with the Government on affordable housing. Click here for further information.
  • The Government is to end the need for pre-application consultation for “Section 42” applications.  Click here for further information.
  • Progress is now being made across Scotland on the new Local Development Plans.   Click here to see the latest news.

These, and other topical matters are dealt with below.

National Planning Framework 3:
“A Plan for Scotland: Ambition, Opportunity, Place”

The National Planning Framework (NPF) sets the context for development planning in Scotland and provides a framework for the spatial development of Scotland as a whole.  One of its key roles is as top level in the Planning Hierarchy :  it defines “National Developments” (14 at present), the principle of which is therefore approved and planning authorities can only consider the details in planning applications.

The Government has issued a consultation on the third NPF, and encourages participation.  A key part of this is a call for new National Developments, and suggestions have to be in by 14thDecember 2012.

For further information, visit http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/planning/National-Planning-Policy/npf/NPF3

Scottish Planning Policy

Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) is a document which contains the Scottish Government’s policy on nationally important land use matters, and is considered to be a material consideration when planning authorities make decisions.

A review of the policy was announced in the Scottish Parliament on September 18, 2012 by Derek Mackay MSP, Minister for Local Government and Planning.  The review will:

  • Up-date policy : many of the previous Scottish planning policies bought together in the 2010 consolidation were debated and published prior to 2008.
  • Focus the policy on sustainable economic growth : the SPP must look to meet the challenges presented by the significant economic challenges we continue to face.
  • Emphasise place making : good quality, successful and sustainable places are achieved by making connections and understanding linkages – such places in urban and rural Scotland are vital to the success of the economy.

The review will be of the document as a whole, not on a topic-by-topic basis.  This means looking at the connections between policy topics and taking a more integrated approach.

No general invitation to comment has so far been announced, but the Government  website advises that there will be consultation across a “range of stakeholders”.   For further details, visit : http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/planning/National-Planning-Policy/newSPP

Report-backs on the responses to various Government consultations on changes to the planning system

Planning fees

The Government has issued a report which summarises the responses from the consultation on planning fees held earlier in the year.   Not surprisingly, the top issue is general concern about the basis of calculation of the revised fees, and wished to see a more detailed cost benefit analysis. Some raised issues of the impact on project and organisational viability. Others felt that the advocated structure would act as a disincentive to development and ran counter to the Scottish Government’s economic objectives.  As could be expected, planning authorities appear to have advocated a fee-maximisation approach, others a more cautionary approach.  Other key findings are :

  • A majority of respondents supported linking fees to stages within processing agreements.
  • Most respondents agreed that a reduced fee should be payable where there are restricted development rights for dwellings in conservation areas.
  • A majority of respondents supported a separate fee for renewals of planning permission.
  • All planning authority respondents agreed that fees should be increased annually. Other respondent groups provided more mixed views. Some questioned the timing, calculation of the increase and potential impact on the planning system.
  • A majority of respondents disagreed with using site area to calculate the fee for wind farms. Some felt it to be too simplistic a measure. Alternative suggestions included the number, size or generating capacity of turbines.
  • A number of respondents, including house builders and agents/consultants, made reference to the need to ensure that there was a direct relationship between increased fees and improved performance. However, others felt that this could be counter-productive, encouraging rushed decision making and depriving poorer performing authorities of the resources to improve.
  • A few respondents felt that the proposals would adversely affect small business.

For our previous bulletin on the proposed changes click here  https://pp-d.co.uk/2012/05/17/planning-reform-next-steps/

To see the full Government report, click on this linkhttp://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/09/7926

Miscellaneous amendments to the planning system

There was a high level of agreement that Pre-Application Consultation (PAC) requirements should be removed for applications to amend conditions attached to existing planning permissions (known as S42 Applications).  See below for further details.

There was also general agreement with the introduction of a facility to negotiate an extended period for determining applications where local review procedures would apply; as this would resolve an anomaly in the planning system and improve decision-making. There was also a high level of support for the proposal to increase the two month time-limit for determining local reviews sought on grounds of non-determination.

Many of those who answered the question on applications for approval of matters specified in conditions (AMSC) on planning permission in principle felt that the current requirements were generally excessive. There was a suggestion to revert  to the pre-2009 procedures for reserved matters.

For our previous bulletin on the proposed changes click here   https://pp-d.co.uk/2012/05/17/planning-reform-next-steps/

To see the full Government report, click on this link  http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/09/9618

Changes to the “General Permitted Development Order”

There was qualified majority support for all the proposed changes in the GPDO Consultation Document with the exception of the proposals in respect of hill tracks, and to a lesser extent, caravan sites.

The proposal to withdraw PD rights for agricultural and forestry private ways (commonly referred to as hill tracks) attracted substantial opposition from rural business interests who cited concerns around costs, bureaucracy and damage to the economy. There was however strong support from environmental interests who believed much damage was being done to the landscape by such tracks.

For our previous bulletin on the proposed changes click here   https://pp-d.co.uk/2012/05/17/planning-reform-next-steps/

To see the full Government report, click on this link http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/09/7170

Applications to vary planning conditions under “Section 42” of the Planning Act

“Section 42” applications allow someone who has planning permission to seek formal amendment to the conditions, without prejudicing the original permission.  Often, Section 42 will be used to extend the validity of an application beyond the expiry date stated on a condition.  A word of caution : this must be done before the permission expires. When the original approval was for a development categorised as “major” under the new Scottish planning system, a Section 42 application requires the full pre-application consultation procedures.  This has proved excessive, and confusing to members of the public who take part.

Removal of this need for statutory pre-application community consultation formed part of the Government’s consultations mentioned above.   Not surprisingly, there was a high level of agreement that the requirements should be removed for such applications.

The Government has now indicated that legislation will be presented to Parliament this autumn to do this, with enactment in the spring.

Housing Land Supply

An issue of keen relevance to those who see house building as one of the most important ways that the Scottish economic recovery will be kick-started, is the allocation of land for houses in places where people want to buy them.  Yes, there is a significant need for “affordable” housing, but it is dispiriting to hear commentators belittle the building of private family housing : almost as if it is politically incorrect to identify a need for this sector.   Several councils are cloaking the release of land for private housing in terms of how many affordable houses such development will be required to deliver as planning gain.  For “affordable”, this often really means “social rented”.

Recent significant events in this regard have been :

  • On 20th September, East Dunbartonshire Council decided to halt its Local Development Plan to engage with the Scottish Government over the challenges faced in delivering affordable housing in East Dunbartonshire.  The Council Leader said  “we are guided to rely on a 25% benchmark quota delivered through housebuilders who develop market housing sites. This means allocating four times as much land as we need to meet our affordable housing shortfall”.
  • On 12th September, East Renfrewshire Council approved a report which recommended that sites for only 4100 houses (all tenures) be identified in the forthcoming Local Development Plan.  The Glasgow & Clyde Valley Strategic Development Plan target for East Renfrewshire is 5,700 units.  The figure is also lower than Option 2B “Flexible Long-Term Growth” in the Council’s Main Issues Report.

Development Plan progress

With the elections now a receding memory and three out of four Strategic Development Plans reaching approval, most planning authorities are now getting down to the business of progressing their Local Development Plans.

Ayrshire is the main focus of development plan activity at present, with comments on the South Ayrshire Draft Local Development Plan and the North Ayrshire Modified Local Development Plan both to be in by Friday 19th October.

  • The North Ayrshire consultation concerns an additional stage in the process : the Council’s response to representations received after publication and consultation on the Draft Plan last year.
  • Those making representations on the South Ayrshire plan should remember that the Council insists that companies and agents (as opposed to residents) can only lodge representations on-line.  Paper documents will be rejected, although the legality of this is highly questionable : the Act does not restrict a “duly made” representation in this way.  Several people report that the on-line process is difficult, so don’t leave it to the last moment!

The Angus Local Development Plan Main Issues Report is being considered by the Planning Committee on 9th October, and its contents are likely to be accessible on the web at that time. Publication is expected during the first week in November with consultation running into the new year.

Argyll and Bute has not published its Draft Plan in September, as advised in its Development Plan Scheme due to “ongoing discussions with key agencies”.  No revised publication date is given.

Cairngorms National Park Local Plan.   The legal challenge to this plan was rejected on 21stSeptember by Lord Glennie, so the plan can now proceed to adoption.

Dundee was to have published its Draft Local Development Plan in September but the month has passed without any sign of it.  Latest suggestions are that it will now appear in November.

East Ayrshire is to publish its Main Issues Report in November.

East Dunbartonshire has halted production of its Local Development Plan (see “Housing Land Supply” above).

Fife. An all-Fife Local Development Plan Main Issues Report is anticipated in the autumn.   This will be unique in that it is within the boundaries of two Strategic Development Plans.

Midlothian anticipates that its Main Issues Report will be considered by the Planning Committee in November, with consultation to follow.

Stirling Council considered its Draft Local Development Plan on 26th September.  You can see a pre-publication version, together with the separate settlement volumes at : http://www.stirling.gov.uk/services/business-and-trade/planning-and-building-standards/local-and-statutory-development-plans/local-development-plan.    It is to be published for consultation on 15th October.