The latest letter issued by the Chief Planner on 29 May 2020 summarises the recent legislative changes and recent advice from the Scottish Government relative to maintaining a functioning planning system (see our previous blogs on the previous Chief Planner update and COVID-19 provisions).
The letter highlights a few further points for supporting the planning system and the recovery:
- Site visits for a planning purpose can be carried out if social distancing measures can be adhered to;
- Online and virtual meetings are encouraged for planning committees and local review bodies. To ensure maximum transparency and accountability, authorities should aim to broadcast meetings either live or in recorded form as soon as possible afterwards;
- The Scottish Government is liaising with COSLA to consider what support might be required to enable Community Councils to carry out their democratic duties. Webinars are to be held for Community Councils on how to host virtual meetings and conduct business online;
- Registers of Scotland (RoS) are now accepting applications to register Section 75 agreements on their digital submissions portal. If the agreement is to be recorded in the Sasine Register then RoS customer services should be emailed;
- Planning authorities should be supportive of reasonable requests to extend working hours on construction sites. They should be sympathetic to the nature of the works and the surrounding area. The Chief Planner stops short of setting a national standard however notes that 7am – 9pm would be reasonable in most circumstances. Again, depending on the type of works and surrounding area, 24 hour working may be acceptable in some circumstances. This is in line with previous enforcement relaxations during the pandemic.
The biggest takeaway from the letter is the explicit acknowledgement from the Scottish Government that the draft National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) is now expected be laid in the Scottish Parliament in autumn 2021. Prior to COVID-19, this was expected in September 2020.
Additional engagement opportunities are being explored in the intervening period to take advantage of the new timescale.
An interim position statement is expected in autumn 2020 that will include:
- An update on the Call for Ideas evidence gathered in early 2020;
- An explanation on how NPF4 will align with other Scottish strategies;
- An overview of the key challenges, opportunities and potential policy changes for NPF4;
- A reflection on the impacts of COVID-19; and
- What NPF4 can do to help societal and economic recovery.