Planning for the New Normal – Scottish Chief Planner update

Further to our blog, the Chief Planner issued a further letter setting out the Scottish Government’s current thinking and options for temporary fixes to allow better functioning of the planning system during the application of COVID-19 restrictions.

In brief, the letter sets out:

  • The top priority is maintaining a functioning planning system
  • Government is open to further relaxation of enforcement action against businesses operating beyond the terms of their planning conditions or obligations e.g. where staged payments fall due under the terms of planning agreements in relation to development sites which have now ceased construction works
  • Provisions extending the duration of planning permissions (see our previous blog)
  • After discussion with stakeholders, further temporary actions to include:
    • Bringing forward regulations (after Easter Recess) to:
      • suspend the requirement to hold at least one public event as part of major and national developments pre-application consultations;
      • suspend the requirement for local review bodies to meet in public
    • Documents for public inspection to be published online rather than being available for physical inspection at a specified location
    • Reviewing procedures where information and representations require to be posted in hard copy
    • Recommendation that all applicants use the service to lodge applications and supporting information
    • Exploring the position relating to site notices and the potential to bring forward regulations to suspend this requirement
    • Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill provides that for the duration of the coronavirus crisis, local authorities have the power to exclude the public from their meetings
    • Where authorities require to amend their schemes of delegation under the Planning Act, Scottish Government approval will be swift
    • Breach of any hazardous substances consent must be reported by the planning authority to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) however enforcement action by the planning authority remains discretionary
    • Unless permission has been obtained from Scottish Ministers, planning authorities should not determine applications for hazardous substances consent until an HSE response has been received. 
  • There is explicit acknowledgement that it will not be possible to maintain progress and deliver the wider planning work programme due to the new urgent workstreams
    • Deadline for NPF4 Call for Ideas extended until end of April
    • Draft NPF4 for consultation pushed back until sometime in 2021
    • Publication of the Digital Strategy for Planning pushed back until later in 2020
    • Delivery of some of the work packages under the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 will be less rapid than previously intended.
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Gordon Clark

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