Edinburgh’s Water Vision

Climate change is going to impact on our lives in more ways than we can even imagine. In response to this, new developments and existing buildings in Edinburgh will have to change in order to support the needs of people. We will also need to consider how public realm, open space, infrastructure and streets are designed, agreed, constructed and maintained.

One of the ways we are preparing Edinburgh for these changes is through our Vision for Management of Water in the City of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh’s Water Vision is;

To develop a long-term and sustainable approach to river, coastal and storm water management across the city and its environs, respecting our unique historic heritage. This will involve all stakeholders and address the flooding and water quality risks associated with our changing climate as a result of changes in rainfall and sea level rise.

One key aim of the report is the need to manage the first 5mm of rainfall within every new development plot.

This is a big change for both planning and building standards, and will require building more raingardens, green roofs and other sustainable urban drainage features.

This will help more plants and wildlife to grow and create greener places for people to live, work and visit. It will also support healthier, happier and better off communities.

A greener city will make our neighbourhoods cooler, helping them become more resilient to heatwaves. This is important as our changing climate means extreme weather events like heatwaves are expected to increase.

Improving drainage

Much of Edinburgh has a historic combined sewer network. This means it carries both sewage and surface water to treatment works.

Our Vision for Management of Water will reduce the amount of clean surface water within the sewer network. This will help cut sewer flooding during heavy rainfall.

We also have a range of  Planning Flood guidance available to help. This will help people to design landscapes which, as well as holding back water to reduce flooding, will encourage plants and wildlife to grow.

As well as making these places nicer to spend time in, plants and wildlife will help to naturally clean rainwater before it reaches our rivers and streams.

This new way of working will enable the development of a city that is adaptive and resilient to climate change, that is also beautiful and biodiverse delivering a healthier, thriving and compact city with a higher quality of life for all residents.

The idea is to deliver transformational change in the way that water is valued and managed in the city.

A new way to pay for Planning Applications & Building Warrants

Over the last 7 months, we have spent time putting systems and strategies in place in order to simplify and improve our services so we can continue to provide an excellent service to the city. Along with a lot of the Council, both the Planning & Building Standards services are currently working from home. We have previously blogged about the challenges this has presented and how as we continue to develop, we look at ways to work effectively in this new, remote environment.

This week marks a milestone in these efforts, as we launch a new & easier way to pay online for Planning Applications & Building Warrants.

Planning Applications must still be submitted using eplanning.scot, and you can still pay via this system when you submit. But for those applicants or agents who need to make an additional payment, or for applicants who may wish to pay after their agent has submitted, you can now pay for your planning application online

Similarly, Building Warrants must still be submitted using eBuildingStandards.scot, and you can still pay via this system when you submit. However you can now make a payment post submission where the original fee was either incorrect or if you need to extend the period of validity. Make sure you are paying the correct amount by checking the Building Standards Scale of Fees.

The payment system is safe, secure and easy to use, using gov.pay software that you may already be familiar with. It is available 24/7 from anywhere that has internet, including your smart phone.

A step-by-step guide to using it;

Step 1.

You will need the following;

Your Planning Application number (for example, 20/03230/FUL)

Your Scottish Government reference (for example, 100290191-001)

You will also need to select whether you are the applicant, or the agent. The above information will be on any correspondence from us or your agent should provide it.

Step 2.

You will need to enter the address of your planning application. If your application does not yet have a postal address, enter your Site description (for example, “Land 200m to the North of 123 Edinburgh Street” – this will be on any correspondence you have from us). You must enter at least a Street name & Town.

Step 3.

Enter your contact details, and the amount that you need to pay. The amount you need to pay may be on a letter from us, or if you are an applicant, your agent should advise you. You can always refer to our fees list on our website.

Step 4

You will then be taken to the ‘Enter card details’ page where you can securely enter your card details, much like online shopping or other payment pages. We accept Visa or Maestro, and require the usual card details (Card Number, Expiry Date, Name on card, Card Security Code, Billing Address & Contact Details for your receipt.)

Please note – you can pay for Planning applications, Certificates of Lawfulness & Advertisement Consents. For Building Standards you can pay for Building Warrants, Amendments to Building Warrants & Extensions to Building Warrants. At this point we cannot accept online payment for Planning Pre-application advice.

All done!

We will then pick up your payment and process your application from there.    

Follow this blog for further updates as we continue to make service improvements & adapt to challenges and opportunities.

Looking back over Lockdown

Thank-you

We wanted to stop and take a moment to reflect over the past months. I think we can all agree that 2020 hasn’t turned out to be the year that we had envisaged. Covid-19 took the world by storm and as a nation we have had to swiftly adapt to a very different environment.

It has been one of our high priorities to continue to deliver a high-quality planning service to the people of Edinburgh. The planning service is a collaborative effort, we rely on public engagement, stakeholder contribution and of course, our customers, agents and, communities we work with on a daily basis. We wanted to take this opportunity to recognise your input in helping us to achieve a continued effective planning service; primarily your patience, your understanding and, your willingness to work with us during these challenging times. Though most of our work stations now look very different, this has not hindered our shared ability to deliver a service that will help to support the economy of our city and, ultimately improve the quality of life for its residents.

Thank you from all of us.

A Service Update

At this stage, we feel it is important to share our story over the past six months, how the service has performed and, the outcome of our efforts.

From April through to the end of September, we received a total of 2104 applications. Over the same period, we have fully assessed 1908 planning applications. Average determination times continue to improve towards exceeding the Scottish national average. Given the circumstances of which we are working in, we are proud of our performance.

As you will be aware, our offices continue to remain closed and so, the past seven months have been an evolving work in progress, putting systems and strategies in place in order to continue to perform as a service. As we continue to develop, we are looking into how to work effectively in this new, remote environment. At present, we are focussing on how we can implement greater efficiencies into our processes to ensure that we continually improve the service. We are devoted to delivering a service that ensures Edinburgh remains a great city to be enjoyed by all!

Decision making

To further facilitate continued decision making, formal meetings such as the Development Management Sub-Committee, have also had to adapt. Since May, to date, the DM Sub-Committee has met virtually on eleven occasions and worked on through their summer recess period to do so. Committee members embraced a new way of working and consequently, have made 82 decisions over the period which have included several major applications such as, the Wave Garden at the former Craigpark Quarry site.

Once again, we are proud to highlight that as a service, we have been doing our very best to maintain an effective planning service.

Lessons moving forward

Moving forward, we are keen to embrace this new way of working. Given the unlikely return to the ‘old way of working’, we are looking forward to being able to continue to deliver the planning service in collaboration with you.

Reflecting over these past months we have uncovered some new challenges and, lessons have been learned. As a result of Covid-19, three key lessons we have encountered which we now realise have a significant impact on the continued operation of the service:

• Rapid change and adaptation were required in response to lockdown. This ignited a shift in the attitudes towards change in the service. We used to be relatively slow to change established ways of working however, seven months on, change through trialling and embracing innovative ways of delivering an effective service is now our focus.

• We recognise the service would not have been able to continue to operate without embracing new digital ways of working. Internally, we now have a team continually investigating and implementing new digital platforms to help deliver an efficient service.

• Consideration for the well-being of our staff, our consultees, our customers and, our communities. Our appreciation for well-being has adapted as lockdown measures encourage us all to work from home. The Planning Authority’s top priority is well-being and we are dedicated to implementing measures, through our newly established well-being team, to ensure we do what we can to protect our health well-being.

For your information

There have been changes to the Authority’s Scheme of Delegation.

The Scheme of Delegation to Officers sets out the powers delegated by the City of Edinburgh Council to officers, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and under emergency provisions, the Council’s Leadership Advisory Panel agreed temporary amendments to the Scheme of Delegation on 31 March 2020. These temporary amendments expired on 1 September 2020 and the new Scheme of Delegation comes into force on 1 November 2020.

To conclude

In conclusion, once again we thank-you for your co-operation during this period. None of the achievements mentioned above would have been possible without everyone’s input and willingness to ‘make it work’. We look forward to continuing to work with you in this ‘new normal’ and, striving to deliver an excellent planning service.

Thank you.

Planning and Building Standards Service COVID -19 Update (19 March 2020 edit)

Staff in the Planning and Building Standards service are currently working from the office and home as appropriate and will continue to progress applications, warrants and enforcement cases. However, working practices will need to be adapted due to the current COVID -19 situation.

There will be no attendance at events and only essential external and internal meetings are taking place. Site visits are under review, and the reliance on other businesses to publish adverts and deliver neighbour notifications could impact on the service. We are working to find solutions should this become an issue.

We also expect our capacity to be impacted due to staff shortages so please bear with us.  The teams will be doing their best to keep applications and warrants moving under the circumstances. To assist in this, we have made the following changes:

Further information is available here.  We will keep these and other changes under review, and keep you up to date as our service adapts.

In terms of official Council committee business, the recess period will begin from Friday 20 March and will last until 27 April. All committees are suspended during this period. The Local Review Body meeting scheduled for 25 March will take place, but members of the public are encouraged not to attend to minimise the risk of spreading the virus. We are currently exploring alternative ways of working to maintain as much of the service as possible.

The response to the current situation is evolving rapidly and we will endeavour to update information as the situation changes, whilst ensuring the welfare of staff and trying to maintain business continuity for our customers.  You can see how you can help the Council to protect the city’s most vulnerable citizens and how we are aiming to provide core services here.

UPDATE 19 March 2020 – In addition to the above, we have taken the decision to suspend our Pre-Application Service to allow us to concentrate our efforts on processing and determining current applications and enforcement cases. We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause, but with a depleted staff and a focus on ensuring front line services are maintained, this has been a necessity.

The Planning & Building Standards Customer Forum 2019

The third annual Planning & Building Standards Customer Forum took place last week in the Council Chambers. A wide range of customers including community councillors, planning and building agents, architects, developers and community groups took part in group discussions to provide us with valuable feedback on our services.

In the last year, there have been many changes and improvements across both Planning and Building Standards including a major ICT system upgrade and the introduction of a new Planning Pre-application Advice Service. We have been busy implementing two Improvement Plans, one for Planning and one for Building Standards, both making progress across three themes:

  • Leadership and management
  • Customer
  • Continuous improvement and performance

We are always trying to improve our customer service and looking for new ways of working to do things better.

The ways in which we share information was of particular interest to us this year. We communicate with our customers in a number of ways:

  • Via the Planning & Building Standards Helpdesk, which can be accessed in person at Waverley Court, over the phone on 0131 529 3550 or by emailing planning@edinburgh.gov.uk
  • The Planning & Building Standards Portal which enables anybody to view planning applications and building warrants online whenever they want to
  • Our website has a large amount of guidance for a wide range of different planning and building matters
  • The City Plan 2030 project regularly publishes newsletter & holds workshops
  • The Building Standards Newsletter
  • Community council training events
  • Development and Civic Forums
  • Committee Webcasts
  • On Twitter @planningedin
  • And via this blog – planningedinburgh.com

There was also an update on City Plan 2030. The main consultation stage for City Plan 2030 – ‘Choices for City Plan 2030’ is planed to start in December and we are currently arranging the details of our engagement events. You can find out more about the timetable and how we will be preparing City Plan 2030 in our new Development Plan Scheme. You can keep up to date with the City Plan 2030 project on this blog or contact us or subscribe to our newsletter by emailing cityplan2030@edinburgh.gov.uk.

Planning and Building Standards Customer Forum is held every year, providing the opportunity for customers and Council officers to get together to discuss our services. If you are interested in attending next year’s Forum, or wish to provide us with your feedback regarding any of the above, please get in touch via planning@edinburgh.gov.uk.

Thank you again to all who came along, and we look forward to welcoming you to our next Customer Forum in 2020.