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.

City Plan 2030 – Children and Young People Engagement

As we start to prepare City Plan 2030, we have been visiting secondary schools across Edinburgh, coinciding with the 2018 Year of Young People. We have been asking young people about what they think about their area, and what issues are facing the city.

To help us with this, we have been using the Place Standard Tool, which helps us to structure conversations about place – including the physical and social aspects, identifying the assets of a place, as well as areas where places could improve.

We have collected views from nine schools across the city including Queensferry High School, Craigmount High School, Wester Hailes Education Centre, Firhill High School, George Watson’s, James Gillespie’s High School, George Heriot’s, Liberton High School and Portobello High School.

We are now using the views collected to inform the preparation of City Plan 2030.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What are the young people’s views telling us?

Although the issues raised and the results varied across the city depending on location and school, we can identify a number of key themes.

Parking and traffic was highlighted as an issue in relation to safety, space and sometimes making it difficult to walk and cycle safely.

Having a sense of control or influence was also brought up by a number of young people across the workshops. One attendee from the South East of the city said from “We rarely get chances like this to change our area”. And another said that they “feel like there should be more opportunities to get my voice heard in my local community.”

Edinburgh’s natural spaces were rated the best across the city. Many attendees mentioned their local favourites and appreciated that these spaces were open free and accessible.

Good quality public transport and a wide variety of bus routes were also mentioned as positives, as well as trams and trains which were highlighted as being of importance to young people.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What next?

We are encouraging all young people in Edinburgh to keep up to date with the City Plan 2030 project by following this blog or following us on Twitter or using #cityplan2030.

For those that had views on transport and mobility in the city a major public consultation called ‘Connecting our City, Transforming our Places’ is also currently looking for the views of the public and we would encourage everybody to share their views by completing the online survey which is open until 12 November 2018.

There will be more opportunities to engage with the City Plan 2030 project moving forward – you can contact the City Plan team and/or subscribe to our newsletter by emailing Cityplan2030@edinburgh.gov.uk or find more information on the City Plan 2030 website www.edinburgh.gov.uk/cityplan2030.

World Heritage at the Meadows Festival: 2-3 June 2018

It’s almost the Meadows Festival and for the third year, the World Heritage Team will have a stall to promote the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site.

At previous Meadows Festivals we spoke to people about the Management Plan for the Site, so this is a chance to see how this feedback has been turned into actions for the next five years….

World Heritage at the Meadows 2017

We’ll have information about the Site and activities for our younger visitors.  We’re celebrating the Year of Young People with a specially designed game – ‘Auld Reekie Through the Ages’ – a big box of 18th and 19th Century objects which help tell the stories of characters and places that shaped the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh.

Auld Reekie Through the Ages. Image © Historic Environment Scotland

We hope to see you there and fingers crossed for some sunshine!

World of work – Firrhill High School and planning

Last week, pupils from Firrhill High School, spent two days with the planning service to experience the range of work we do and to give us their ideas on what the city could be like in the future.  The programme included:

  • Mapping how young people use the city
  • Sharing photos of their favourite places
  • Using the Place Standard to assess how the city works as a place for young people
  • A visit to the St James Centre redevelopment project
  • An exercise on what the issues will be for the next Local Development Plan and how best to engage young people

The feedback from the school was really positive, with the young people having the opportunity to learn more about the work of the planning service and the challenges for the city.  It certainly has given us lots to think about for the next local development plan.

We were also delighted to hear that the group of pupils who visited us, won first place as part of the school’s business placement exercise.

Engaging children and young people in Planning

The planning service has over the years undertaken various events, workshops and engagement exercises with children and young people to help share what we do and get their views on planning in the city.  This has included The Forth Bridge short story competition, Shops in Town Centres and the Junior road safety and air quality events.

In December last year, working with PAS, we delivered three workshops with Hermitage Park and Craigentinny primary schools and Leith Academy.  Together we explored the role of planning and how the young people would like to see Leith and the wider waterfront area change in the future.  The storyboard below is a summary of the workshops. The full report on the workshops is also available.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Last week the Council’s Planning Committee agreed a report which sets out how we can better involve children and young people in how we plan the city.

We were delighted that pupils from Leith Academy took part in the committee discussions to present their view of the workshops, what they thought was important about their local area and how they’d like to see it change in the future.  The discussion can be viewed on the Council webcast (Item 3.1).

We will be encouraging developers to engage with children and young people in major development proposals to ensure they have their say on the future of their city.  Our guidance for applicants will be updated to reflect this ambition.

What next?

It is the Year of the Young People and we are committed to better involving children and young people in the planning system.  We will be working in collaboration with other Council services and the Young Edinburgh Action programme to ensure we deliver more meaningful engagement.

In April we will be holding a ‘co-design’ session with young people. We hope they will help us shape how to best engage all children and young people in the next Local Development Plan and other projects.

As this progresses we’ll provide more updates on the blog, with a full update going to planning committee next year.