Clean Air Day

Every year, air pollution causes up to 36,000 deaths in the UK.  Poor air quality causes heart and lung disease and is linked to low birth weight and children’s lung development.

Thursday 17 June is Clean Air Day – the UK’s largest air pollution campaign that aims to bring people together to build awareness of the actions we can all do to tackle it.

Planning has an important role to play in this. Here in Edinburgh, we are setting out actions in strategies and plans to help tackle this, for example in our; 

The Clean Air Day campaign website has a wealth of ideas and ready-made materials to make it easy to get involved.

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.

The Edinburgh Development Concordat

We have published our new Development Concordat which sets out how developers, community organisations and the Council can work together to achieve good placemaking.

The Concordat seeks to help the city’s economic recovery by promoting collaboration.  It builds on the values and principles of the 2050 Edinburgh City Vision which provides clear aspirations for what the city is looking to achieve.

The Concordat recognises the need for agility, flexibility and collaborative engagement between Council services, the development and business communities and community organisations. We all need to work together to address the City’s recovery.

Developers are encouraged to promote the value of early and meaningful engagement including post planning decision engagement with Community Councils in shaping and realising development proposals. Within this context, the changes to pre-application consultation proposed by the Scottish Government: consultation should be recognised.

Community Organisations are encouraged to promote the vital role in representing the views of the wider community when new developments are proposed and to work collaboratively with developers from pre-application through to post planning decision.

The Council will promote the ways that developers and representative community organisations can engage with each other and will promote a “whole Council approach” as an enabler of development to facilitate a more continuous “end to end” approach taking in all of the development functions of the Council throughout the whole development process.

Cllr Neil Gardiner, Convener of the Planning Committee, said

“Edinburgh attracts a wide range of major investments and developments and more minor applications which can be complex. It’s important that the process is as smooth as possible for applicants and that we give quality, consistent and timely advice at all times.

The Concordat highlights the need for early community engagement in the planning process.

Good collaboration is even more important at the moment and the Concordat will help us all work together to address the city’s recovery. This Concordat is about adding value and helping to create good places.”

The Concordat was approved by the Council’s Policy and Sustainability Committee and replaces the Edinburgh Planning Concordat which has existed in various forms since 2009.

Read the full Edinburgh Development Concordat here.

A New Year – 2021 Lockdown

As we enter into a new year with a vaccine gone into distribution, we would like to offer our best wishes to everyone for a better year ahead.

Whilst we look forward with optimism for a glimpse of normality, we would like to highlight the current circumstances of the service amid current lockdown restrictions.

Whilst a spring/summer lockdown of 2020 was challenging, the longer sunny days and warmth made the daily tasks of home working and home schooling seem bearable. Like many of you, we face these same tasks in the winter months, confined to our homes due to a dark, damp and cold climate, the challenges and strains have been intensified.

As a service, whilst continuing to offer the best customer experience that we can, current restrictions requires the continued closure of our offices and maintained remote working. Managers have recognised the extended challenges of this lockdown on all staff within the service from family life, care of vulnerable family and friends, childcare and home-schooling to those living alone, all in need of support. Consequently, the well-being and mental health of our staff within the service will continue to be prioritised. Approximately 40% of our staff have young children and dependants therefore, we expect elements of the service to experience delays as parents fulfil their daily duties however, we continue to do the best we can to minimise the disruption to the service.

Key elements of the service still continue and these include receiving, processing and assessing planning applications; City Plan 2030; planning enforcement; neighbour notifications; Planning helpdesk; DM sub-committee; and, the Local Review Body. Elements of the service that have been suspended include site visits, and site notices will be available online only. A small plea: if you are submitting an application, any contextual information including photos would be very helpful.

As a planning authority, we rely heavily on the input from colleagues within other services, agents/architects, consultants, stakeholders and communities. We recognise these same challenges will be faced by everyone. We offer our sincere understanding and continued willingness to work with you, optimising new forms of communication and alternative working arrangements.

We will continue to deliver the best possible planning service for our city however, given these challenging times and restrictive working environments, we ask for your continued patience and understanding for our staff.

Thank you.    

A Christmas note

Here we are, Christmas 2020. The markets are closed, we aren’t gathering for our usual Christmas parties and fireworks will not adorn the sky however, we do have the opportunity to reflect on what we have come through this year and lessons learned.

Despite the unexpected challenges we have all faced this year; as a service, as a city, we have continued to press on. I’m sure you will all agree that 2020 has been difficult and such circumstances have forced radical change. As a service, the way in which we work on a daily basis has significantly altered. A service of over 100 people shift from a safe office environment to one which offered no access to that space we’ve been used to; instead we work from our kitchen tables, our studies, our dens, our bedrooms, our garden sheds.

Planning Officer fulfilling duties for the Service

When the announcement back in March was made to pack our desks and take our laptops home, reality struck, and we realised radical change and adaptation was required to deliver the same level of service. New policies and procedures as well as new I.T. systems and software have been implemented to enable the service to continue to function. Our dedicated staff have quickly adapted to new ways of working whilst balancing a very different home life.

Post Covid-19 Planning Office

As highlighted in our time performance blog, we are beginning to see the fruits of our labour. The changes we have implemented and efforts from all of those who engage with the service, are beginning to see improvements. However, the positive results don’t end with improved time performance within the service. We are proud of progress made on major projects which will play their part in building a positive future for the city. Recent updates include the City Plan 2030 and Low Emission Zones.

Quarter Mile development, Edinburgh.

It is only from the dedication of our staff, the patience and support of our customers, stakeholders and communities, that we have managed to continue to deliver and improve the service. Once again, we would like to sincerely thank everyone for their efforts in helping the service through this challenging time and we ask that as we move forward into a new year, you continue to work with us as we continue to implement changes to improve the service for everyone.

To this end, 2020 has been a challenging year, a year of great sadness, frustration and, uncertainty however, let us reflect on the good, focus on our efforts and, recognise our achievements. 2020 has been a year where we have been given the opportunity to appreciate a way of life we took for granted in our 21st century existence however, we have proven to ourselves that we have what it takes to adapt to a new and strange environment, and we have the capacity to succeed!

Whilst we all undergo the necessary Covid-19 restrictions, we hope that as we enter the new year, we all continue to adapt and make the best of this new environment.

Finally, we wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year from all of us here in the Planning Service.

A new way of working

In case you missed them, some further updates:

A new way to pay, place briefs, guidance updates, character appraisals, service improvements