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.

Viewing tree preservation orders online

As we have written previously, the restrictions imposed due to the Covid -19 pandemic have meant that there has been a need to publicise applications and decisions made online.

In addition to this, we are now advertising new tree preservation orders (TPOs) made by the council online on a new page on the Council website. These would usually only be advertised in print, at our offices and at local libraries.

TPOs protect trees that contribute to amenity, or have historical or cultural significance. Anyone can propose a tree (or groups of trees and woodland) be protected and full details on how to do so and what criteria is used to consider them can be found here.

In addition, we are now showing all TPOs on our online Council GIS Atlas. You can view these by selecting the TPOs layer under the Planning list, as highlighted in the below screenshot.

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You can then click the arrow highlighted below to find out more about that specific TPO.

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Planning and Building Standards Service COVID -19 Update (26 June 2020)

This is our latest update to the continuing changes to the planning service as we adapt to the restrictions needed during the COVID -19 outbreak.

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Screenshot from our most recent online local review body.

Local review body

We have held our first meetings of the local review body online, held over Skype, to continue our statutory duty to process relevant appeals. Two have been held successfully and we will be continuing this format.

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Screenshot from our most recent online development management sub-committee.

Development management sub-committee

Similarly, we have continued holding online meetings of the development management sub-committee and these will continue to be held over the summer.

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Screenshot of the virtual planning appeal hearing held recently.

Planning hearing

We have taken part in a virtual planning appeal hearing, run by the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division.  This was the first in Scotland and ran very smoothly in terms of technology. The webcast of the hearing is now available to view.

Weekly list

We have moved the publishing of the weekly list, showing all applications and decisions made, to an online format due to the restrictions on advertising. In addition to this, we are piloting a new interactive map which shows all applications and decisions in each weeks list.

We have received positive feedback on this new way to view planning applications. We would like to thank those of you who sent us your comments, which will help us evaluate the pilot.

Choices for City Plan

The consultation on our next local development plan, Choices for City Plan, received 1800+ responses. A new Development Plan Scheme setting out the timetable for the preparation of the proposed plan will be presented to committee this summer.

Planning help desk

We are now providing a planning help desk service by email at planning@edinburgh.gov.uk. We think this will be particularly useful to businesses looking for advice on planning as they adapt and emerge from lockdown in line with national changes.

Wellbeing survey

We have also carried out a staff wellbeing survey, completed by most of our colleagues, to help us get an idea of how we will support our staff to continue providing services and completing our projects while working from our homes.

We will be continuing to use this blog to provide updates, so please subscribe to receive further updates.

Weekly List Interactive Map

We have written previously about the need to publicise applications and decisions made online, due to Covid -19 restrictions preventing us from using our usual way of advertising.

We have already been publishing our weekly lists online here, but we are now trialling a new tool to show this weekly list of new applications and decisions in the form of an interactive GIS map. We hope this will be a way to view the list of applications in a way that gives a better, user-friendly and visually interesting overview.

Using the Map

Click here to go to the Weekly List Map, and the screen should show a map of the city as below:

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The map shows all application and decisions advertised in the weekly list, with red dots showing where new applications have been made and blue dots showing where we have made a decision. You can use the ‘find address or place’ bar to go to a valid location or address when typed in.

If you zoom into the map, further detail is provided and the dots become shapes which show the boundary of each application:

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Clicking on each dot or shape, and then on the arrow that pops up will show more detail about each application including a link to the application page on the planning portal:

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This map will be updated weekly along with the weekly list. It will be trialled initially for six weeks to see how well it is used and how useful people find it. Please let us know your thoughts on this new tool by leaving a comment here on the blog, or sending an email to Planning.ServiceDelivery@edinburgh.gov.uk with your comments.