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

Edinburgh’s Low Emission Zone: Update

Edinburgh’s low emission zone (LEZ) proposal aims to improve air quality for people across the city by tackling pollution from vehicles and has been developed in partnership with the Scottish Environment Protection agency and Transport Scotland.

The LEZ will involve removing the most polluting vehicles from the network and will only allow the cleanest vehicles into the LEZ. Visit LowEmissionZone.Scot to find out if your vehicle complies.

The Scottish Government is committed to introducing LEZs to Edinburgh. The original commitment was to have these in place by the end of 2020. However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, timescales have changed, with a new indicative timescale for LEZs to be introduced between February and May 2022. For more information of LEZ timelines and more please visit Transport.gov.scot.

There are a number of funding opportunities that have been made available. These offer to help those who are most impacted by the LEZ, with grants available for people and businesses to enable them to upgrade their vehicle/vehicles to a cleaner, more environmentally friendly, LEZ compliant vehicle or public transport vouchers.

The £2 million mobility fund launched by Scottish government offers cash incentives for non-compliant vehicles to be removed from the road. Administered by the Energy Savings Trust, the programme is means tested to help those who would struggle the most to upgrade their vehicle and provides support for both people and businesses to travel more sustainably.

The mobility fund provides households with a grant of £2,000 as an incentive to remove a non-compliant vehicle from the road and replace it with a cleaner compliant vehicle or invest in alternative transport modes.

The mobility fund also provides help for businesses, with a £2,500 cash grant to help upgrade their fleet to cleaner, more efficient vehicles.

£1 million of funding is also being made available to support the retrofitting of Light Goods Vehicles (LGV) and Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV) as well as Taxis through the LEZ Retrofitting Fund for micro-businesses.

Find out more about the Edinburgh project and how to get in touch with us at: https://www.lowemissionzones.scot/about/local-zones/edinburgh

City Plan 2030 – timetable update

We are preparing a new Local Development Plan for Edinburgh called City Plan 2030. This will set out policies and proposals for development in Edinburgh through to 2030. City Plan 2030 will set out how we develop our city sustainably over the next ten years.

Choices for City Plan

Our main engagement stage ‘Choices for City Plan 2030’ took place between January and April 2020. We received over 1800 responses to the consultation from organisations, community groups and members of the public. The responses to Choices for City Plan 2030 were reported to Planning Committee on 12 August 2020. The full Choices for City Plan consultation responses are available to view on our website.

City Plan 2030

We are now preparing the proposed City Plan 2030. The timetable for preparing the plan and how you can get involved in the next stage of the process is set out in our new Development Plan Scheme.

As set out in the DPS, a proposed plan is now expected to be presented to committee in February/March 2020.

You can view the new Development Plan Scheme on our website.

Period of representations

Following publication of the proposed plan, the next stage of the plan preparation process allows for comment on the proposed Plan, this is called the period of representations. Representations can be submitted to the proposed plan, either supporting or seeking change to the policies and proposals set out in the plan.

The impact of the current health emergency on the period of representations to the proposed plan is not known at this stage. It is not known if social distancing and/or lockdown measures will be still in place in 2021 to enable traditional, in person, engagement to go ahead.

However, if possible, some, or all, of the following activities will be used to raise awareness and encourage people to have their say on the proposed plan:

● Launch of proposed plan

● Publicity to raise awareness of proposed plan

● Statutory neighbour notification

● Notification to those groups and individuals on the project mailing list telling them how to comment

● Staffed exhibitions in public places to raise awareness, if possible

● Drop-in sessions to allow opportunity to find out more about consultation proposals, if possible;

● Best practice online/digital engagement (as guided by the Scottish Government’s digital planning programme) which could include virtual exhibitions, a planning engagement hub, webinars and online events, and

An update to the Development Plan Scheme will be provided at the time of publishing the proposed plan with the full details on how you can submit a representation to the proposed plan.

Non-digital engagement – including opportunities to ask informal questions, telephone surgeries, printed newsletters, hard copies of documents, paper letters and engagement via other council services.

In the meantime, you can keep up to date with the City Plan Project by

● subscribing to this blog

● following us on twitter at @planningedin

● joining in the conversation by using the #cityplan2030 hashtag.

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.

Leith Walk/Halmyre Street Place Brief

The Leith Walk/Halmyre Street Place Brief is now online. The approved place brief provides guidance for a co-ordinated approach to a housing-led, mixed use development on a site east of Leith Walk and west of Halmyre Street.

The place brief has been prepared by the Council’s planning service in collaboration with other Council services. It has involved extensive engagement with the local community and other stakeholders through a series of community engagement events held in January this year, covered in this blog back in May.

Future planning applications for any part of the site will be required to address the principles within the place brief to ensure that development helps to create a good place.

The place brief has the status of non-statutory planning guidance and will be a material consideration in the determination of relevant planning applications.

You can download the full place brief here.