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 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

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.

Help us Celebrate World Heritage Day 2019 in the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh

world-heritage-day-2018
Image © HES: World Heritage Day 2018, Kelvingrove Museum and Gallery, Glasgow

If you are passing by the Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile on Thursday 18 April, come in and explore the Our World Heritage exhibition which gives visitors an insight into what makes Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site, and each of Scotland’s other World Heritage Sites so special and why they are internationally recognised.

After you have visited the exhibition why not stay on for a variety of fun and interesting activities on offer on World Heritage Day:

  • Discover more about real people who lived in Old and New Towns of Edinburgh in the 18th century through our Auld Reekie handling box
  • Try out brass rubbing
  • Make your very own mini 18th century replica sedan chair
  • Visit our World Heritage stall to learn about all of Scotland’s World Heritage Sites
  • To further celebrate World Heritage Day, Edinburgh World Heritage will host their annual World Heritage Day lecture. This year the pre-eminent historian Professor Sir Tom Devine, will deliver ‘Victorian Edinburgh Powerhouse of the Empire?’ For further details please visit the EWH website

Councillor Neil Gardiner, Planning Convener, said: “We’re really proud of our World Heritage Sites in Edinburgh. I would encourage residents and visitors alike to pop in to the Tron Kirk and learn more about our city’s rich heritage. There’s lots of activities planned for all ages and its events like this that help encourage us all to make sure we look after these historic sites for generations to come.”

Friendly and knowledgeable staff from Historic Environment Scotland and City of Edinburgh Council will be on hand to have a chat or answer any questions.

Drop-in from 10am to 4pm on 18 April to enjoy the above activities.

The exhibition is open during the Tron Kirk’s normal opening times.