Chief Planner for the Day

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David Leslie, Lisa Proudfoot, Convener of Planning Councillor Neil Gardiner

This blog is written by Lisa Proudfoot, MRTPI

Stepping into the shoes of the Chief Planner for a day has been a great experience. Led by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland expressed an interest in hosting a young planner for a day as part of a work-shadowing scheme. The aim was to give young planners the chance to learn from the best – those who hold leadership roles in LPAs – to see what it’s like to be ‘at the top table’, the challenges and opportunities they face, and to see first-hand how decisions are made at top level.

I joined David Leslie, Chief Planner at the City of Edinburgh Council for a busy day of learning and observation. From the outset I hoped to see more of the spatial effects of decision making and how different fields and services can work well with each other – be that housing, transport and environment, or more broadly, with the public and private sector. I believe good leadership is important for collaborative working.

In my day to day job, as a Planner with Montagu Evans, I often work with planners within the LPA but my contact with senior management and leaders is often limited. Stepping into the shoes of the Chief Planner for the day has given me the chance to gain an insight into the qualities that make good leaders, an important element in progressing my own planning career.

My day started with an introduction to the service, joined by all service managers, to run through the Council structure – the who’s who. It was then time to head up to the City Chambers for a weekly meeting with the Planning Convenor where we discussed recent workshops held on a number of subjects.  Later I met the current year out students working within the Council who are responsible for arranging the annual Committee site tour. This involved picking out recent developments around a range of topics including sustainability, use of materials and affordable housing.

Later, I was involved in a pre-application project workshop with other services of the Council including case officers and internal consultees. This was a great opportunity to see the challenges faced but also to offer my own thoughts on my experience of using the Service as a customer. I was then involved in a discussion on the Planning Performance Framework, a document to be prepared once a year showing a number of benchmarks and statistics set by the Scottish Government.

Soon enough it was time to head back up to the City Chambers for a briefing, to prepare for the next Development Management Sub-Committee meeting, where we then finished off our day speaking with the planner who acts as Service and Policy Advisor to discuss how officers work with the planning committee.

…a busy day indeed!

I would highly recommend this scheme to other young planners – it is great to see the RTPI and LPAs working to push for good leaders in planning and to provide Chief Planners of the future with these opportunities.

Our recent Scottish Young Planners Conference included a session on “Chief Planners of the Future” where a number of young planners took to the stage to speak about their thoughts on leadership, priorities, deliverability and the future of planning. I think it is important that we keep this moving.

Lisa Proudfoot MRTPI

Planner

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Building Standards: Six top tips for your building warrant applications

Tip 1: give us your and your clients’ email addresses

We’ll e-mail you any correspondence to speed up the process. Please make sure the e-mail address you provide is current, legible and spelled correctly.

Tip 2: how to get a 10% discount

If you provide a certificate of design, the fee will be reduced by around 10%. Please make sure you submit the correct fee.

Tip 3: how to get another 3% discount

If you tell us on your application form that you will submit a certificate of construction, you’ll get around a 3% reduction on your fees. You must submit the correct certificate on completion. If you don’t, we won’t accept your submission until we receive the full fee (without the 3% reduction).

Tip 4: stick to the nine month deadline

If you do not provide all the information we need to approve your warrant within nine months of the first technical response, we may refuse it.

Tip 5: completion certification

Make sure you supply all the documents and certificates which we outlined on the guidance when we issued your building warrant.

Tip 6: completion certificates for approved building warrants

Don’t send us completion certificates if your building warrant is not approved – we won’t process them.

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Building Standards: Improving our services – what you can do to help

We’re making marked progress with our service improvements – so far, this quarter, our team has issued first reports within 20 working days for 98% of building warrant applications. 70% of building warrants are being granted within 10 days of satisfactory revised information being submitted. Across the city, we’ve also approved £206 million of construction work since the start of 2019.

We’re committed to reducing response and processing times further. But we need your help – here are some simple things that agents and applicants don’t always do – this slows down the time it takes us to process your applications:

Paper plans still needed for approved works?

Following on from your feedback, we will no longer ask you to provide paper plans prior to us granting your electronic building warrant.

However, until we have fully developed our mobile solution, we do still need you to make available paper copies of the approved floor plans, elevations and specification for site inspections. Please make sure you have them ready for our surveyors when they come on site – they may not be able to inspect your works if you don’t.

Three simple things to help us process revised drawings more quickly

We can speed up your revised application if you:

  • provide a covering letter which clarifies your answer to each of the comments raised on the building warrant report
  • and highlight and state on the drawings and specification where you have made the amendments
  • when submitting plans online, make sure your drawings/support documents are correctly labelled and uploaded in correct orientation.

CCNP and notifications

We issue construction compliance and notification plans (CCNPs) with all building warrants. These specify stages of construction when you need to notify us to undertake an inspection. Please ensure these are made available to the contractor.

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Building Standards – New futures

We’re committed to investing in people as is key to developing the building standards services which serves our great city. You might have noticed a few changes in our team in recent months.

In our recruitment drive, we promoted Daniel Henderson to team manager for the south-east team and welcomed three new assistant building surveyors – Audrey Vass, Daniel Peart and Stuart Young.

Our apprentices recently visited a site with Senior Surveyor Douglas Collins, who has now retired, where they met Steven McGuire from CALA Homes.

We’re also proud that, for the first time ever, we’ve given three young people the opportunity to start a great career as building standards surveyors through our new apprentice posts. Working in partnership with Heriot Watt University, Jessica Morris, Rebekah Mack and Daniel O’Hara will develop core skills at university while working on building warrant applications with our team as well as playing a key part in our service improvements.

Councillor Neil Gardiner, convener of the Council’s planning committee and development sub-committee, explained: “Investing in careers and development of our team underpins our commitment to becoming one of the top performing building standards verification services in Scotland.

“It also demonstrates our commitment to facilitating Edinburgh’s successful economic and infrastructure growth.”

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City Plan 2030 – Shopping and Leisure Seminar

On 22 February 2019 we held a shopping and leisure seminar with people who work in this sector as well as people from community councils. The seminar was a chance to share findings from our research into the shopping and leisure market in Edinburgh. As with the seminars we held on housing and visitor accommodation, these events help us gather a range of views to help shape our policies for City Plan 2030.

The event included an open discussion with a number of issues and queries raised.

The speakers included Cllr Neil Gardiner, Convener of the Planning Commitee, who welcomed the attendees to the seminar:

 

Daisy Narayanan (Project Director, the City of Edinburgh Council) who talked about the progress of the Edinburgh City Centre Transformation project:

 

Keith Miller (Senior Planner, the City of Edinburgh Council) who shared the context and timing of City Plan 2030, and our research and monitoring done on the subject of the shopping and leisure market in the city;

 

and Dr Mark Robertson (Ryden) who covered the draft retail and leisure commercial needs study which was commissioned by us to inform our retail policies for City Plan 2030;

 

Part of the draft study can be seen below, including some detailed findings on the number of shops, rent and vacant units in our town centres. You may not know that Portobello town centre has the lowest rent costs but also the lowest rate of vacancy in the city, and that Leith/Leith Walk has the most shops of all centres:

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The city centre has been rated highly in surveys which were done as part of this study:

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And access to shops outside of centres was covered, with this map showing parts of the city which are within walking distance of a food or local grocery shop:

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The Ryden study includes a lot of data, but a few key points include;

  • Vacancy levels have fallen since the recession, and are below the Scottish average.
  • Although not the biggest shopping and leisure market, Edinburgh city centre ranks highly on quality. Edinburgh St James will continue to shift the market to the east of the city.
  • The reduction in comparison goods shops has been offset by higher numbers of leisure and service uses, although spending on comparison goods (which shoppers buy less often, and will compare prices, features and quality between products and shops before buying) is forecast to grow up to 2028.
  • There is enough convenience shopping space to allow for the expected growth of the city up to 2028.

These are all trends we will need to address as we continue to shape our policies. This is only part of the research that is going into City Plan 2030, and as the plan moves forward we will be getting more views and consulting on what the plan should include. You can keep track and take part by:

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Updating our scheme of delegation

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On 7 February 2019, we agreed changes to the way that decisions are made on planning applications and this has been in force from 8 February. Decisions on applications validated after that date will follow the new scheme.

A scheme of delegation gives officers decision-making powers on behalf of members. There are three main reasons for changing the scheme:

  • Firstly, to reduce the amount of householder applications dealt with by Committee to allow members to focus on bigger cases with a wider local interest.
  • Second, to give more prominence to objections or support comments from community councils when they are statutory consultees.
  • Third, to tidy up and clarify certain issues in the previous scheme such as the status of petitions and small changes to approved schemes.

These changes are part of our plan to improve our performance. The main changes agreed are:

  • Planning officers can now grant planning permission for householder development (house extensions and alterations) with up to 20 material objections.
  • Planning officers can now grant listed building consent for householder listed building applications with up to 20 material objections.
  • Planning officers can now refuse planning permission, listed building consent, advert consent, etc. for any application with up to 20 support comments.
  • A Committee decision is needed where there are unresolved objections from statutory consultees, including community councils where they have that status.
  • A Committee decision is needed where the recommendation is at odds with the views of the community council as a consultee.

We will monitor the operation of these changes and put a report to Planning Committee next year as part of a review of the scheme.

Full details of the scheme of delegation can be found on our website.

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City Plan 2030 – Shopping and Leisure

We are continuing our series of topic stakeholder events, where we discuss a key topic to be addressed by City Plan 2030 (such as housing or visitor accommodation) and invite people who work in these areas and are a way of sharing and gaining knowledge in these topics, with our next event on the shopping and leisure sector in Edinburgh. At this seminar we would like to share early findings of our market research in this sector.

This includes the work we already do to keep track of retail floorspace, empty units and types of shops. For example, we conduct a survey of all shop units in the city to look at the health of the retail sector and see how our shopping policies are working.

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All shops are surveyed every five years while the city centre and our 8 town centres are surveyed once a year.

In recent years, there has been a decrease in the number of ‘comparison goods’ shops (where shoppers buy from less often, and will compare prices, features and quality between products and shops before buying) and at the same time an increase in non-retail uses such as hair salons, cafes and restaurants.

The number of vacant units has fallen in recent years, across the city and in most of our town centres. The supplementary guidance we use to set out where and how other uses, such as food and drink, are to be allowed in our centres plays a key role in this by encouraging other uses in the right places to reduce the number of empty units as the shopping and leisure market changes.

We also review our guidance when needed and ask for your views on what kind of uses we should allow and where.

Watch this space for more on our shopping and leisure seminar! In the meantime you can keep track of City Plan 2030 by:

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