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.    

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.

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.

Planning and Building Standards Service COVID -19 Update (22 May 2020)

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Presentation on a masterplan for housing at West Craigs at the most recent virtual Development Management Sub-committee

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.

Development Management Sub-Committee

This week saw our first ‘virtual’ meeting of the Development Management Sub-Committee.  The meeting was webcast live and went pretty smoothly thanks to a lot of preparation by all concerned.

We’ve learned that it takes a lot more resource than traditional meetings in the City Chambers. Behind-the-screens work included having back-up planners on stand-by in case of IT issues, and partners/children/pets being banished from the house, or at least the wi-fi router.

The meeting allowed several important cases to be discussed by the elected members in the sub-committee. These include some key sites in the current Local Development Plan reaching significant milestones.

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Discussion with councillors at the most recent virtual Development Management Sub-committee

We intend to hold virtual sub-committees on a regular basis from here on, which will allow us to make and issue decisions to support economic renewal and a positive future for the city.

Extended duration of Listed Building and Conservation Area Consents

The Coronavirus (Scotland) (No. 2) Bill has passed through the parliament and will soon become an Act. The Bill makes changes to some of the duties of public bodies. These changes will allow essential public services to continue to be delivered and support businesses and individuals in Scotland.

The Act will extend the duration of a listed building consent or a conservation area consent that would otherwise lapse during the emergency period because the works have not begun. The emergency period is the period beginning with the Act coming into force and ending on 6 October 2020.

Consents to which this applies will instead lapse at the end of an extended period which ends on 6 April 2021 unless works have begun before the end of the extended period.

Planning reform

Despite the restrictions around Coronavirus, work is still progressing on the implementation of the work programme for the Planning (Scotland) Act, which seeks to make changes to the Scottish planning system as part of a wider review of the system.

Two new provisions of the Planning (Scotland) Act are now in place. The first introduces a statutory requirement for certain types of development to include accessible toilet facilities which meet specific technical standards. Details of the standards and type of development this applies to can be found here, and this will now apply to these types of developments in Edinburgh as well as across Scotland.

The second introduces a power for planning authorities to designate parts of their council areas as short-term let control areas, as a further means of controlling where short-term lets may be permitted. There will need to further Council-wide discussions before we consider the use of this power. Details can be found here.

Further updates

We will continue to adapt and change our service as necessary to ensure we can continue working for the recovery of the city, such as with our previous updates to our pre-application service, weekly lists and site notices.

Please subscribe to the blog by email to receive further updates as soon as they are posted to stay up-to-date.