Edinburgh is a successful, growing city but this brings a huge demand for places where people can live. At our meeting on 19 June 2014, the Planning Committee approved theSecond Proposed Local Development Planwhich has a clear aim of supporting the growth of the city economy and increasing the number of new homes being built. There will be an opportunity for people to formally comment on the Plan in August and I will ensure that this process is made as easy as possible.
74% of the homes in the Proposed Plan is expected to be built on brownfield land and the Committee has agreed to explore ways to bring these development sites forward and maximise the contribution they make to our housing supply. However, there is not enough brownfield land to meet the city’s housing need and the Plan does propose that some Green Belt land is released for development. There has been considerable objection to these proposals and the concerns of local communities were clearly in the mind of Committee members when coming to the decision. In particular, the potential impact on road junctions and congestion, as well as promoting the use of sustainable transport modes, are issues that we must take into account when moving forward.
Approving the Proposed Plan at the meeting gives the Council the best chance of preventing ad hoc green field developments in locations where we have no control. However, the Committee has asked that further analysis of a potential housing site to the west of Edinburgh Park is also undertaken.
All the Planning Committee reports, including the Capital Coalition motion, are availableonline.
As a Planning service much of our time is taken up giving advice on proposed development prior to applications being submitted. We also recognise that the pre-application stage is important to see what issues are likely to arise. To help manage how we deal with major planning applications we have been using processing agreements and the pre-application stage is one part of this process. Having pre-application discussions gives us a better understanding of proposals early on and allows us, developers and applicants to engage other Council services to get a view of proposed developments. This provides greater certainty to developers and applicants, and allows us to make the best use of staff time and improve the service we offer.
To help inform our proposed approach to pre-application advice we held workshops with architects, developers and planning agents to get a better understanding of key issues. Following this, we consulted on the introduction of charges for different levels of pre-application advice whilst still offering basic planning advice at no charge. As always, we recommend that people read the relevant planning policies and guidance prior to seeking advice from us.
The consultation survey has now closed and we will report the findings to Planning Committee later this year.
Good news! At last night’s Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning we were successful in receiving two commendations. The new student accommodation at Sugarhouse Close in the Old Town was commended in the ‘Quality Development on the Ground’ category and the judges commented that this process showed how planning can operate to deliver a development which supports a masterplanned approach to deliver a well-considered ‘space to live’ for students. The planning team and the architects went to great efforts to ensure this new development both respected the sensitivities of this location within the World Heritage Site whilst providing a series of modern buildings and new spaces in this context.
Our approach to delivering a quality planning service was recognised through the Award for ‘Quality of Development’ for our use of processing agreements. This is where we put in place an agreement between ourselves and applicants on how we will work together to progress major planning applications. This sees us agree target dates, information required, potential risks and a project plan before the application is submitted. We in turn project manage the process with greater efficiently and certainty for the applicant. Using processing agreements exemplifies our gold standard approach to quality of service and the judges acknowledged that this was a positive step in how we handle major planning applications.