Chief Planners of Tomorrow

The City of Edinburgh Council’s Planning Service has Learning Partner status with the Royal Town Planning Institute.  This commits us to a programme of continuous training and development to support planning officers, elected members and community groups. 

In 2019, we won the Learning Partner Award for the best programme in the UK.

It is important to provide learning opportunities for young planners.  For the second successive year, our Chief Planning Officer was shadowed as part of a national initiative.

Lucy Sumner MRTPI, from Perth and Kinross Council writes about her experience:

Lucy is the Development Contributions Officer for Perth and Kinross Council, where she took up post earlier this year following her time with Aberdeen City Council’s Local Development Plan team. Lucy is based in Perth and is also involved with the RTPI East of Scotland Chapter. You can find her on LinkedIn and Twitter, @sumnernotsummer

In what feels like the distant past of 2019, I applied for the Royal Town Planning Institute’s (RTPI) Chief Planners of Tomorrow initiative and I was delighted to be successfully paired with David Leslie at City of Edinburgh Council for the experience in 2020.

The Chief Planners of Tomorrow initiative allows a young planner the opportunity to spend some time shadowing a Chief Planner for the day. Usually this would take place in-person, attending meetings and visiting the Council’s offices, however like most things throughout 2020 David and I had to adapt and find alternative ways to share this experience. We were able to benefit from the virtual platform so many of us have become acquainted with this year; allowing us to tailor the programme more naturally to our schedules.

The role of a Chief Planner is very diverse, and David was keen to try and show me as much as possible from his day-to-day tasks over the course of the experience. David and I initially discussed our expectations of the opportunity, and he was then able to prepare a programme covering these key learning areas. These included; Strategic Management Issues, Political Awareness, and Service Planning.

Strategic Management Issues

David introduced me to service managers for Development Management and Development Planning, David Givan and Iain McFarlane. We discussed their roles, their career pathways and some of the key responsibilities involved with their roles. I learned about their experience as managers during a global pandemic, including some of the challenges with working remotely and how this affects day-to-day tasks, performance, and morale.

Political Awareness

After watching one of the Council’s publicly webcast Development Management Sub-Committee meetings, David extended an opportunity to attend the weekly meeting between service managers and the Convenor and Vice-Convenor. I therefore had the pleasure of meeting the Councillors Neil Gardiner and Maureen Child.

As a Planner I have held roles in private sector with a housebuilder and as a consultant, and in public sector as a Council officer, so my interaction with Elected Members has usually revolved around Planning Committees, so this was a hugely valuable experience in seeing how Committee meetings are briefed and prepared for … something like a backstage pass! Observing this meeting helped me understand my own role better too; for example, how certain actions arise ahead of Committees, or why briefing notes are requested. This gave some context as to how things progress and the relationship between management and the Convenors.

Service Planning

David arranged for a discussion about the Service Improvement Plan. Again, as an officer, this was really beneficial to learn about as sometimes you feel as though your role is your job title – but being part of a team, a service, an organisation means you are always part of a wider picture too. It can be quite motivating to work toward an overarching goal in this way and uphold the organisation’s objectives through your own work. I really enjoyed hearing about how the Service nurtures leadership and skills, and the ‘bottom up’ approach in service planning.

The experience has been an interesting insight into the varied duties and responsibilities of a Chief Planner. When David and I met for our concluding meeting at the end of the experience he asked me if I ever wanted to be a Chief Planner – I won’t share my answer here – but we went on to have a nice discussion about our choices in life and reflecting on opportunities and where they’ve led us, which is really encouraging. 

In summary, I feel lucky to have been able to take advantage of the RTPI’s Chief Planners of Tomorrow initiative. I feel it is pertinent to me as a young planner progressing in my career, and I don’t think it could have come at a better time during the unprecedented events of 2020; reflecting on other local authority practices and sharing skills and opportunities at a time like this really embodies the spirit of the RTPI, and what I feel we should continue to be promoting as a planning profession.

I hope that the initiative proves equally rewarding to Chief Planners; understanding the needs of young planners within their service right now, or in future, and cultivating leadership potential from their team.

I would like to thank all those I had the opportunity to meet with during this experience for their time and insight. Finally, I extend my sincerest thanks to David Leslie for making this possible, I greatly appreciate your enthusiasm and mentorship through this time.

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

virtual dmsub west craigs masterplan
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.

virtual dm sub floating heads
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.

Planning and Building Standards Service COVID -19 Update (29 April 2020)

Following on from our last update, we have a number of further service changes as we continue to adapt the planning service to the COVID -19 situation.

Site Notices and Weekly List

We have now begun the online publication of applications, following the restrictions on physically displaying site notices. We will display the planning application Weekly Lists and all Site Notices weekly on a new page on the website, and this will be updated every week.

Development Management Sub-Committee

The Leadership Advisory Panel has agreed to reinstate the Development Management Sub-Committee. We are working on how to do this through video conferencing, with the aim to hold the first reinstated Development Management Sub-committee on 20 May 2020.

Local Review Body

Following the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 coming into force, the Regulations affecting Planning have been amended. This includes the Regulations governing the Local Review Body (LRB), which as of 24 April 2020, for a temporary period, is no longer required to take place in public. Once the Development Management Sub-Committee has been established it is hoped to roll this format out for the Local Review Body.

We are still accepting online Review submissions. Please note that, as staff are homeworking, we cannot accept paper copies of Reviews, supporting documents or representations at this current time. Scottish Government has not given any powers to extend the period for submission of appeals, so if you intend to submit a Review please ensure it is within time.

For further information regarding appeals submitted to Scottish Government visit the DPEA website.

City Plan 2030 and City Mobility Plan

Finally, we are still receiving submissions on Choices for City Plan 2030 and the City Mobility Plan until 5pm tomorrow, to allow people to give their views on two important plans that will shape how we live and work in the city in future.

Please submit your comments through the consultation hub by 30 April 2020 at 5pm.

Please look out for further service updates in the coming weeks, including on our pre-application advice service. Subscribe to the blog by email to receive immediate updates.

Reviewing the Management Plan for the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site

It’s time to review the Management Plan for the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site.

Front row: Jenny Bruce (World Heritage Site Co-ordinator), Will Garrett (City of Edinburgh Council), Lesley Macinnes (Historic Environment Scotland)  Back Row: Adam Wilkinson (Edinburgh World Heritage), Chloe Porter (City of Edinburgh Council)
Front row: Jenny Bruce (World Heritage Site Co-ordinator), Will Garrett (City of Edinburgh Council), Lesley Macinnes (Historic Environment Scotland)
Back Row: Adam Wilkinson (Edinburgh World Heritage), Chloe Porter (City of Edinburgh Council)

What is the Management Plan?

The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh achieved UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation) World Heritage status in 1995. This status was based on the juxtaposition of these two very distinct historic areas, each of exceptional historic and architectural interest. The contrast between the medieval Old Town and the planned Georgian New Town provides a clarity of urban structure beyond compare in Europe.

World Heritage Site Management Plan 2011 - 2016 cover
World Heritage Site Management Plan 2011 – 2016

The first Management Plan covered the period from 2005-2010 with the second Management Plan covering 2011–2016.

The third management plan for the period from 2017 to 2022 is now in the making. As with the previous plans, it will be prepared by a partnership of ourselves at the Council, Historic Environment Scotland and Edinburgh World Heritage with the plan informed by a number of interested groups and individuals.

Why is the plan important?

Having this special status comes with responsibility.  UNESCO requires those who manage World Heritage Sites to produce a management plan every five years. This plan summarises the significance of the site and the policies to protect, conserve, develop and enhance it.

In Edinburgh, the management and ownership responsibilities lie with thousands of individuals, groups and organisations, and so this Plan is a necessary and valuable tool for strategic coordination.

What does the plan do?

The plan has a number of roles, including:

  • Maintaining and enhancing the Outstanding Universal Value of the site. The Outstanding Universal Value defines the elements within a Site which make it important and which must be protected in order to maintain its significance. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee and the advisory bodies use this document to assess any potential threats to a World Heritage Site.
  • Identifying key features of the World Heritage Site – such as the unique landscape, the contrasting architectural characters of the medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town, and the heritage of Scotland’s ancient capital
  • Detailing challenges and opportunities – such as the risk of inappropriate development and promoting of the use of traditional materials
  • Facilitating change – the plan is not just about preservation. It is about helping to see change that ensures Edinburgh is a thriving, dynamic and economically successful city.

How can I get involved?

The review of the Management Plan is now under way (hence this blog!) and will continue until the launch of the document on World Heritage Day in April 2017.

We will keep you informed of progress and opportunities to get involved on the blog and on Twitter @planningedin. Our partner organisations will also be sharing information.

You can also email Jenny or Chloe at worldheritage@edinburgh.gov.uk