Due to the current Covid restrictions, planning officers are unable to undertake site visits.
However, it is important for everybody that we keep assessing and determining planning applications.
If you are submitting a planning application, it would be extremely helpful to us if you could provide photographs and relevant contextual plans as part of your submission. This information will be requested but it would help the assessment process go faster if they are provided at the start. Photographs do not need to be made publicly available.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We would like to take this opportunity to share with you the results from our quarterly time performance review. Despite the challenges 2020 has encompassed, the service’s response to the restrictions enforced to protect us from Covid-19 has been positive.
The charts below show the average decision times taken to complete Major, Local and Householder applications. From the beginning of the year, there has been a general improvement in decision times across the service. In quarter two the service is delivering decisions at the national average, and we’re aiming to be even faster than that as we move forward.
This is great news! Whilst working hard to continue to deliver a planning service over the course of the year, our efforts to improve the service are beginning to show positive results. Once again, we would like to thank you for your patience and understanding when engaging with the service and we offer our thanks to the staff within the service who have made this achievement possible. Further information is available here.
Moving forward, we are continuing to develop new ways of working and strategies to ensure the planning service delivers high quality outcomes more efficiently.
Over the last 7 months, we have spent time putting systems and strategies in place in order to simplify and improve our services so we can continue to provide an excellent service to the city. Along with a lot of the Council, both the Planning & Building Standards services are currently working from home. We have previously blogged about the challenges this has presented and how as we continue to develop, we look at ways to work effectively in this new, remote environment.
This week marks a milestone in these efforts, as we launch a new & easier way to pay online for Planning Applications & Building Warrants.
Planning Applications must still be submitted using eplanning.scot, and you can still pay via this system when you submit. But for those applicants or agents who need to make an additional payment, or for applicants who may wish to pay after their agent has submitted, you can now pay for your planning application online
Similarly, Building Warrants must still be submitted using eBuildingStandards.scot, and you can still pay via this system when you submit. However you can now make a payment post submission where the original fee was either incorrect or if you need to extend the period of validity. Make sure you are paying the correct amount by checking the Building Standards Scale of Fees.
The payment system is safe, secure and easy to use, using gov.pay software that you may already be familiar with. It is available 24/7 from anywhere that has internet, including your smart phone.
A step-by-step guide to using it;
You will need the following;
Your Planning Application number (for example, 20/03230/FUL)
Your Scottish Government reference (for example, 100290191-001)
You will also need to select whether you are the applicant, or the agent. The above information will be on any correspondence from us or your agent should provide it.
You will need to enter the address of your planning application. If your application does not yet have a postal address, enter your Site description (for example, “Land 200m to the North of 123 Edinburgh Street” – this will be on any correspondence you have from us). You must enter at least a Street name & Town.
Enter your contact details, and the amount that you need to pay. The amount you need to pay may be on a letter from us, or if you are an applicant, your agent should advise you. You can always refer to our fees list on our website.
You will then be taken to the ‘Enter card details’ page where you can securely enter your card details, much like online shopping or other payment pages. We accept Visa or Maestro, and require the usual card details (Card Number, Expiry Date, Name on card, Card Security Code, Billing Address & Contact Details for your receipt.)
Please note – you can pay for Planning applications, Certificates of Lawfulness & Advertisement Consents. For Building Standards you can pay for Building Warrants, Amendments to Building Warrants & Extensions to Building Warrants. At this point we cannot accept online payment for Planning Pre-application advice.
We will then pick up your payment and process your application from there.
Follow this blog for further updates as we continue to make service improvements & adapt to challenges and opportunities.