Changes Coming Soon to Planning

As part of our efforts to improve our service and adapt for the future, there are two changes to the Planning Service coming soon:

Pre-Application Advice Service

At its meeting in February 2021, Planning Committee approved minor changes to our Pre-Application Advice Service.

It was recognised that the service is working well since it was introduced in 2019, but experience has highlighted the need for an additional option for a site visit for local developments. This will be available from 1 April 2021.

The Planning Committee also agreed a 5% increase in all Pre-Application Advice Service charges received on or after 1 April 2021, in line with the Council’s budget projections for 2021/2022.

Non-Material Variation Applications

At its meeting in February 2021, Planning Committee also agreed to additional discretionary charges for the processing of Non-Material Variation applications.

This will improve customer service and consistency across the service.

Details regarding procedures are being finalised in advance going live on 1 April 2021, but it is anticipated that Non-Material Variation applications will be required to be submitted using a standardised form, accompanied by the relevant drawings and the appropriate fee.  

This process will only apply to granted planning applications and will not be applicable to Listed Building Consents, Conservation Area Consents or Advert Consents.

Full details can be found in the Planning Committee report. Further communications regarding both of these matters will be published in advance of the changes commencing on 1 April 2021.

Planning and Building Standards Service COVID -19 Update (4 May 2020)

The Planning Service is continuing to adapt the way it works to support communities and businesses in this difficult time. We are pleased to announce that from Monday 4 May 2020 we are re-starting our pre-application advice service.

Pre-Application Advice Service

We want to ensure the planning system plays its part in assisting with a swift recovery for the city and we see our very successful pre-application advice service as an important part of the measures we are taking forward. However, it is important to recognise that we are working in a new and very different environment with officers working from home and site visits on hold. The service people will receive will still aim to be as helpful as possible but there will be some limitations:

  • When you submit your pre-application request, we will assess whether it is reasonable to deliver advice on the project from a home based environment. If the request includes a listed building for instance, we may be unable to advise without a site visit. We would therefore have to put that request on hold until we are able to resume site visits.
  • Where necessary, meetings with relevant officers will be arranged but they will be via Skype or Microsoft Teams so it is important you have that software to be able to engage in video conferencing.
  • Finally, we will be unable to take telephone payments so BACS transfer will be the only way you can pay for the pre-application advice. Details can be found in our Customer Service Guide

Requests for advice should be sent to preapplicationadvice@edinburgh.gov.uk using the request form.

Developer Pre-Application Consultations

Separately, the Scottish Government has provided planning guidance on pre-application consultations for public events. This is temporary guidance, linked to the regulations that came into force on 24 April 2020 and suspends the requirement for a physical public event at this time. Prospective applicants are expected to replace this requirement with alternative consultation measures instead, using web based approaches.

We will continue to provide service updates on the Planning Edinburgh blog. Please sign up by email to register for updates as soon as they are posted.

Pre-application planning advice

A large part of our work involves giving pre-application advice on a wide range of planning proposals. To help us make better use of our resources, we’re changing what we provide pre-application advice on.

Changes to pre-application advice

The Planning and Building Standards Customer Service Charter approved by Planning Committee in December last year sets out the level of service you should expect.

Pre-application advice for major developments will continue to be handled by the relevant area team. For other pre-application advice, the charter states:

  • Pre-application advice will normally be restricted to large, unusual or contentious cases or on smaller complex cases where policies or guidance are open to interpretation
  • We will generally not give advice on the following types of development as we have guidance online
    • householder development
    • windows
    • driveways
    • straightforward change of uses
    • adverts
  • When asking for advice, you should use the pre-application advice form to ensure we get all the information we need
  • We will send the enquiry to the relevant area team who will decide if a meeting is necessary
  • We will advise you to where to find information online
  • We will provide a formal response for more complex proposals
  • We aim to respond within 10 working days
  • We advise on the use of professional agents to assess if permission is needed and to make the appropriate application/s

Our helpdesk planner at the Planning and Building Standards reception area (9am-1pm) can offer general planning guidance but is unable to give pre-application advice. For more detailed advice you can send us a pre-application form if it meets the above criteria.

How we deal with requests for pre-application advice is part of a number of changes we’re introducing and we’ll keep you informed on the blog as these happen.

Planning and pre-application advice
Planning and pre-application advice

Pre-application planning advice

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.

Planning and Building Standards helpdesk
Planning and Building Standards helpdesk

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.