Since our last update, there have been a couple of developments at the national level:
A letter from planning minister Kevin Stewart MSP and the Scottish Government Chief Planner was published on 3 April. The letter highlights the important role that planning has within and beyond the current emergency, and sets out some temporary measures to help the planning system continue to function during this period.
The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act came into being, when the Bill received Royal Assent on 6 April. Our previous update highlights the key points for planning.
We are now working to put into practice several changes which arise from these measures. We will provide an update on what this means for our service soon. In the meantime, we are still able to receive and work on applications, taking account of the measures we announced in late March. Our website provides details of our current service.
If you haven’t done so already, please sign up by email to be notified as soon as we publish new blogs. This is the main place we will be providing updates as we review our service on a regular basis.
You may be aware the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill will be shortly become an Act, and has further implications for our planning service and others.
One key change is that planning permission that would otherwise lapse in the next 6 months will be extended by 1 year to allow work to start on permissions once restrictions are lifted.
The Bill removes the duty requiring public authorities to physically publish or publicise documents or make documents available for physical inspection (libraries, council offices, etc) where it is considered that in doing so it may give rise to a significant risk of transmission of coronavirus. It is anticipated that guidance will be issued by the Scottish Government on the implementation of this power shortly.
The Bill itself does not change statutory requirements in relation to site notices or neighbour notification so for now we are still working with the restrictions on determining relevant applications that we set out last week. This is for both general safety and to ensure that any decisions we issue are properly informed by representations and so are legally sound.
Separately, the Council’s Leadership Advisory Panel has met (in its first Skype meeting) and agreed contingency measures relating to the Planning service:
These measures make temporary changes to the Council’s Scheme of Delegation to reduce the number of planning applications which will have to be put on hold until Council committee meetings can be held.
Most applications are already decided by delegation, but around 200 each year are decided by the Council’s Development Management Sub-Committee. The temporary measures mean that these cases will be carefully filtered, with input from relevant councillors, so that some can be decided under delegated powers.
This is intended to allow at least some applications to still be decided during this period, and so help the resilience of the city and its economy. Details are available in the report to the Panel (agreed with a motion).
We are also looking at ways Development Management Sub-Committee meetings might be able to take place remotely, which would reduce the need for these temporary measures to be used often.
We are still reviewing how we can adapt to the situation on a regular basis. We are doing so working with the Scottish Government and the other planning authorities in Scotland. We will continue to share this publicly by posting on this blog and using twitter, so we urge people to subscribe here for our updates to be sent directly by email as soon as they are posted.
In light of the ongoing situation regarding COVID-19, the restrictions on movement placed on the country by the Prime Minister and the First Minister are a very clear message for all of us to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. This will mean changes to our everyday work.
The Local Review Body scheduled to take place on Wednesday 25th March has now been cancelled, and will be rescheduled for a later date as soon as practically possible. If you have any queries regarding the Local Review Body, please email email@example.com
We will not be able to carry out the necessary publicity on applications submitted as required by the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997. At this time we have suspended site notices, neighbour notifications and the weekly list will only include those applications which do not require publicity nor neighbour notification. This will be reviewed in three weeks time. This will affect the determining of applications.
Where site visits cannot be carried out we may still be able to process applications using photographs sent to us where appropriate. These will be requested by our officers where required.
Applications where the neighbour notification period has ended before 20th March can still be determined. Where the neighbour notification period ends after 20 March, we will not be able to determine your application until such time as we can return to our work in person. All agents should be notified as appropriate. This applies to all new planning, listed building consent or conservation area consent applications.
On this basis, and in light of these challenging times, any applications now submitted will be worked on as much as resources and procedures allow. We are working with the Scottish Government to understand how we can do this as effectively as possible.
Certificates of lawfulness, advertisement consent, tree preservation orders and trees in conservation area applications do not require publication and can still be determined as usual.
We are still not currently able to process paper applications or accept application payments by phone. Applications must be made through the ePlanning service.
We will continue to review our position and keep you up to date as our service adapts.
Staff in the Planning and Building Standards service are currently working from the office and home as appropriate and will continue to progress applications, warrants and enforcement cases. However, working practices will need to be adapted due to the current COVID -19 situation.
There will be no attendance at events and only essential external and internal meetings are taking place. Site visits are under review, and the reliance on other businesses to publish adverts and deliver neighbour notifications could impact on the service. We are working to find solutions should this become an issue.
We also expect our capacity to be impacted due to staff shortages so please bear with us. The teams will be doing their best to keep applications and warrants moving under the circumstances. To assist in this, we have made the following changes:
The Pre-application service will continue to provide written responses, but in accordance with Government advice no face to face meetings will take place.
Further information is available here. We will keep these and other changes under review, and keep you up to date as our service adapts.
In terms of official Council committee business, the recess period will begin from Friday 20 March and will last until 27 April. All committees are suspended during this period. The Local Review Body meeting scheduled for 25 March will take place, but members of the public are encouraged not to attend to minimise the risk of spreading the virus. We are currently exploring alternative ways of working to maintain as much of the service as possible.
The response to the current situation is evolving rapidly and we will endeavour to update information as the situation changes, whilst ensuring the welfare of staff and trying to maintain business continuity for our customers. You can see how you can help the Council to protect the city’s most vulnerable citizens and how we are aiming to provide core services here.
UPDATE 19 March 2020 – In addition to the above, we have taken the decision to suspend our Pre-Application Service to allow us to concentrate our efforts on processing and determining current applications and enforcement cases. We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause, but with a depleted staff and a focus on ensuring front line services are maintained, this has been a necessity.
On 30 July, we submitted our latest Planning Performance Framework (PPF) to the Scottish Government. It includes an account of the work done by the Planning Service from April 2018 to March 2019 to improve performance and deliver a high quality planning service and case studies structured around four headings – Outcomes, Service and Engagement, Governance and Continuous Improvement. It also includes statistical information on our performance.
The PPF is used by the Scottish Government to assess the performance of all planning authorities against a standard set of performance markers. You can view the Planning Performance Framework 2018 -2019 on our website.
As part of ongoing customer improvements within Building Standards, we have begun a programme of one-to-one sessions with developers to discuss issues in detail. Newsletters are also being sent out every three months to provide updates and a Stakeholder Panel has been set up to feed ideas for ongoing improvements back into the service.
We are currently reviewing how we carry out Site Inspections. We will be talking with developers to get views and ideas on proposed changes.
The Planning and Building Standards Customer Forum is held every year and provides the opportunity for customers and Council officers to get together to discuss current issues.
This year’s forum will take place on Tuesday 10 September from 2pm – 4pm in the Main Council Chambers.
For those of you who haven’t attended before, this event takes the form of presentations and group discussions. We hope a wide range of customers will attend the forum to hear about the changes and improvements put in place in the past year, share views on the service we provide and discuss the ways in which we provide information to customers.
If you would like to come along to the forum, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your details as soon as possible and by 3 September at the latest. Please indicate in your response which customer type best describes you:
Community Council or Group
Building Standards Applicant/Agent
Other – please specify
We have space for up to 100 attendees and tea/coffee will be provided. We look forward to seeing you there.