A Christmas note

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.

Planning Officer fulfilling duties for the Service

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.

Post Covid-19 Planning Office

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.

Quarter Mile development, Edinburgh.

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.

A new way of working

In case you missed them, some further updates:

A new way to pay, place briefs, guidance updates, character appraisals, service improvements

Planning Time Performance Review

Following on from our ‘Looking Back Over Lockdown Blog’, we have been continuing to implement changes within the service to improve our performance.

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.

Householder Average Decision Times
Local Average Decision Time
Major Developments Average Decision Times

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.

Development in Bonnington

Historically, Bonnington was a milling village that grew around the Water of Leith. The area has since been home to business and light industry, including the John Lewis depot, the former Crawfords Biscuits warehouse and the original Chancelot Mill (before it moved to Leith Western Harbour in the 1970’s).

Bonnington MillIn more recent years, as industry has declined, the area has had great potential to provide new homes for the city.

We created a long-term development brief for the area in 2008 to ensure that:

  • housing development did not prejudice existing businesses;
  • modern, flexible business space was still provided in the area; and
  • better connections were made between Bonnington and wider pedestrian routes, cycle networks and green spaces.

Our development brief covers the area highlighted in purple below. It’s been almost ten years since its publication – so, what has happened in that time?

fig 4b

Well, there’s been a wealth of redevelopment, and the area is almost unrecognisable when compared with the 1929 aerial shot. Development in Bonnington has been residential-led and there’s potentially a lot more to come.

We recently had a walk around Bonnington to visit completed development, sites under construction and sites currently being assessed for planning permission. These included:

  • Flaxmill Place

flaxmill-pl-comercial1.jpgLocated just off Newhaven Road, this development for 130 residential homes was granted planning permission in November 2012. The development was finished in 2016, on the site of the former Johnston Print Works. Although space for light industry has not been formally reinstated, business space has been provided. One unit is currently occupied.

 

  • Bonnington Village

Works to construct Bonnington Village are underway, just off Bonnington Road Lane. The development was granted planning permission in 2016 and works began in May 2017. The development will provide 214 homes, as well as two commercial units that will lie adjacent to the existing flats at Tinto Place. An improved north to south pedestrian link will also be delivered through the development.

  • West Bowling Green Street

The building works for 98 residential properties on West Bowling Green Street began in July 2017. As you can see in the plans below, both commercial and retail space is to be provided on the ground floor units fronting Anderson Place. The development will also deliver the foot way and cycle way we initially proposed in our development brief. You can see this route in Figure 4b above.

WBGS

As we move towards our next Local Development Plan, LDP 2, we will be reflecting on how well our policies for housing and employment space have been working. New employment space is being provided in Bonnington, however, it is not as flexible as the older industrial and storage buildings it is replacing. We still think there’s a need to provide industrial space in this part of the city.

The LDP 2 process is likely to include reassessing our approach to such areas, to ensure that a variety of employment sites are available across all parts of the city.

We will be looking for your input soon as we prepare to plan for the future of Bonnington and the wider city. In the meantime, you can view and comment on the range of planning applications we receive for the city on our planning portal.