Covid-19 Impact on Planning Services in Scotland
A brief guide to planning services in Scotland during the Coronavirus outbreak is set out below.
It is subject to general UK and Scottish Government guidance about infection control measures such as self-isolation and social distancing. The below is correct at noon on 24 March 2020 but the situation is evolving very quickly and at short notice. Please check with the relevant body to ensure you have the latest position.
Planning Authorities – Planning Applications and Decisions
Approaches will vary from Council to Council. We have reviewed the current positions of the six busiest Councils in Scotland in terms of planning application numbers and summarise them below.
- The City of Edinburgh Council has stopped accepting hard copy planning applications, submissions in person and payments in person or by telephone. Electronic submissions and payments are still being accepted and processed. Staffing shortages have meant the closure of the Planning and Building Control Help-desk. Council recess started early, on 20 March (instead of 30 March) and will run to 27 April 2020. Planning Committees and the Local Review Body will not meet during this period.
- Glasgow City Council is still processing planning applications and enquiries but some of its services are affected and “are not running to full capacity” so delays are expected. Planning Committee meetings are suspended until further notice.
- Aberdeenshire Council is continuing to accept and process planning applications to the extent possible without face-to-face contact. It advises applicants and interested parties to contact its Planning Department for specific information relating to carrying out public consultations, including responding to the emerging Local Development Plan.
- The Highland Council is focusing on priority and statutory services and delays to planning processes are expected. Committee meetings have been cancelled until the end of March but no information about future dates is available.
- South Lanarkshire Council has cancelled all committee and forum meetings with immediate effect until the end of its Easter recess on 20 April 2020. No planning-specific updates appear on its website.
- Fife Council does not have any updates on its planning service specifically but it has cancelled Committee meetings until the end of April.
Section 75 Planning Agreements
Given staffing shortages and potential issues in establishing remote working, delays should be expected to negotiations on S75 and other statutory agreements. Where planning permissions are contingent on finalising an agreement by a specified deadline, it is useful to check with the relevant Council its policy on extending that deadline in the present circumstances. Further, the status of Registers of Scotland should also be checked where S75 agreements must be registered in order for a planning permission to be released.
Councils have powers to enforce planning breaches but are not obliged to use them. The Scottish Government’s Chief Planner issued a letter on 11 March 2020 requesting that Councils avoid rigidity in enforcing planning conditions which limit the time and duration of deliveries, retail operations and other activities involved in the distribution of food and supplies during the Coronavirus outbreak. This relaxation is also likely to apply to other types of planning condition and activities also in practice, although this is not specifically addressed in the letter.
Consultations and Events
Consultation documents which would ordinarily be supplied for the public to view in person are not likely to be available due to venue closures. Statutory registers appear to be being kept up to date so information continues to remain online. There are a number of planning-related consultations in progress at the moment. In Edinburgh, this includes the Choices for City Plan 2030 consultation, face-to-face events relating to which have been cancelled. Representations on the Choices for City Plan can still be made online until 31 March 2020. The NPF 4 Call for Ideas deadline has been extended until 30 April 2020. For other consultations, please check with the relevant local authority or the Scottish Government website for latest news.
Planning Appeals – Department for Planning and Environmental Appeals
There is no relevant update on the DPEA website but anecdotal evidence suggests normal operations for the week commencing 23 March 2020. The DPEA’s approach beyond this week remains to be confirmed but may follow that of the Scottish Courts (see below).
Court of Session (Statutory Planning Challenges and Judicial Reviews)
The Court of Session and High Court will now deal with essential business and convene to continue/adjourn business as required. Please refer to our Dispute Resolution team’s page for further guidance.
Please contact Jacqueline Cook, Head of Planning, if you wish to discuss.