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Coronavirus – Update on Planning Services to July 2020

Date: 09/07/2020 | COVID-19, Planning

As Phase 3 of the Scottish Government’s Route Map out of lockdown has been announced, we summarise here what has been done to date to keep the planning system moving. 

Extension to Expiry Dates

Full planning permissions and planning permissions in principle due to expire on any date before 7 October 2020 are automatically extended to 7 April 2021. Conservation Area Consents and Listed Building Consents, which are required in addition to planning permission for certain heritage developments, are now also extended. CACs and LBCs expiring before 6 October 2020 are now valid until 6 April 2021.

We note that extended CACs and LBCs expire one day before extended planning permissions. It is not clear why but it means that developments requiring a CAC or LBC must commence by 6 April 2021 in practice, even if the corresponding planning permission expires later.

Temporary Uses and Enforcement

Planning enforcement is discretionary and Councils can choose not to act if there is no public interest in enforcing against a breach. The Chief Planner has issued letters encouraging Councils to relax their approaches to enforcement in certain situations, including where pubs and restaurants temporarily offer takeaways and construction sites extend their working hours.

On 2 July 2020, he further clarified that where people relied on the “28 Day Rule” (a statutory exemption enabling most uses of outdoor space for up to 28 days per year without planning permission) but continued the temporary use for longer than 28 days, they should also be viewed sympathetically by Council enforcement officers. 

More formally, temporary planning permission for emergency healthcare and mortuary facilities has been put in place through secondary legislation.

Planning Procedures

Statutory requirements for public events have been suspended, allowing the use of online facilities for carrying out consultations, issuing notifications and conducting committee meetings. Councils have also increased delegation of decision-making to individual planning officers.

A host of different planning matters are now being dealt with electronically, including planning permission applications, registration of Section 75 Agreements against land titles and planning appeals with the DPEA. The Court system has also enabled certain aspects of planning challenges to proceed electronically.  

Before Covid-19 struck, the planning system was embarking on an important period of reform to law and policy. The Scottish Government has confirmed delays to the anticipated schedules for draft regulations under the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 and the next iteration of the National Planning Framework (NPF 4, which will set planning priorities across Scotland for the next 20-30 years). Both are not now expected in draft until Autumn 2021, with adoption slated for Summer 2022. Local plans at Council level are also likely to be delayed and consultations carried out online.

If you have any queries regarding current planning legislation please contact Jacqueline Cook, Head of Planning.

The matter in this publication is based on our current understanding of the law.  The information provides only an overview of the law in force at the date hereof and has been produced for general information purposes only. Professional advice should always be sought before taking any action in reliance of the information. Accordingly, Davidson Chalmers Stewart LLP does not take any responsibility for losses incurred by any person through acting or failing to act on the basis of anything contained in this publication.

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