The Planning (Scotland) Bill 2017

The Planning (Scotland) Bill introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 4 December 2017 sets out the Scottish Government’s proposals for changes to the overall framework under which planning operates.  The Bill seeks to re-focus the planning system on enhancing community engagement and reducing and simplifying procedures and processes.  Key proposals include:

  • Abolition of strategic development plans, with the national planning framework forming part of the development plan;
  • Abolition of statutory supplementary planning guidance;
  • Local development plans to be in place for a period of 10 years rather than 5 years, with the right to amend them during that time;
  • Scottish Planning Policy to be incorporated into the national planning framework, to be reviewed every 10 years; and
  • Creation of Local Place Plans produced by a community body.

The Scottish Government proposes that Strategic Development Plans should be replaced by more proactive regional working partnerships.  However, there is little detail or clarity on how these regional working partnerships would operate and how tensions at the regional/strategic planning level would be resolved within the proposed enhanced National Planning Framework.

The Bill proposes changes to local development plans, suggesting that the plan period should be extended to ten years instead of the present five years; that the process for preparing local development plans should be shortened by the removal of the need for a Main Issues Report (to be replaced by a draft plan); and that supplementary planning guidance should be dispensed with.  The object of these and other changes is to provide stronger local development plans that deliver development.

Local Place Plans (LPPs) are one of the Scottish Government’s key proposals aimed at improving public engagement and involvement in the planning system.  The Government hopes that LPPs will provide an avenue for communities to feed into the development plan system.  However, there are concerns as to how LPPs interact with the local development plan and clear guidance will be needed on the form and content of LPPs, and how LPPs should be developed and submitted to the planning authority.  Interesting times ahead!

To improve the development management process, the Bill proposes changes to the pre-application process for major and local developments and changes to the scheme of delegation which are likely to extend the scope of appeals that would be made to the local review body rather than to Scottish Ministers.  Some may welcome these changes, others may be concerned at the prospect of more decisions on major developments being taken locally.

To improve the performance of planning authorities, the Bill proposes that councillors involved in planning decisions will be required to undertake training on planning matters and councillors that have not completed such training would be barred from undertaking such duties.  It may be that councillors already undertake some form of informal training but it would be difficult to argue against the need for proper training for those who are charged with the responsibility of discharging planning decisions.  In the Scottish Borders, the full council is responsible for the approval of the local development plan so it could, perhaps, be argued that the whole council should undertake such training, not just the members of the planning committee and the local review body.  Watch this space.

The Bill does not include any reference to third party appeals.  There has been a long-running campaign for the introduction of a limited third party right of appeal where those who have objected to a proposal that has been granted planning permission can request a review of the decision.  Scottish Ministers are opposed to the creation of a third party right of appeal.  The Scottish Government’s view is that:

“It is far more appropriate and more constructive to have stronger early engagement, involving people in the shaping of their areas, as provided for through the changes to development planning, the introduction of LPPs and more effective pre-application consultation. A third party right of appeal would increase delay and uncertainty through to the end of the planning process, running counter to the whole thrust of the Bill and wider review of planning in streamlining and front-loading the system”

The Bill is presently passing through Parliament.  The Bill completed Stage 1 on 29 May 2018 and consideration of the Bill at Stage 2 is scheduled to commence on 12 September 2018.  It will be next year (2019) before we have a better idea of what the Planning (Scotland) Act might look like.

 

 

Proposed Strategic Development Plan 2017 (SESplan)

The development plan currently consists of the Scottish Borders Local Development Plan (LDP), adopted in May 2016 and the Strategic Development Plan produced by SESplan, a partnership of six local authorities in the south east of Scotland; Edinburgh, East Lothian, Midlothian, Fife, Scottish Borders and West Lothian, which was approved by Scottish Ministers in June 2013.  SESplan’s second Proposed Strategic Development Plan was submitted to Scottish Ministers in June 2017.

 The Proposed Strategic Development Plan sets out an ambitious vision to guide the growth of the South East Scotland region over the next twenty years.  For the next 12 years (2018-2030), SESplan proposes that most growth will be largely met by land already identified in existing and proposed local development plans.  In the Scottish Borders, existing towns provide the focus for retail, commercial and strategic employment opportunities.  The potential future expansion of the Borders Rail line to Hawick and beyond could provide further opportunities for growth and regeneration in the Central Borders and Hawick.  On the East Coast Main Line, a new station at Reston would provide settlements in Berwickshire with easier access to employment and education opportunities in Edinburgh and stimulate tourism in the area.  Dualling of the A1 and improvements of the A68 and A7 would improve journey times to and from England.  SESPlan proposes a Green Network Priority Area connecting settlements in the Central Borders with Innerleithen and Peebles utilising former railway lines, offering considerable potential for walking and cycling between town centres and tourism attractions such as Abbotsford, Dryburgh Abbey, Traquair House and Glentress Mountain Biking Centre.

In relation to housing supply, the Proposed Strategic Development Plan indicates that there is sufficient housing land supply to meet housing land requirement for the 2018-2030 period in the Scottish Borders based on the land supply set out in the Local Development Plan.  However, a step change in the level of house building is needed if housing supply targets are to be achieved and this may warrant the permitting of proposals for additional housing on sites not identified in the local development plan, subject to it being consistent with the spatial strategy of the development plan and a number of other criteria.  Additional housing land allocations are likely to be required to meet the housing land requirement for the period 2030-2038.  These will need to be made in new Local Development Plans.

The Examination of the Proposed Strategic Development Plan, which commenced in August 2017, has been completed by Reporters appointed by Scottish Ministers and their report was submitted to Scottish Ministers on 20 July 2018.  The Reporters considered twenty-five unresolved issues and have recommended a number of modifications to the Plan.

In relation to the spatial strategy, the Reporters have recommended that the location of any additional sites to those identified in local development plans, that require to be identified for development in the period 2018-2030, should be in and around Edinburgh and along transport corridors.  In relation to Key Areas of Change in the Scottish Borders, the Reporters have recommended that the Strategic Development Plan should give more emphasis to the fact that major flood schemes in Selkirk, Hawick and Galashiels will provide opportunities for growth and regeneration in the Central Borders.

In relation to housing targets, the Reporters have increased the housing supply target for the Scottish Borders for the period 2018-2030 from 4,176 homes to 5,202 homes and the housing land requirement from 4,594 to 5,760 homes.  In relation to the five year effective housing land supply, where a shortfall is identified, sites for greenfield housing development not allocated in local development plans may be granted planning permission subject the development being consistent with the spatial strategy of the development plan and a number of other criteria.

It is now for Scottish Ministers to consider the report and decide whether or not to approve the plan, with or without modifications.

It should be born in mind, however, that future changes in planning legislation may make Strategic Development Plans redundant.  The Planning (Scotland) Bill introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 4 December 2017 sets out the Scottish Government’s proposals for changes to the overall framework under which planning operates.  The Scottish Government proposes that Strategic Development Plans should be removed from the system to be replaced by more proactive regional working partnerships.  So, the Proposed Strategic Development Plan is likely to be the last.  For more information about the Government’s proposals for the planning system, see the ‘Planning (Scotland) Bill 2017’ post.

 

Development Management: July 2018 Update

During July 2018, the Scottish Borders Council received 126 applications for planning permission and other consents, including listed building and conservation area consents and applications for works to protected trees.  Two Proposal of Application Notices for major developments in the region were submitted in July:

A Proposal of Application Notice has been submitted for residential development on land south of Craignethan, Newtown St. Boswells (the site at the junction of Eildon Road and Sprouston Road) (SBC Ref: 18/00886/PAN).  The site is identified for residential development in the adopted local development plan with an indicative capacity of 68 houses.  A public consultation event is planned for the 4 September 2018 in the Newtown Community Wing, to be held between 11.00am and 6.30pm.  Details should appear in the Southern Reporter on 23 August 2018.

A Proposal of Application Notice has been submitted for a development by Berwickshire Housing Association of 49 mixed tenure dwellinghouses on land off Summerhill Park, Beanburn, Ayton (SBC Ref: 18/00968/PAN).  A previous public consultation event on a proposed development on this site took place in June 2017.  A further public consultation event, including an exhibition of the design proposals, is planned for the week commencing 17 September 2018 in Ayton Primary School.  The PAN provides no details of the specific date or time for the public consultation event but details should be provided within a press advertisement in the Berwickshire News at least seven days before the planned public event.

A public exhibition on the proposed development of holiday lodges, hotel and golf driving range at the Roxburghe Golf Course, submitted on 20 June (SBC Ref: 18/00799/PAN), is to be held at Heiton Village Hall on 7 August 2018 from 4.00pm to 7.30pm.

Check out the council’s Public Access Portal if you want to find out more about the above applications or any other application submitted in the past month.

During July 2018, the council decided 113 applications, only two of which were refused by the Chief Planning Officer, under delegated powers.  An application for the renewal of planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse on land near Linthill Cottages, Linthill, Melrose (SBC Ref: 18/00644/PPP) was refused on 23 July.  Although planning permission had previously been granted in July 2015 for a dwellinghouse on the site, this had expired.  Planning policy on housing in the countryside has changed since 2015 as a result of the adoption of the Scottish Borders Council Local Development Plan 2016 (LDP).  The policy on replacement dwellings in the countryside has been significantly revised and the Chief Planning Officer considered that the proposal is now contrary to the strict requirements of policy HD2 of the LDP.  It will be interesting to see if this decision is challenged through the Local Review Body and, if so, whether the LRB takes the same view on the non-conformity of the proposal with the LDP.

An application for the change of use of part of Unit 8 at Tweedside Park, Tweedbank (the former Plexus Facility) to form a gymnasium, children’s soft play area and associated café (SBC Ref: 18/00635/FUL) was refused planning permission on 26 July on the grounds that the proposed uses are not appropriate to a building located within a strategic business park safeguarded for uses falling within Business Classes 4-6.  It will be interesting to see if this decision is also challenged by referral to the Local Review Body.

At its meeting on 16 July, the Council’s Local Review Body (LRB) decided to reverse the Chief Planning Officer’s decision to refuse planning permission for the change of use and alteration of agricultural buildings to form eleven dwellinghouses at Hutton Castle Barns, Hutton in Berwickshire and granted planning permission subject to 12 conditions, informatives and a legal agreement in respect of the payment of a financial contribution towards education facilities and affordable housing in the locality (SBC Ref: 18/00013/RREF & 16/01371/FUL).  The LRB upheld the Chief Planning Officer’s decisions to refuse planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse on land south west of 1 Hill Terrace, Stow (SBC Ref: 18/00014/RREF & 17/01734/PPP) and for the erection of a dwellinghouse on land north west of Doonbye, Smith’s Road, Darnick (SBC Ref: 18/00015/RREF & 18/00287/FUL).

At its meeting on 16 July, the Planning and Building Standards Committee considered a report by the Chief Planning Officer on the relaxation of the town centre Core Activity Area Policy (Policy ED4 of the LDP), as it applies particularly to Galashiels and Hawick.  The committee agreed to certain changes in the practice of implementing this policy.  For more information on the implications of these changes, see the post on ‘Town Centre Policy: Amendments to practice for processing planning applications, July 2018’.

On the subject of wider planning issues, the Examination of the Proposed South East Scotland Strategic Development Plan, submitted to Scottish Ministers in June 2017, has been completed by Reporters appointed by Scottish Ministers and their report was submitted to Scottish Ministers on 20 July 2018.  The Reporters appointed to undertake the examination considered twenty-five unresolved issues and it is now for Scottish Ministers to consider the report and decide whether or not to approve the plan, with or without modifications.  For more information on the implications for the Scottish Borders, see my post on ‘Proposed Strategic Development Plan 2017’.

During July, the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) received an appeal against the imposition of two conditions to a planning permission, granted by the council on 26 March 2018, for the erection of two wind turbines on land at No. 6 Lamberton Holdings in Berwickshire.  The conditions relate to the requirement to remove the turbines within 25 years.

Five appeals remain to be determined against the refusal of planning permission: (1) for the construction of a wind farm comprising 12 turbines at Pines Burn, south west of Hobkirk (SBC Ref: 17/00010/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2069); (2) for the erection of 7 wind turbines on land north-west of Gilston Farm, near Heriot (SBC Ref: 17/00226/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2068); (3) for the erection of a poultry building at Hutton Hall Barns, Hutton in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2065); (4) for the erection of a poultry building at Easter Happrew in the Manor Valley, west of Peebles (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2062); and (5) a residential development of 38 dwellings at Marchmont Road, Greenlaw in Berwickshire (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2059).

Scottish Ministers have called-in for determination the application by Eildon Housing Association for residential development at Huddersfield Street, Galashiels in view of the proposed development’s possible significant level of flood risk (SBC Ref: 17/00695/FUL) (DPEA Ref: NA-SBD-054).  A hearing session has been arranged, to be held on Wednesday 15 August at 10.00am in the Waverley Suite at the Transport Interchange, Galashiels.

The public inquiry to be held in relation to the refusal of planning permission for the erection of 7 wind turbines on land north-west of Gilston Farm, near Heriot (SBC Ref: 17/00226/FUL) (DPEA Ref: PPA-140-2068), which was to commence at 10.00am on 24 July 2018 in the Novotel Hotel, Edinburgh Park (near the Gyle), has been cancelled as un-necessary following agreement on the suspensive conditions required in relation to Edinburgh Airport radar.

Three wind farm applications submitted to the Scottish Government under Section 36 of the 1989 Act, to which the Scottish Borders Council has objected, remain outstanding: (1) the application for a 12 turbine extension to the existing Fallago Rig wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills; (2) the application to extend the operational life of the existing Fallago Rig wind farm to coincide with that of the extension (if approved) (DPEA case references WIN-140-5 & WIN-140-6); and (3) an application for the erection of 15 wind turbines on land at Birneyknowe, near Bonchester Bridge, south-east of Hawick (DPEA case reference WIN-140-7).  The Reporter’s reports in relation to the two Fallago Rig applications have been submitted to Scottish Ministers and their decision is awaited.  In relation to the Birneyknowe application, the Reporter hopes to be in a position to submit the report to Scottish Ministers in August.

 

Position Statement on Development Plan

Scottish Borders Council’s development plan sets out the council’s vision for development and transportation within the Scottish Borders.  The development plan currently consists of the Scottish Borders Local Development Plan (LDP), adopted in May 2016, commonly referred to as the Local Plan, and the Strategic Development Plan produced by SESplan, a partnership of the six local authorities in the south east of Scotland; Edinburgh, East Lothian, Midlothian, Fife, Scottish Borders and West Lothian, which was approved by Scottish Ministers in June 2013.

The Scottish Government Reporters who examined the Local Development Plan in 2015 proposed modifications that require an additional 916 housing units to be identified through supplementary guidance (SG).  As a result, the council published a Draft Housing SG for consultation in December 2016. The period for consultation has now closed and its officers are working through responses.

Scottish Borders Council (SBC) is currently preparing a new Local Development Plan to replace the current LDP to guide future development within the Scottish Borders for the period 2021-2026.  SBC is at the very early stages of this process and is gathering evidence to produce the first document called the ‘Main Issues Report’ (MIR), which will focus on the key areas of change from the current LDP and will present a range of options for change.  A Call for Sites as part of the preparation of the MIR invites land owners, developers and agents to submit proposed development sites for consideration.  The period for submitting site proposals expired on 7 August 2017.  Once prepared, the MIR will be the subject of wide consultation before the council reaches a view on the way forward and prepares its Proposed Local Development Plan 2.

SESplan’s second Proposed Strategic Development Plan was submitted to Scottish Ministers in June 2017.  Outstanding issues raised through representations during consultation in October and November 2016 will be the subject of examination by a Reporter appointed by Scottish Ministers some time later this year.

Keep checking this website for updates on the council’s progress on the Draft Housing SG and the new Local Development Plan and on the progress of the second Proposed Strategic Development Plan.  Interesting times ahead!