On the 8th November, Presidents and Chairs of town planning associations across the world marked the 70th anniversary of World Town Planning Day by calling on planners to continue to champion the causes of equity, diversity and inclusivity in their work. As our own Royal Town Planning Institute put it in a statement issued on the day:
“At its heart, planning is about equity: it serves to balance the competing demands and needs of all people and the built and natural environment…”
The statement then goes on to highlight that, in seeking equity, it is essential to recognise diversity and to be inclusive.
Of course, there is a question as to the extent to which this is always achieved in practice, but these are values that we certainly aim to reflect in our own work and as an organisation.
Meantime, on what has been happening in planning in practice this month, read on below…
Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 – also on World Town Planning Day, the first provisions of the new Planning Act came into force under the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 (Commencement No. 1) Regulations 2019. In particular, these introduce the purpose of planning, that being “to manage the development and use of land in the long term public interest” and, whilst this purpose doesn’t make explicit reference to the concepts of equity, diversity and inclusivity, there is an implicit connection between acting in the long-term public interest and delivering these outcomes.
At the same time, the Regulations bring into force changes as to how the next National Planning Framework is to be prepared, and give the Scottish Ministers powers to make additional regulations relating to development planning and local place plans. Further commencement regulations have also been laid in Parliament and are due to come into force over the coming months, full details of which are available here.
Fracking – in last month’s Spotlights, we looked at the Scottish Government’s announcement that its position not to support unconventional oil or gas development will continue indefinitely. Since then, shale gas exploration firm Cuadrilla has said it will provide the Oil and Gas Authority with data proving fracking is safe, such that the moratorium can be lifted. It does though remain to be seen what that data will be and how convincing it proves to be. Meantime, the moratorium remains firmly in place.
On planning applications
Edinburgh Christmas Market – as the festive season gets underway (sorry, we know it’s only November!), there have been a string of news articles this month about the fact that the Edinburgh Christmas Market was erected - and is now operating - without planning permission, and that this was also the case last year. It is, however, reported that Council officers have not taken enforcement action due to the public benefit of the event (not fear of being labelled Scrouges). Likewise, in light of the scrutiny over the Edinburgh Christmas Market, it has emerged that planning permission has never been sought for the Aberdeen Christmas Village and similar events stretching back to 2015, with no enforcement action having been taken here either. Whilst the lack of enforcement action is good news for stallholders, and the large numbers of visitors that both markets are expected to attract, it has caused some residents and councillors to voice concerns about due process, and the importance of the planning system in ensuring that developments such as these are appropriate to their location. At the same time, it highlights the importance of being aware of the full scope of the planning system, in particular when it comes to temporary uses and structures – for more on which, look out for our festive themed blog next month!
Space Hub Sutherland – as noted in our most recent blog, this month we attended the second formal pre-application consultation event for the Space Hub Sutherland project – the UK’s first vertical launch facility proposed for the Moine peninsula. It was great to see a large turnout from the local community, and to receive valuable feedback on the proposals for the site. Whilst there is a lot of support for the proposed development, particularly in terms of the economic benefits it will bring to a fragile rural area, there are inevitably also concerns being expressed about the potential environmental impacts. We are now looking forward to submitting a planning application for the project, which will of course be accompanied by a comprehensive environmental impact assessment.
Hill of Rubislaw – this month also saw us taking part in the pre-application consultation event for the proposed development of around 250 private rented flats at Rubislaw Quarry in Aberdeen. As noted in last month’s Spotlights, this scheme reflects comments made by the public, councillors and the Scottish Government Reporter on previous proposals earlier this year. As well as the flats, the scheme includes a resident’s gym, function room, public bistro and a promenade, providing free public access to the quarry.
On other matters
Culloden – since our blog in October last year on lessons we might learn from Culloden to help ease the pain in planning “battles”, we have had a particular interest in the fortunes of the battlefield site. This month the National Trust for Scotland has said it is researching how to secure a UNESCO World Heritage designation in order to protect the site, and to make it harder to build new properties at locations visible from the battlefield. This of course presents a classic example of needing to balance the competing demand for new houses with the protection of the historic environment, and making sure that the response to that is an appropriate and proportionate one. We will need to wait and see what happens next in this ongoing battle over the Culloden site…
Branching out from planning slightly, a highlight for us this month was the Aberdeen Society of Architect’s Portrait of a Place exhibition, at which it was great to see the Society’s members’ interpretations of places in Aberdeen City and Shire that are significant to them. We also made our own contribution to the exhibition, with a collage of images that have featured in our Spotlights bulletins over the last 18 months, these representing the changing view from our office window through the seasons, which gives us great joy (see some seasonal excerpts in the banner above and full collection of images below).
Returning to planning matters, to find out how we can help with any aspect of the planning process, please visit our website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if you would like to see our other blogs or sign up for email updates, please click here.
Thanks for reading!