Oct 222014
 

October 2014 Scottish Planning News

Welcome to the PPD October 2014 Scottish Planning News

This summer and autumn have been relatively quiet months for changes to the planning system, with several major events taking place which may have been a distraction!

Planning fees are increasing on 1st November.  See further details below.

We discuss the recent and impending imposition of controls over matters which previously were not concerns of the planning system.  High hedges, click HERE; payday lending and betting offices, click HERE; and hill tracks, click HERE.

For an update on development plan progress throughout Scotland, click HERE.

Other information is available on our website, click HERE.    For previous newsletters click HERE

Fee increase

Planning fees will be increase again, by about 5%, from 1 November 2014.

This is the third increase in planning fees since the start of the 2009 planning regime. Fees were increased by about ten per cent from 1 April 2010. Most recently fees were increased from 6 April 2013 by about 20 per cent. So from 1 November 2014 planning fees will have increased by over 35 per cent since March 2010.

Examples of the increases are:

  • House extensions, etc; go up from £192 to £202;
  • the “standard” fee to build one house, create 75 sq m of floorspace, 0.1ha of site area, change-of-use, etc; goes up from £382 to £401;
  • the maximum planning permission in principle fee goes up from £9550 to £10,028;
  • the maximum full application fee goes up from £19,100 to £20,055.

The Government justifies this fee increase as a reward to Councils for improved performance:

The average decision time for the 7,855 local developments decided in quarter 1, 2014/15 was 10.1 weeks, the quickest average decision time over the past nine quarters and more than 2 days quicker than the previous quarter (10.5 weeks).

There is a similar improvement of 2 days when compared to the equivalent quarter in 2013/14 (10.5 weeks) and when compared to the first quarter in 2012/13 (11.2 weeks) the improvement is over 1 week.

The average decision time for the 86 major developments decided in quarter 1, 2014/15 was 28.9 weeks, the quickest average decision time over the past nine quarters and more than 6 weeks quicker than the previous quarter (35.2 weeks).

There is an improvement of almost 4 weeks on the average decision time for the equivalent quarter in 2013/14 (32.8 weeks) and when compared to the first quarter in 2012/13 (38.5 weeks) the improvement is almost 10 weeks”

chart2                     chart4

(From Planning Performance Statistics, Quarter 1 2014/15, 1st October 2014; the Scottish Government) 

The downside of this is that the statutory determining times for “local” applications is 8 weeks, and for “major” is 16 weeks; so although an improvement, these averages are not even being reached for local applications – and are some way off being achieved for major applications : the very ones which are likely to be delivering jobs, investment and economic enhancement.

High hedges .. .. ..

Every so often issues arise which the great and good consider can best be dealt with by the poor, maligned planning system!

There has been a rush of these this year, starting with high hedges – particularly unusual because the planning system has never before controlled what people can grow – only what they can cut down.  The High Hedges (Scotland) Act came into force in April, which introduces a system by which action can be taken against high hedges which restrict daylight and amenity. Many councils have decided that its provisions will be administered by their planning department.

Basically a high hedge is over 2 metres high and formed by a row of two or more trees or shrubs.  It is only defined as a high hedge if someone complains about it and that claim is upheld by the council.  Complainants have to demonstrate to the council that they have tried to reach a solution with the hedge owner by alternative means, such as by mediation.  If that has failed they send a “High Hedges Notice” application to the Council with a fee – presently £450.   The council notifies the hedge owner that a complaint has been made, and then an officer from the council will go out to the property to assess the hedge, and its impact on the light levels in the complainant’s property.  If this determines that the hedge is “high”, the Council serves the notice which describes the actions required and contains a deadline.  If this is not met, the council can do the work itself and recharge the hedge owner.  The hedge does not have to be on an immediately adjoining property.

There are appeal rights to the Scottish Ministers for both parties.

For further information read  http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0044/00445025.pdf

. .. .. Pay Day Lending and Betting Offices  .. .. ..

…. .. and the Government also propose that the planning system can contribute to dealing with these problems!

A consultation paper has been issued proposing that:

Betting shops be removed from Class 2 of the Use Classes Order, and be added to the list of “sui generis” uses which are not in any class.  However the current Class 2 freedoms from planning control to change from use as a betting office to other uses would remain.

Pay Day Lending is more difficult: it is harder to define, but presently comes under the general description of “financial services” as Class 2.  The consultation suggest two options: one is making exclusions to the definition of financial services in Class 2 – making them sui generis,  such as “Money Service Business”, “Pawn broking”, “Premises for buying goods from visiting members of the public”, “Financial lending other than by deposit takers”, and “Deposit takers”.  Option 2 would be the reverse – being more specific about what financial services are within Class 2 and therefore free from planning control : the suggestions are “Accountancy services”, “Insurance Services”, “Deposit takers” – such as a bank, a building society, a credit union or a friendly society.

Not only does this seem complex and open to interpretation, but could add to endless arguments where pay-day lending takes place within other premises such as a shop. The planning officer dealing with an application will need guidance on what is an acceptable number of such facilities in an area, so there will need to be another new raft of planning policies on this subject.

The Government consultation is open until 14th November and can be accessed at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2014/08/6425/downloads#res458193

Readers unfamiliar with the term and purpose of the “Use Classes Order” should click on this link HERE

.. .. .. .. and hill tracks.

“Prior notification” is a process that already exists in planning legislation and would be achieved by amendments to the General Permitted Development Order.  The requirement for “prior notification” would apply throughout Scotland for any private way, but the emphasis will be on controlling tracks in areas where it is considered that additional protection of amenity, landscape or environment is required, while not imposing any significant additional burden on businesses in other areas.The Minister for Local Government and Planning has announced that “prior notification” will be required to planning authorities before “private ways” for agricultural or forestry uses are constructed (usually known as hill tracks). The planning authority can then consider whether or not prior approval is required for the siting, design or materials used for the track.

Local Development Plan progress at a glance

The following chart gives a snap-shot of development plan progress throughout Scotland.
Devplan progress October 14

Key dates are :

Angus:  the Proposed Plan was due this month, but suggestions are that it has been delayed into the new year.   If you have development interests in Angus, keep an eye on the website or call us.
East Lothian: expects to publish its Main Issues Report this month, with consultation starting in November.
Fife: consultation on Proposed Plan starting this month.  The plan can be viewed on the Council’s website.
North Lanarkshire:  Main Issues Report expected in new year.
East Ayrshire: proposed plan expected early in the new year.

PPD Planning advice throughout Scotland

Feb 082012
 

 

One of the major changes to the Scottish planning system was creation of the “planning hierarchy” :  national, major and local developments.  Planning applications for developments which fall in to each category are dealt with in different ways.  This comment concerns the “local” category.

What is a “local” development ?   Some examples are :

  • Housing :  less than 50 houses;  and the site is less than 2 hectares in size.
  • Business / industry / storage :  buildings less than 10,000 square metres in size; and the site is less than 2 hectares in size.
  • Other developments :   buildings less than 5,000 square metres in size;  and the site is less than 2 hectares in size.

Both requirements must be met in each case to be in the “local” development category.

So what is different about a “local” development?

  • The planning authority are supposed to deal with the application in two months (unlike Major or National applications which are four months).
  • The decision may be taken by the council officers (called a “delegated” decision), rather than by the councillors on the planning committee.
  • If the application is “delegated” (dealt with by the officers), you cannot appeal against its refusal, or against conditions that you don’t like, to the Scottish Ministers.  You can only request that the Council’s  “Local Review Body” reviews the decision.
  • If the local application is not “delegated”, it will be referred by the officers to the planning committee for its decision, and usual appeal rights to the Scottish Ministers will still be available.

How do I know if my application will be delegated?

This is one of the most confusing parts of the new planning system.  Each council is given the right to decide this itself, in a document called its “Scheme of Delegation”.   All councils therefore have different schemes of delegation and you need to check this document – or phone your planning consultant!  Ever helpful, many councils did not bother to make their Schemes of Delegation available on the web, but the Scottish Government resolved this by publishing a link to them all, at

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/planning/National-Planning-Policy/themes/dev-man/SchemeofDelegation

Have a look at some of the Schemes by using this link, but don’t expect an easy read. Many are big documents in which the details of the scheme are hard to find, and others are worded in a legalistic manner.

Typical reasons for a planning application to be “delegated”, as found in council Schemes of Delegation are :

  • The number of houses in the development is below a certain number :  for example  25, 20 or 10,
  • Buildings are below certain size limits,
  • The site is below a certain size,
  • The development would not require a “bad neighbour” newspaper advert,
  • No statutory or council-department consultee objects (for example  SNH or a  Roads Department),
  • The development accords with the development plan,
  • The application does not concern council land, and is not submitted by a councillor or official, or their relative.
  • There are no, or very few objections to the development (some examples are 6, 8 or 10 letters).

Some introduce uncertainty :

  • Some councils do not allow delegation when a senior officer considers that the application raises an issue which requires to be dealt with by the committee,
  • A councillor sees the application on the “weekly list” and calls for it to be submitted to the committee for decision,

And others are designed to achieve a political aim :

  • It can be delegated when the officer is going to refuse the application, regardless of the number of objections.

(This last one is used by Dundee City Council to ensure that all applicants who have received “local” refusals can only appeal to the Council’s Local Review Body, and not to the Scottish Ministers).   This list is not exhaustive, nor do all councils have each of these reasons in their Scheme of Delegation.

 

So I ask again : how do I know for sure that my application is going to be delegated, or not delegated?

You can’t be sure!  Most Schemes of Delegation include thresholds for the number of objections : if the number received exceeds the threshold, then the application is usually required to go to committee (Dundee example mentioned above excluded!).   As you can’t know in advance how many people are going to send in objections, you can’t be sure whether the application will be delegated.  Also, you can’t always anticipate objections from consultees.   As indicated above, some schemes allow discretion of councillors and officials, which usually you can’t anticipate in advance.

I don’t want my application to be delegated because it may be refused, and I want to be able to appeal to a body independent of the council to be sure of a fair hearing.

The only way to influence whether an application is not going to be delegated is to understand the council’s Scheme of Delegation.  For example, you could try and make sure that it exceeds thresholds such as the number of houses, or you could try and persuade enough neighbours to make “soft” objections to exceed that threshold.  In Dundee this wouldn’t work as explained above.  In some councils, you could try to persuade your local councillor to request that the application be referred to the planning committee for decision – check if the Scheme of Delegation allows this.  Remember :  even if your application starts out in the “delegated” category, all applications which go to the planning committee are not delegated and you retain appeal rights to the Scottish Ministers.

So I get a “delegated” refusal – what can I do about it?

Read my separate comment on “Local Review Bodies”.

 

February 2012