Updates: COVID-19 & Planning

There are a number of planning updates relating to COVID-19 that we’d like to highlight to our affiliated groups and others involved in their local built environment. All of these measures are temporary and will be reviewed once the pandemic has passed. This page will be updated regularly.

2 July Update

COVID-19 – use of outdoor spaces and the ’28-day rule’

The Chief Planner and the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning have written today in relation to planning’s interests in the temporary use of outdoor spaces by pubs, cafés and restaurants, including reference to existing time-limited permitted development rights and adopting an approach to relaxing planning control at this time. See the letter here.

Safer Public Spaces for Scotland: Urban Centres and Green Spaces

Safer Public Spaces Guidance for Scotland focuses on the design principles for safer urban centres and green spaces and connects to Scotland’s route map through and out of the coronavirus crisis. It contains information and examples of interventions that may be undertaken to keep people safe as restrictions relax. The guidance is primarily intended for owners and operators of public places such as local authorities; town/city centre managers; landowners; commercial landlords responsible for public places; and management companies.

What kind of Scotland do we want to see post-lockdown?

In the first of a series of blogs recognising the impacts of COVID-19, the lockdown and continuing need for physical distancing across Scottish communities, and also the prominent role planning will play in renewal and recovery, the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning, Kevin Stewart, offers some thoughts about recent events and what the future might bring for our places and people. You can see the Minister’s blog here.

COVID-19 – relaxation of enforcement activity

The Chief Planner and the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning wrote on 11 and 19 March regarding the relaxation of planning enforcement in relation to (i) retail distribution and store opening times, and (ii) public houses and restaurants offering takeaway services. In both letters, we committed to review the need for those measures after 3 months. We have now done so and they remain in place for now. Scottish Government will continue to monitor this, taking account of progress on Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis, and will carry out a further review in September 2020 if the letters have not been withdrawn or replaced before then.



5 June Update

Chief Planner Letter May 2020

Brief summary and update of recent actions:

  • The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020: (i) extended the duration of planning permissions about to expire by up to 12 months, (ii) enabled publication of planning documents online rather than at physical locations, and (iii) allowed committee meetings to happen without public attendance. The Coronavirus (Scotland) (No. 2) Act 2020 has now extended the duration of listed building and conservation area consents about to expire.
  • The Town and Country Planning (Miscellaneous Temporary Modifications) (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 suspended the need for (i) public events in pre-application consultation, (ii) local review bodies meeting in public and (iii) hard copies of EIA reports in physical places. We have supported the changing arrangements for public events with guidance on online alternatives.
  • Interim guidance on Consultation and Engagement on Development Planssupports and encourages work to continue to progress in the development planning process where possible, enhancing use of digital engagement techniques alongside opportunities for one-to-one engagement within physical distancing requirements.
  • The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2020 temporarily grants planning permission for any necessary emergency healthcare/mortuary facilities to deal with the current crisis, and so give certainty about their planning status.
  •  In addition to the recent legislation, these frequently asked questionsprovide our up-to-date advice on handling arrangements for a range of planning processes which have been impacted by recent events, including: neighbour notification; site notices; committee meetings; and delegation of decision-making.
  • Beyond the matters included in the recent legislative changes and recent advice, we now want to update and highlight a few further specific points about the continued functioning of our planning system. These are set out below.

Site visits for a planning purpose

We are aware that some different approaches are being taken towards site visits across Scotland. There is no statutory requirement for planning authorities to physically attend potential development sites, but doing so can help to understand the site, location and context of any proposed development. Where site visits have ceased recently, in some cases this has been preventing live planning applications from progressing to a decision.

In many cases it will be possible to consider a proposed development without the need for physical attendance on site, by drawing on existing knowledge of an area and supporting that as appropriate with tools such as satellite imagery, photographs and video conferencing technology.

If that remote assessment is not possible, or not sufficient in the circumstances of the case, a physical site visit can be carried out if that can be done within the scope of physical distancing requirements. Travel for essential work-related purposes is permitted if it absolutely cannot be done from home, while following distancing measures as much as possible.

For the avoidance of doubt, no site visit should be carried out by any person who should be self-isolating or shielding; nor should any premises be visited where somebody at that location is self-isolating or shielding.


1 May Update

COVID-19: Permitted Development (by local authorities and health service)

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2020 came into effect on 24 April 2020.  It addresses certain development carried out by, or on behalf of local authorities or health service bodies for the purposes of preventing, reducing, mitigating or controlling the effects of the current emergency caused by the spread of the COVID 19 virus and its impacts on public health.

The amendment is time limited and will cease to have effect on or before 31 December 2020, further requiring that any development permitted under the provisions of the Amendment Order be removed or ceased, and the land returned to its previous use and condition within a further 6 month period from that date.

Temporary suspension of PAC requirement to hold ‘public event’

A guidance note has been published explaining the temporary changes to the pre-application consultation (PAC) requirements; including setting out expectations about the replacement of the public event with alternative, web-based approaches.

Local Review Bodies and Hard Copies of EIA Reports

There are also temporary changes to local review bodies meeting in public, and availability of hard copies of EIA reports in physical places. Read the regulations here. Scottish Government promises that Guidance documents will follow.