Coronavirus – Planning Update

The challenges caused by the Coronavirus outbreak has continued to see responses issued from both the UK and Scottish Governments this week, including further economic and public health measures. The further restrictions on movement/gatherings will impact upon the functions of planning authorities to meet statutory requirements; as well as maintaining consistency of service throughout Scotland.

Pre-application meetings, consultation events and committee meetings inherently require movement and gatherings and are unlikely to be feasible in the short-term.

The Scottish Government (24th March 2020) has quickly recognised the problems that the outbreak will inevitably have on the planning system and is looking at ways of overcoming these. The Scottish Government update notes that discussions with planning authorities, solicitors and businesses are taking place in order to find a way forward. The introduction of emergency changes to regulations relating to public events as part of pre-application consultation for major developments, is just one example being examined.

Like the Chief Planner’s written letters to Planning Authorities (G+S Updates can be found here), this is a welcome response and will provide much needed clarity on how planning processes will be adapted going forward.

Additionally, the UK Government has provided a similar update for England through the Chief Planner (March 2020 Update). He recognises that decision-making will be affected, but encourages authorities to use ‘innovative approaches’ to continue providing a planning service. The use of technology is encouraged, to replace face-to-face discussions and consultations, where possible. Similarly, the delegation of committee decisions is also encouraged. It is also confirmed that the UK Government will introduce legislation to allow Council Committee meetings to be held virtually for a temporary period.

It is expected that further guidance will be issued this week from both Governments. Graham + Sibbald will be monitoring this and issuing a further update in due course.

Please get in touch with our Planning and Development Team if you have any queries in relation to the ongoing impact of Coronavirus on the planning system.