The Enterprise Park, Forres

Our Planning team was approached to gain planning consent for a development of individual office ‘pods’ as part of the ongoing development of The Enterprise Park at Forres in Moray. Graham + Sibbald is already involved in the production of a Masterplan for the Park, in conjunction with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and Threesixty Architecture.

The proposal for 8 office pods itself was fairly small scale, but the wider regeneration and masterplan strategy for the site meant this proposal had to be considered in its wider context. Our experience of commercial planning projects throughout Scotland, for both private and public sector clients at a variety of scales, therefore made us the ideal choice for this project.

Approach

Graham + Sibbald received instructions to obtain planning consent for a phased development of 8 standalone office pods at Forres Enterprise Park. The prefabricated pods are designed to be used by 1-2 workers as business start-up space, taking advantage of the proximity to HIE’s Horizon Scotland start-up and business space. The pods act as fully self-sufficient and contained office spaces, with their own bathroom facilities, tea/coffee kitchen, plumbing, and electricity connections – a response to the Covid-19 pandemic that provide safe, self-contained workspaces allowing workers to stay in social distanced bubbles when required. Each phase consists of 4 pods clustered in a circular arrangement around an attractive central landscaped area.

Our Planning Team’s initial approach was to engage the local authority in pre-application discussions to scope out any potential issues with the proposal and gauge the Council’s attitude towards the proposal. This provided feedback on any concerns the Council had with the scheme as well as an indication of supporting information that might be required to support it. In this case, the Council identified that issues relating to surrounding trees and on-site drainage would be important in the determination of the application. Accordingly, consultants were brought in to carry out a Tree Survey and Drainage Impact Assessment were identified and commissioned to provide relevant supporting information to accompany the application.

Next steps involved application preparation and submission. Using the feedback from the local authority gained at pre-application stage, our Team were able to prepare an application that focused on the matters that were of most significance to the Council and that therefore gave the application the most chance of being successful. Because of this early engagement and scoping with the planning authority, we were able to ensure a smooth planning application process with no unforeseen issues, and obtain a timely grant of planning permission in advance of the Council’s determination deadline.

Where additional details were requested by the Council, Graham + Sibbald were able to liaise with the Planners and act as mediators on behalf of the Client. Our Team provided information where needed, obtaining this from the relevant consultants, and pushing back on requests that were not feasible or appropriate for the scheme. This allowed the consent to be granted in line with the Client’s ambitions for the site and without any unreasonable conditions.

Key Challenges

The proposal was part of a wider review of the Enterprise Park that included a new Masterplan document. The Masterplan is currently at draft stage (also being compiled by Graham + Sibbald’s Planning team in conjunction with Threesixty Architecture) but gives an indication of the future development objectives and aspirations. Therefore, the proposed pods had to ensure conformity with this Masterplan’s overall aims.

Results

Planning consent was obtained ahead of the determination deadline allowing the project to proceed on schedule and with no onerous conditions that impacted on the client’s ambitions for the scheme.

Key Message

With the appropriate strategy and approach to the project chosen, in addition to frequent engagement with the Client and Project Team, we were able to ensure a smooth running of the application process – mitigating any delays or need for extraneous additional information. Timely receipt of consent allowed the project to proceed on-schedule.

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"Graham + Sibbald have an important role in our Masterplanning review and have established a great working relationship with HIE and the rest of the team." - Andrew Stanley, Head of Regional Development, Highlands and Islands Enterprise

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