Planning and Environment Coronavirus Update
The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act has now come into force and has further implications for our planning and environment service.
At this stage we are taking steps to allow us to continue to deliver our services for the duration of the COVID-19 situation. We will continue to review our position and keep you up to date as our service adapts.
Staff will be working remotely, so capacity and access to our usual systems will be significantly reduced. It may take longer to process planning applications, building warrants, RCC's, environmental advice and related aspects of the service. This also includes responses to customer queries, complaints and public comments during this period. Your patience and understanding is appreciated.
Since the restrictions on movement have come into force the Planning Service has determined 117 planning applications and Building Standards has granted 142 building warrants and 160 completion certificate acceptance certificates.
On this page you can find out about current arrangements for the following:
Permissions in place
Under the above Act which received Royal Assent on 6 April and came into force on 7 April, planning permission that would otherwise lapse between 07 April and 07 October 2020 will be extended until 07 April 2021 to allow work to start on permissions once restrictions are lifted. These dates may change dependent on how long the Act is in force. We will update the website if these dates change.
For the period of the current restrictions The Coronavirus Scotland Act also removes the duty from Authorities to physically publish or publicise documents or make documents available for physical inspection (at libraries, service points council offices etc) where it is considered doing so may give rise to significant risk of transmission of coronavirus. We are expecting guidance from Scottish Government on the implementation of this power shortly. We will continue to make all documents available online.
Closure of Area Offices and Service Points
To help minimise risk to our staff and the public our Planning and Building Standards offices are now closed until further notice.
Existing Planning and Building Warrant applications
Officers will be working from home and will continue to process all existing applications. You should continue to contact the relevant case officer by email. Where site visits cannot be carried out we may still be able to process applications using photographs sent to us where appropriate. Photographs should be comprehensive and preferable annotated.
New Planning and Building Warrant applications
We will continue to accept new planning and building warrant applications, amended drawings and payment via eDevelopment.scot portals. In assessing the applications, case officers will communicate with you using email, letter and Skype call.
Publication of Applications by the planning authority
The Council is aware some local publications have ceased production during the Covid19 outbreak. Under Regulation 20 of The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2013 we are required to publish a notice in a local paper where it is not possible for the planning authority to carry out notification in terms of Regulation 18 because there is no premises/building situated on the neighbouring land to which the notification can be sent. We have therefore taken the temporary measure of placing advertisements in alterative publications. Please see the list below. Alternatively, you may wish to check the Highland Council’s Weekly/Monthly Lists of planning applications validated which is published here.
Publication & Day of publication
Inverness Courier – Friday & Nairnshire Telegraph - Tuesday
Badenoch & Strathspey
Strathspey Herald - Thursday
Oban Times - Thursday
Ross-shire Journal - Friday
Skye and Lochalsh
Press and Journal - Friday
Northern Times & Ross-shire Journal - both Friday
John O’Groat Journal - Friday
Representations to planning applications
All representations to applications should be made electronically via public access. It may take longer to process representations during this period.
Planning pre-application advice/enquiries
We will continue to accept new pre-application enquiries. These should be submitted in the normal manner using our Pre-application Advice Pages. Our Major Application Pre-Application Meetings planned for 24 June 2020 onwards will be held as a virtual meeting, until further notice, and a full pre-application response pack will still be provided. In order to do this, we ask prospective developers to provide as much information as possible in advance of the proposed scheduled meeting date and where possible to include a presentation by e-mail. Please be aware that our ability to provide a response within the four week target that we set ourselves will be challenging at this time. For futher details please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
A duty officer will remain available for queries by email only as our officers are working remotely from home capacity and access to our usual systems will be significantly limited, therefore it may take longer to respond to your enquiry.
- Planning queries - ePlanning@highland.gov.uk
- Building Standards queries - email@example.com
To help minimise risk to our staff and the public, site visits will not be undertaken. See Phased 2 opening of construction work under Building Standards below.
Public engagement and planning
Legislation for major planning applications requires applicants to submit a Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) outlining pre-application public engagement proposals. In light of current restrictions on public gatherings, we don't recommend public events. Applicants and agents should explore alternative ways to engage and receive feedback from the community. While we anticipate further guidance on this matter from Scottish, please contact us to discuss potential options.
During the Covid-19 outbreak, and in order to progress with the determination of planning applications, the Council has agreed, for up to and including 30 June 2020, that the Council’s Scheme of Delegation be revised. The proposed changes have now been approved by Scottish Government. The main changes are as follows:
- The scheduled North and South Planning Application Committees will be cancelled in this period;
- Delegated applications that are recommended for refusal (or objection in the case of applications under the Electricity Act) will continue to be reported to ward members. Where at least 2 members of the ward in which the development is proposed, having been given prior notification of the recommendation of refusal/objection, request in writing within 5 working days of such notification that the application be referred to the relevant Planning Applications Committee, then the application will be deferred until such time as the Planning Applications Committees restart or further arrangements are put in place. If there is no call in, then a decision (or response to Scottish Government in the case of Electricity Act applications) will be issued under delegated powers.
- Applications (other than delegated refusals) that would otherwise have been reported to Planning Applications Committee will instead be reported to the Chair of the appropriate PAC. If at the consultation meeting with the Chair there is no agreement on the recommendation between the officer and the Chair, determination of that application will be deferred until such time as the Planning Applications Committees restart or further arrangements are put in place. If the Chair agrees with the recommendation, the decision will be issued.
This approach will be reviewed in light of any further guidance received from Government.
Enforcement - complaints about a breach of planning control
We will be continuing to investigate enforcement complaints as far as possible, prioritising cases in accordance with the approach set out in our Enforcement Charter. We ask you provide as much information as possible, including photographs if safe to do so, when you report a potential breach of planning.
We do not have the powers to stop works, development or operation as they relate to current restrictions around Covid-19. The Scottish Government has published guidance for the construction sector.
The timescales for Development Plan preparation and related work are uncertain but we will keep people up to date through regular updates on the Development Plans webpage and social media. If you cannot find the information you need you can contact the Development Plans team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Service continues to prioritise the preparation of the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan. Timescales have slipped from those outlined in the most recent Development Plans Newsletter but we are aiming to seek approval for the Main Issues Report when Area Committees recommence.
The Service is also coordinating the Council's response to the National Planning Framework 4 Call for Views and Regional Spatial Strategy following Scottish Government's recent announcement to delay the process for its preparation. The draft NPF4 is now likely to be published by the Scottish Government in early 2021.
The council will continue to offer a Building Standards warrant assessment service and endeavour to provide a first response within 20 days. The Building Standards team are homeworking and can be contacted via e-mail or mobile device for guidance and/or updates on the status of your application.
Alternative temporary arrangements have been agreed with BRE Certification of Design – Energy Scheme and the Structural Engineer’s Registration Ltd (SER) to allow for the remote signing of certificates of design to be submitted, temporarily, to verifiers in support of building warrant applications; until wet signatures can again be provided or the current SER certification system adjusted to facilitate electronic signatures.
We are following the Scottish Government guidance and providing a pragmatic and flexible approach to processing completion certificate submissions. This guidance is applicable to domestic buildings with a storey height of not more than 4.5 metres. It may be used with discretion for domestic buildings above 4.5 metres height and in lower risk non-domestic buildings. This will be considered on a case by case basis. It will not be used for any domestic or non-domestic building above 11 metres in height or where the end use of the building is considered high risk or the consequences of non-compliance are likely to be significant. This would include schools, hospitals and certain other categories of residential buildings.
Guidance on Duration of building warrant - extending the validity and Determination of an application – refusal and deemed refusal
On receipt of an application to extend the period of validity of a building warrant, whether the application is for the first extension or otherwise, the council will follow guidance and extend the building warrant for a further nine months without condition. The council will also, after the nine month time has lapsed after sending a first report agree to extend the period allowing the applicant/agent further time to submit additional information.
Phased 2 opening of construction work
In preparation for the phased opening of construction work, under both the Scottish Governments COVID-19 Routemap, and the construction industries restart plan, the Highland Councils Building Standards Team have been preparing to recommence site inspections. In all instances we will follow the detail of both above-mentioned plans and employ a risk assessment approach to ensure everyone’s safety as much as is possible. As necessary we will adjust our approach and maintain an agile attitude to changes in advice. We will only inspect work which is allowable under the Scottish Governments COVID-19 Routemap and we will be guided by it as detail of the Routemap develops.
We have logged almost 400 individual requests for inspection since lockdown began and will prioritise acting on these requests as best we can, once phase 2 and onwards of the construction industries restart plan is implemented.
As of today, phase 2 and onward have NOT been implemented, but once we can, we will be carrying out inspections.
Once the work in a request for inspection is allowable by the above plans, we will contact you to discuss, and if possible, arrange an inspection.
During this call we will carry out a risk assessment. This will ensure we are considering your safety, the safety of our surveying team and the wider community as we do our part to aid recovery while suppressing the virus.
We will ask you about your plans under the CDM Regulations which now reference risks from COVID-19, and ask for a copy for our consideration. This applies to all construction sites, including where there is a single self-employed contractor.
Standard Operating Procedures published by Construction Scotland show how this should look for large sites, and its suggested it is a good reference document for all.
For householders we will ask you some questions about your household, and its position in relation to COVID-19 and the Scottish Governments advice.
We may not be able to offer you an inspection at this time and recognise this may not match your expectations. We will be pleased to record your comments on this, but ask that you recognise the unprecedented circumstances we are in.
Environment and archaeology
Paths and outdoor access
Please comply with national guidance
- Social distancing - keep at least 2m apart from other path users and from occupants of properties adjacent to any paths;
- One outing for exercise per day - walk, run or cycle, alone or with members of your household;
- Stay local - don't get in your car to drive to other areas;
- Always pick up your litter;
- Remember to wash or sanitise your hands as soon as you get home;
During the current restrictions, access officers are not undertaking site visits or face to face meetings.
The Environment Team is currently operating at reduced capacity but continues to provide general advice and will respond to information requests by email. We will continue to provide planning advice for conservation, archaeology, forestry and access wherever possible. Note that functions that require survey and/or site visits are likely to be on hold until further notice.
Works to protected trees
During current restrictions council officers are not undertaking any site visits or face to face meetings. We will continue to process applications for works to trees covered by a tree preservation order or in a conservation area.
If you require to carry out emergency work on a protected tree, or a tree in a conservation area because of an obvious danger to the public or property please follow the normal application process. Please make sure where possible your application is supported with photographs which identify the issue.