Planning permission

Planning and Environment Coronavirus Update

July 2021

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 has now come into force and has implications for our planning and environment service. 

We have taken steps to allow us to continue to deliver our services for the duration of the COVID-19 situation.  Staff will be working remotely, so capacity and access to our usual systems will be 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.

Temporary relaxation - Highland Motorhome Stopover Sites 

The Highland Council recognises the demand from motorhome owners for small, simple and low-cost opportunities for short stopovers. The Highland Council proposes to take a constructive approach to support businesses, community groups and individual landowners who wish to offer their car parks or land to address some of the pressures anticipated during the 2021 season by a relaxation to allow the temporary use of appropriate locations for overnight stops in motorhomes without the need for formal planning permission, where it is considered safe and reasonable. As not all proposals will necessarily be deemed appropriate, anyone interested in undertaking such a development should complete our short enquiry form and submit it to Planning.Technical@highland.gov.uk  Our Guidance gives a brief introduction as to what can be provided by communities and private landowners.

Since the restrictions on movement have come into force the Planning Service has determined 3865 planning applications and Building Standards has granted 2874 building warrants and accepted 3137 completion certificates.

On this page you can find out about current arrangements for the following:

Planning

Permissions in place

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 received Royal Assent on 6 April 2020 and came into force on 7 April 2020. 

The Acts and subsequent extensions mean any planning permission, or planning permission in principle that would have expired during the ‘emergency period’ (7 April 2020 to 30 September 2021) will now be extended to the expiry date of 31 March 2022 (the ‘extended period’), unless work has already commenced on the development.

Any listed building consent or conservation area consent that would have expired during the ‘emergency period’ (27 May 2020 to 30 September 2021) will now be extended to the expiry date of 31 March 2022 (the ‘extended period’), unless work has already commenced on the development.

For the period of the current restrictions the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 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 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. Planning site visits will be carried out when essential only. It would be helpful and could speed up the determination of your application if you could provide photographs for us. Photographs should be comprehensive and preferably 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 by telephone.  Planning site visits will be carried out when essential only. It would be helpful and could speed up the determination of your application if you could provide photographs for us. Photographs should be comprehensive and preferably annotated.

Publication of Applications by the planning authority

The Council is aware some local publications have ceased production during the COVID-19 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 alternative publications. Please see the list of publications below.

Alternatively, you may wish to check our weekly/monthly lists of planning applications.

Inverness

  • Inverness Courier - Nairnshire edition - Tuesday
  • Inverness Courier - Friday

Badenoch and Strathspey

  • Strathspey Herald - Thursday

 

Fort William

  • Oban Times - Thursday

Dingwall

  • Ross-shire Journal - Friday

Skye and Lochalsh

  • West Highland Free Press – Friday

Golspie

 

  • Northern Times and Ross-shire Journal - both Friday

Wick

  • John O’Groat Journal - Friday

 

All comments to applications should be made electronically via public access. It may take longer to process comments 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 will be held as a virtual meeting from 24 June 2020 onwards, until further notice, and a full pre-application response pack will still be provided. 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 further details please contact majorpreapps@highland.gov.uk

Duty Officers

A duty officer will be available for queries by telephone during the following times:   

Telephone: 01349 886608 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday.

Site Visits

In line with current Covid guidance, planning site visits will be undertaken in essential cases only. Where undertaken, these will be unaccompanied and professional staff will undertake a risk assessment with customers before agreeing to a visit. The risk assessment is to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of both council staff and the customer. Building Standards Surveyors have resumed site inspection work; however, this continues to be a restricted service; professional staff will undertake a risk assessment with customers before agreeing to a visit. The risk assessment is to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of both council staff and the customer.

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.  We strongly recommend the following engagement methods are utilised:

  • Provision of a website hosting all of the information which would normally be available to members of the public in an “in-person” engagement event;
  • Provide electronic means of feedback on the proposed development;
  • Host two virtual events including a presentation of the proposed development and undertake a question and answer session. This requires to be;
  • Provision of telephone contact details where those who are unable to access the virtual events can find out more about the proposal, provide feedback and provide a question and answer session;
  • Undertake a letter drop to all properties within vicinity of the site to provide information on the proposed development, raise awareness of the virtual event, and provide an opportunity for feedback on the proposal. For the letter drop we recommend properties in the following proximities to:
    • Within settlement development areas identified within the Local Development Plan – notify all properties within 500m of the boundary of the proposed development;
    • Outwith settlement development areas identified within the Local Development Plan – notify all properties within 2.5km of the boundary of the proposed development;
    • For Wind Farms – notify all properties within 10km of the site where there will be theoretical visibility of the wind farm

Please contact us to discuss this matter further prior to submission of your Proposal of Application Notice.

Decision Making

For the remainder of the COVID-19 outbreak the North and South Planning Applications Committee will operate virtually. These will be web cast live and can be accessed via the Highland Council webcast portal.

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. Site Visits will now be undertaken but these will be unaccompanied.

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.

In line with current Covid guidance, enforcement site visits will be undertaken in essential cases only. Where undertaken these will be unaccompanied and professional staff will undertake a risk assessment with customers before agreeing to a visit. The risk assessment is to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of both council staff and the customer.

Development Plans

The timescales for Highland development plan preparation and related work have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. In March 2021 we published an updated Development Plans Newsletter which sets out our current timescales and explains the changes we have made in how we engage people in the preparation of development plans whilst social distancing measures remain in place. We will also keep people up to date through updates on the Development Plans webpage (external link) and social media. If you cannot find the information you need you can contact the Development Plans team at devplans@highland.gov.uk.

The Service continues to the prepare the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan (external link) which was subject to consultation on a Main Issues Report in early 2021. All current consultations are available through the Development Plans Consultation Portal (external link).

The Service is also coordinating the Council's input to the Scottish Government’s National Planning Framework 4 (external link) (external link) the timescale for which has also been affected and a draft is now likely to be published in Autumn 2021.

Building Standards

The Building Standards service has returned to pre COVID levels of service where applications for building warrant; resubmissions of information and processing of building warrant documentation is being provided by the BS team whilst staff continue to work remotely from their homes.  Face to face meetings with customers are available but, presently, only via MS Teams.  It is hoped that meetings in offices may be available once more in the autumn. 

Case surveyors can be contacted via e-mail by entering the case surveyor’s name like this e.g. glenn.campbell@highland.gov.uk

Phone conversations with the case surveyor are also available via the case surveyor’s work mobile phone.    

The BS team will continue to strive to provide a written response (either by granting the warrant or requesting further information) within 20 working days. 

Site Inspections: - Intermediate / Completions and Temporary Occupation 

When site inspections are requested the case surveyor will telephone the applicant/agent/developer to undertake a risk assessment of conditions on site. The case surveyor will ask about your plans under the CDM Regulations (external link) (external link) 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.  The case surveyor will risk assess conditions on site before arranging a time and date for inspecting; only if conditions are safe will an inspection be agreed.  We, therefore, may not be able to offer you an inspection and recognise this may not match your expectation.  We will be pleased to record your comments on this but ask that you recognise the unprecedented circumstances we are operating under.

The building standards team has issued 2874 building warrants; accepted 3137 completion certificate and refused 75 building warrants and rejected 649 completion certificates during the lockdown period. 

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.

Environment Team

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.