Planning and Environment Coronavirus Update
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, road construction consent, 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 Covid-19 related exceptions - Highland Motorhome Stopover Sites
Scotland’s Chief Planner wrote to Local Authorities in spring 2021 to confirm the Scottish Government’s ongoing commitment to a temporary relaxation of planning controls thereby allowing Local Authorities to exercise their discretion in certain circumstances that could help businesses operate during the pandemic. One specific example was the opportunity for Local Authorities to consider the temporary use of appropriate locations for overnight stops in motorhomes without formal planning permission where this was considered safe and reasonable.
The Highland Council took a constructive approach to the application of this relaxation so as to both support businesses and to address some of the visitor pressures during the 2021 season. This temporary relaxation of planning control has now been extended until September 2022 – in part to recognise ongoing business challenges but also to allow time for operators to seek planning permission as planning permission will be required to operate after September 2022.
As not all proposals will necessarily be deemed appropriate, anyone interested in undertaking such a development should contact the planning service for guidance on whether or not it can proceed under the temporary relaxations (unless one of the existing 3 or 5 vehicle exemptions described in the guidance applies). To get further free guidance from planning officers please complete our short enquiry form and submit it to Planning.Technical@highland.gov.uk and a planning officer will contact you to discuss your proposal. Our Guidance gives a brief introduction as to what can be provided by communities and private landowners.
Anyone who is currently operating an overnight stopover site and who wishes to continue to do so beyond September 2022 is therefore encouraged to lodge a formal application for planning permission as soon as possible to allow the application to be determined before the end of the relaxation period in September 2022.
Applications and guidance notes on how to submit a planning application can be found here. You can read the full letter from the Scottish Government Chief Planner relating to Relaxing Planning Control here.
Since 23 March 2020 the Planning Service has determined 5216 planning applications and Building Standards has determined 3906 building warrants; and accepted or rejected 5471 completion certificates.
On this page you can find out about current arrangements for the following:
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 March 2022) will now be extended to the expiry date of 30 September 2022 (the ‘extended period’), unless work has already commenced on the development i.e. the consent has already been implemented.
Any listed building consent and 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 30 September 2022 (the ‘extended period’), unless work has already commenced on the development i.e. the consent has already been implemented.
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.
Badenoch and Strathspey
Skye and Lochalsh
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 email@example.com
A duty officer will be available for queries by telephone during the following times:
Telephone: 01349 886608 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday.
Planning 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.
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.
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.
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 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 the prepare the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan the Proposed Plan version of which will be published in March 2022. All current consultations are available through the Development Plans Consultation Portal.
The Service is also coordinating the Council's input to the Scottish Government’s National Planning Framework 4 which was published in November 2021 with a deadline for comments of 31 March 2022.
Building Standards surveyors are continuing to provide a full service to our customers from; pre-warrant discussions/meetings; to assessments of building warrant applications; through to site inspections for CCNP purposes and for completion certificate purposes; through to enforcement work and attendance and dealing with dangerous building incidents. Staff have been instructed to once again work from home where this is practicable therefore face to face meetings are available but predominantly via MS Teams.
Case surveyors can be contacted via e-mail by entering the case surveyor’s name like this e.g. email@example.com
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) (external link) which now reference risks from COVID-19, and may 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 since 23.03.2020 determined 3906 building warrants; and accepted or rejected 5471 completion certificates.
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.