Planning permission

Planning and Environment Coronavirus Update

January 2021

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act has now come into force and has further implications for our planning and environment service. The further restriction introduced in January 2021 has implications on our current ability to deliver services.

We have taken 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. With the further lockdown restrictions introduced a number of members of staff within the Planning and Building Standards Service have had to be re-deployed to other duties. This has implications on their work and those of our colleagues and will impact our response times.

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 2074 planning applications and Building Standards has granted 1618 building warrants and 1723 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 7 April and 7 October 2020 will be extended until 7 April 2021 to allow work to start on permissions once restrictions are lifted. On 24 August 2020 this was extended for planning permission that would otherwise lapse between 6 October 2020 and 31 March 2021 to be extended to 30 September 2021. 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. 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 portals. In assessing the applications, case officers will communicate with you using email, letter and Skype call.  Planning site visits will be carried out when essential only. It would be helpful and could speed up the deterimination 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 alterative publications. Please see the list of publications below.

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


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

Badenoch and Strathspey

  • Strathspey Herald - Thursday


Fort William

  • Oban Times - Thursday


  • Ross-shire Journal - Friday

Skye and Lochalsh

  • West Highland Free Press – Friday



  • Northern Times and Ross-shire Journal - both Friday


  • 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 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

Duty Officers

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

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

We are currently unable to offer our telephone service on a Monday. Please email your query to:

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. While we anticipate further guidance on this matter from Scottish, please contact us to discuss potential options.

Decision Making

For the remainder of the COVID-19 outbreak the North and South Planning Applications Committee will operate virtually.

It is intended that 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 Development Plan preparation and related work have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In June 2020 we published an updated Development Plans Newsletter which sets out revised timescales and explains the changes we have had to make 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

The Service continues to the prepare the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan which is expected to be subject to consultation on a Main Issues Report in early 2021 subject to Committee approval.  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 (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 full Building Standards (BS) warrant assessment service is being provided whilst staff continue to work remotely from home.  Face to face meetings with customers are available but only via Skype or MS Teams.  The BS team will continue to strive to provide a full and thorough assessment of all applications and provide a written response (either by granting the warrant or requesting further information) within 20 working days.  Case surveyors can be contacted by mobile phone or via e-mail by entering the case surveyor’s name like this; eg  

The council is adhering to Scottish Government guidance and working pragmatically with customers and will therefore process extensions to the validity period of building warrants whilst the COVID restrictions are in place.

Site Inspections: - Intermediate / Completions and Temporary Occupation 

A telephone call risk assessment is carried out with the owner/applicant/developer of the building where the case surveyor will ask about your plans under the CDM Regulations (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 1618 building warrants and 1723 completion certificate acceptances 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.