HM Insights

Coronavirus: planning and construction updates and guidance

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 contains planning specific provisions which provide that planning permissions which would otherwise expire during the six-month period of the relevant provisions of the Act coming into force will remain live for 12 months from the date of these provisions coming into force. If the permission is not implemented within that 12 month period, it will then lapse.

This applies to full planning permission and also planning permission in principle, extending both the timescales for both implementing the permission and obtaining approvals of matters subject to conditions by 12 months. It is worth noting, however, that the extension won't apply retrospectively to permissions which expired prior to 7 April 2020.

Coronavirus-legal-updates-2020.jpg (1)

Chief Planner's Guidance

A letter from the Chief Planner on 3 April 2020 advised that the top priority in terms of planning is maintaining a functioning planning system. The letter covers the Scottish Government's intention to publish regulations which are expected to cover the following matters:

  • Suspension of the requirement to host at least one public event as part of the Pre-Application Consultation process, with an expectation that this will be replaced with online engagement;
  • Arrangements to address the practicalities of neighbour notification;
  • Suspension of the requirement for service of site notices; and
  • Suspension of the requirement for Local Review Bodies to meet in public

The letter also recognises that there may be the need for local authorities to amend their schemes of delegation in order to address the current situation and the Scottish Government is undertaking to process approval of these amendments quickly. Planning authorities are also encouraged to take a pragmatic view in relation to situations which haven't been explicitly catered for, and the examples given are facilitating operational development or changes of use which could contribute to the response to the virus and staged payments falling due under a planning agreement where the development is temporarily unable to proceed.

The Town and Country Planning (Miscellaneous Temporary Modifications) (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 came into force on 24 April 2020.

As noted in the legislation section above, the regulations include temporary steps to suspend the need for (i) public events in pre-application consultation, (ii) local review bodies meeting in public and (iii) hard copies of EIA reports in physical places. More detailed guidance is available here.

Development management FAQs published on 16 April and updated on 29 April set out how planning applications are affected at the current time and the arrangements that are in place.

An updated Guide to DPEA Operations during Lockdown issued on 17 April 2020 explains how planning appeals will be handled during this period.

Disruption to site survey work and provision of environmental information

SNH has released a statement about the effect the current restriction on movements is having on the completion of site surveys, and the gaps in survey and assessment information that may occur as a result. This is likely to be particularly problematic for seasonally dependent surveys such as breeding species surveys where critical survey periods may be lost, but also regarding delays in landscape and visual impact assessments (LVIA) where a competent assessment requires a site visit. To minimise the delays to planning applications that this might cause, SNH is reviewing pragmatic ways forward where possible within the limits of the EIA and Habitats Regulations. The degree of flexibility and the options available will depend on the circumstances of each case but some guidance is set out here.

The position in terms of both law and practice is continuously evolving at the moment, and there will also be differences in approach as between individual planning authorities.

Construction Guidance

New Scottish Government Coronavirus (COVID-19): construction sector guidance has been published confirming the position that all non-essential construction sites in Scotland should close. This advice is however "guidance" without the legal status of legislation or a statutory declaration and it is not legally binding.

The Construction section of HM's Coronavirus Advice Hub is being updated with further articles about the implications of this guidance for the construction sector.


Get in touch

Our specialist teams are on hand to help you with any issues raised by the above, or any other matters which arise during the current crisis. Please get in touch with a member of our team if you require any assistance.

Useful links

CORONAVIRUS ADVICE