Planning in Scotland: An Update - September 2020

09.9.20 2 MINUTE READ

Edinburgh Castle - Planning

Covid-19, Climate Change, Net Zero Emissions… the Scottish planning system is responding to an influx of issues as well as updating other elements of the planning system such as public consultation. We are delighted to share Bidwells’ September Planning Update which aims to keep you updated on these current consultations and associated timescales.

Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 is an Act of the Scottish Parliament to make provisions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Act complements and regulates the use of emergency powers given to Scottish Ministers under the UK Parliament's Coronavirus Act 2020.

Extension to temporary changes – duration of permissions and consents : Under the Act 2020 the Scottish Government extended the duration of Planning Permissions, Listed Building Consents and Conservation Area Consents. Permissions and consents which were due to expire between 6th April 2020 and 6th October 2020 were automatically extended until 6th April 2021.

The Scottish Government has now further amended the Regulations and extended both timeframes. Affected applications which expire between 6th April 2020 and 31st March 2021 are now automatically extended until 30th September 2021.

Permissions which have specific conditions limiting their time (temporary permissions) and permissions where works had already started (thus granted in retrospect or part retrospect) are excluded from the automatic extensions.

The Scottish Planning System: National Planning Framework 4 (NPF 4)

The Scottish Government’s NPF4 will guide spatial development set out in national policies, designate national developments and reflect regional spatial priorities. Working together Bidwells Planning, Renewables, Forestry and Urban Design Teams have collectively responded to the ‘Call for Ideas’ and ‘Call for Sites’ consultations.


Scottish Government’s timetable for adoption of the next edition of the NPF4 is:

  • Autumn 2020: publication of an interim position statement

  • Autumn 2021: draft NPF4 to be laid in the Scottish Parliament

  • Spring/summer 2022: Scottish Ministers will adopt NPF4

Scottish Planning Policy and Housing (July 2020)

On 17 July 2020, one year after the declaration of a Climate Emergency, Scottish Government published a Technical Consultation on Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) and Housing which looks to remove from SPP the presumption in favour of development that contributes to sustainable development. The consultation was issued without any prior notice or discussion.

Whilst it focuses on housing, the proposal is to remove the presumption for all types of development. No alternative or replacement is offered. Planning Authorities are now able to point to the consultation, the Government’s intent and afford the presumption minimal weight by treating the consultation as a material consideration.

It is also concerning that this proposed change contradicts the Government’s own recent announcements that new housing in Scotland is central to both economic and social recovery.


Bidwells will be making a formal response to the technical consultation which closes on 9 October 2020.

Proposed Changes to Pre-Application Consultation Requirements in Planning (13 August 2020).

This consultation paper relates to proposed changes to the existing requirements for pre-application consultation (PAC) with local communities on national and major developments.The proposed changes to PAC are the first part of a wider package of measures on improving community engagement in planning matters and building public trust. The proposed changes are not COVID-19 related.


Bidwells will be making a formal response to the consultation which closes on 6 November 2020.

Committee on Climate Change 2020 Progress Report to Parliament.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) submitted its 2020 Progress Report to the UK Parliament in June 2020. In its supportive response to the Report, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has said that spatial planning must play a central role in reducing carbon emissions and adapting to climate change as part of a sustainable, resilient, inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Progress Report highlights five key investment priorities for the coming months:

  • Low carbon retrofits and buildings that are fit for the future

  • Tree planting, peatland restoration and green infrastructure

  • Energy networks must be strengthened

  • Infrastructure to make it easy for people to walk, cycle and work remotely

  • Moving towards a circular economy.

These key investment priorities align with Bidwells’ innovative multi-disciplinary expertise. Our technical divisions of Planning, Forestry, Renewables and Estate Management are collectively taking steps to keep our clients informed as well as ensuring we also play our role in responding to the steps set out by CCC to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change.

The RTPI has also confirmed its strong support of the Committee’s call on the Government to submit an ambitious UK Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) if the UK is to demonstrate global climate leadership at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow on 1 – 12 November 2021.

The RTPI believe that the Government should use the 2030 timeframe of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as an opportunity to rapidly achieve multiple key milestones in the path towards its 2050 target and dramatically raise its ambition in terms of its zero carbon measures. It is also key that in Glasgow, the UK raises the ambition of climate targets internationally, to encourage emissions reductions pledges from other countries and reduce the collective risk the world faces from the impacts of climate change.


Get in touch with our team


Mark Myles

Partner, Head of Planning Scotland

Mark's 30+ years’ experience in public and private sector development management gives him a deep understanding of planning across Scotland.

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Corinne MacDougall

Associate, Planning

Having experience of both the English and Scottish planning systems provides Corinne with a holistic understanding of this specialist area.

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