Publication - Minutes

Planning and Environmental Appeals Stakeholder Forum meeting: April 2021

Published: 16 Nov 2021
Date of meeting: 28 Apr 2021

Note of meeting of Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) and stakeholders on 28 April 2021.

Published:
16 Nov 2021
Planning and Environmental Appeals Stakeholder Forum meeting: April 2021

Attendees and apologies

  • Scott Ferrie,  DPEA
  • Dan Jackman,  DPEA
  • David Henderson,  DPEA
  • Lorna Dunn,  DPEA
  • Robbie Calvert,  RTPI Scotland
  • Stephanie Conesa,  Scottish Renewables
  • Rachel Connor,  Scotland Against Spin
  • Hugh Crawford,  Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland
  • Joe Dagen,  Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland
  • Alan Farquhar,  SEPA
  • Sue Hamilton,  Planning Democracy
  • Aileen Jackson,  Scotland Against Spin
  • David Law,  NatureScot
  • Isobel Leckie,  Causeway Development Trust
  • David Middleton,  Sustainable Communities Scotland
  • Iona Murray ,  Historic Environment Scotland
  • Graham Saunders,  Historic Environment Scotland
  • Marcus Trinick,  Scottish Renewables
  • Bernard Whittle,  Heads of Planning

Items and actions

1.  Apologies

Apologies were confirmed from Charles Strang, Tammy Swift-Adams, Suzanne McIntosh, David Wood and Allison McNab.

2.  Welcome

Scott welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced Lorna Dunn the new DPEA casework section manager.  He confirmed that some of the issues forwarded to the Group raised issues of policy which would be forwarded to colleagues in Planning and Architecture Division. He confirmed the retirement of Paul Cackette as Chief Reporter and that steps would be taken to fill the post.  He encouraged the Group to get in touch at any point issues arose rather than waiting the next meeting.

3.  Covid Update

Scott confirmed that the administrative support team remained primarily working from home with a skeleton staffing complement in the office to deal with work that cannot be done at home.  Reporters, as in normal times, remain home based.  He confirmed that there had been some issues progressing casework with some planning authorities where hard copy records were required or in the case of some authorities where staff have been unable to access the necessary IT systems.

 Scott confirmed that a number of Guidance Notes had been produced over the course of the pandemic setting out how DPEA would handle their casework.  A number of innovative ways of progressing cases had been utilised including drone footage, google street view and photos and virtual site inspections.

Scott confirmed that there had been one physically distanced PLI but noted that extraordinary requirements had to be put in place to ensure the safety of all participants.  However feedback had been positive.  Positive feedback had also been received in relation to virtual proceedings where some parties had found it less intimidating and more inclusive.  Looking at the future working model he felt that a hybrid approach worth exploring to allow people to join the meeting as they wish also noted the virtual PEM or series of PEM’s a positive development.

The Group raised a number of issues including the ability to participate virtually depending on a number of issues including broadband/WiFi; whether virtual proceedings were real participation; difficulties participating in isolation; some aspects had gone better than anticipated including cross examination; IT help important.

Scott confirmed that reporters had largely been able to obtain the necessary information they required to consider the proposal.   

4.  Appeals Guidance

David Henderson confirmed to the Group that the Appeals Guidance had now been published and initial feedback had been positive.  He put on record his thanks to everyone on the Group who had contributed to this.  He added that the Guidance was a “living document” and would be amended whenever appropriate.

The Group agreed it was a useful publication, easy to read, well presented and thanked DPEA for taking this idea forward.  They felt there were other areas such as design which might be helpful

Thanks were also extended to Dan Jackman for helping with a recent Planning Democracy event.

5.  Annual Review

David Henderson presented a quick review of DPEA’s performance over the course of the last financial year.  He confirmed that performance over the course of the year, given everything that had to be dealt with, had been largely positive and DPEA had largely avoided building up a backlog of cases at any point.  He extended thanks to all involved for their efforts to ensure  cases could proceed.  He explained the drop in appeals received as largely down to a significant drop in enforcement and high hedge cases. 

The Group confirmed that the drop in enforcement cases due to the pandemic was a reasonable assumption.  Although some authorities had been using virtual methods enforcement action was generally being pursued only as a last resort.  It was also considered that the Chief Planner’s letter which had set out some flexibility in planning control might also have contributed to the reduction in cases of this type.

6.  Planning Reform

Dan Jackman set out the latest positions in relation to planning reform albeit confirming that DPEA was not responsible for policy and questions on these matters were best directed to colleagues in Planning and Architecture Division.

He confirmed that the official Scottish Government position was set out at the end of March in a letter sent by the Chief Planner and Minister.

Whilst there had been some slippage time due to the pandemic Dan confirmed that there had been minor changes to Planning Obligation Appeals before Christmas; amendments had been made to SPP; the Digital Stratgey had been published in March; Regulations had been laid regarding short term let controls; and discussions around mediation were ongoing.

He confirmed that the Planning Transformation website was  the best place to find this information relating to progress on all matters related to reform and recommended registering with the PAD bulletin.

It was agreed that final/agreed Sction 75 agreements be published on the DPEA case website and it would also be conformed that parties could request information from this website be re-published on request.

DPEA agreed to provide further environmental information to parties, where required, free of charge.

7.  EIA Regs

The Group asked for a DPEA view on how to pursue an offence under EIA REGS and considered that this was something DPEA would need to consider if raised by third parties.

Dan Jackman set out basis of when an offence occurred what actions should be taken.  He set out that the concerned party should contact the party who had submitted the environmental information, to raise any concerns and seek clarification, copying DPEA into this correspondence.  

The Group asked to what extent can DPEA set the standard for trees under threat and extend the protection of trees?

Dan Jackman confirmed that DPEA are not allowed to write our own policy.  The matters should be dealt with in the LDP- although he stressed that the LDP examination is restricted to outstanding objections.

8.  Public Inquiries

In response to various issues raised by the Group Scott Ferrie confirmed that DPEA would be in touch shortly with those concerned in relation to the proposed Core Docs library for Section 36 case; that in relation to opt in/out parties DPEA would take a flexible/sympathetic approach should that party have a change of mind; that the limit on the word count for precognitions should be discussed and agreed with the reporter on a case by case basis.

9.  Any Other Business

The Group asked if DPEA had any overview of planning applications and the constant changes as the application is progressed.  Scott confirmed this was not for DPEA to consider – once an appeal is submitted though the proposal is as decided by the authority.

The Group raised the issue of a hearing which had been delayed considerably.  Scott asked the member to contact him direct.

Contact

Email: DPEA@gov.scot

Telephone: 0300 244 6668

Post:
Scottish Government
Planning and Environmental Appeals Division
Hadrian House
Callendar Business Park
Falkirk
FK1 1XR