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Permitted development rights - extension and review: strategic environmental assessment - draft post adoption statement

Strategic environmental assessment draft post adoption statement setting out how the assessment and consultation responses have been taken into account within the development of the Proposed programme for reviewing and extending permitted development rights (PDR) in Scotland at this stage of the process.


4. How the opinions expressed have been taken into account

4.1. The responses received

4.1.1 The Sustainability Appraisal was issued for consultation alongside the proposed work programme and views were invited on five questions. One question invited opinions on the work programme itself, three focused on the Sustainability Appraisal and one question invited any other views on the SA. All questions were open-ended/ free text.

4.1.2 In total 113 responses were received, of which 61 were from groups or organisations and 52 from individual members of the public. The total number of responses includes comments received from the three statutory SEA consultation authorities through the SEA Gateway. An analysis of responses to the consultation was conducted by Craigforth, an independent social research consultancy, and published in October 2020[3]. All published responses can be found at the Scottish Government’s Consultation hub[4].

4.1.3 Responses varied in their focus across the consultation - some focused primarily, or exclusively, on specific development types including responses which provided significant detail on issues relating to the extension of PDR for these development types. Other respondents commented across a broader range of development types.

4.2. Comments on the proposed programme for reviewing and extending permitted development rights (PDR) in Scotland

Consultation responses

4.2.1 The first consultation question sought views on the proposed work programme. A total of 101 respondents addressed Question 1, including 57 organisation respondents and 44 individuals. Of these respondents, 30 expressed broad support for the proposed work programme, 44 provided comments which criticised aspects of the proposed work programme and 27 did not express a clear view on the work programme as a whole.

4.2.2 Most of the respondents expressing broad support for the work programme raised some issues or suggested amendment to the programme; overall, 81 respondents (40 organisations and 41 individuals) raised issues or concerns, or suggested amendments to the work programme. For most respondents, these suggestions related to specific development types, however, a number of common themes were also evident across these responses.

4.2.3 A range of respondents used Question 1 as an opportunity to express their support for the grouping and phasing of development types, while some respondents objected to any extension of PDR. These respondents suggested that existing PDR are already extensive and recent additions to PDR have not had a significant positive impact on pressures for local authorities. Some individuals also suggested that the work programme did not give sufficient emphasis to the rights of communities affected by development.

4.2.4 Some respondents also made suggestions on specific development types which should be prioritised as part of phase 1 of the work programme, including EV charging infrastructure and active travel, allotments and community growing schemes, and habitat pond creation.

4.2.5 Others suggested that it was unclear how the selection of specific development types and the phasing of the work programme related to specific findings set out in the SA report. This included a public body suggesting that prioritisation of the work programme to support the rural economy does not appear to have been subject to any assessment or consideration of alternatives.

4.2.6 Some respondents highlighted other development types which they felt should be considered for PDR such as:

  • aspirations for the delivery of affordable rural homes;
  • development which supports the rural economy;
  • collective self-build or mutual home ownership cooperative developments on land identified for affordable housing through Local Place Plans;
  • enabling succession of farm ownership; and homes on new entrant small holdings/farms.

4.2.7 A number of respondents raised concerns regarding the potential extension of PDR to designated areas, wild land areas and heritage locations. It was suggested that potential benefits for climate policy and digital infrastructure, for example, do not warrant permitting development that could cause unacceptable harm to these locations.

4.2.8 Some third sector respondents saw a need to expand the work programme to incorporate a review of the General Permitted Development (Scotland) Order (GPDO) as a whole. This included a suggestion that the GPDO includes development types that could hinder Scotland’s net-zero emissions targets and that should be subject to greater scrutiny.

SG response

4.2.9 Following the consultation the proposed work programme has been revised taking into account a number of considerations, including:

  • The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Scottish economy and society and the enforced delay in taking forward work on amendments to PDR due to the need to divert staff resource to tackle the emergency;
  • Informed by the SA findings, the potential contribution that amendments to PDR for particular development types could make to the delivery of Scottish Government priorities and strategic outcomes – and in particular the potential contribution to economic and social recovery from the pandemic; and
  • Feedback from the consultation responses on the proposed work programme and the Sustainability Appraisal.

4.2.10 As a result of these multiple and interconnected considerations a number of changes to the proposed work programme have been made. These include:

  • The retention of digital communications infrastructure, agricultural developments and peatland restoration in phase 1 of the programme (to be taken forward as a priority with a view to laying regulations in Parliament before the end of 2020). This reflects the positive contribution that each can make to economic recovery (particularly in fragile and remote rural areas), the importance to society and day to day life of good digital connectivity, and the potential significant positive effects on climate change of changes to PDR for peatland restoration and digital communications. Mitigation of the potential negative impacts of changes to PDR for these development types will form an important component of the detailed proposals for change for each of these types.
  • The movement of changes to PDR for development related to active travel from phase 2 into phase 1 to be taken forward as a priority over the remaining months of 2020. This reflects the significant increase in levels of walking and cycling witnessed during the pandemic and a desire to capitalise on this, to maximise the positive impacts for human health and climate via reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The movement of PDR for town centre changes of use from phase 3 to phase 2. This reflects the recognition that changes to our town centres are likely to be accelerated by the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic and the important role that changes to PDR here may play in enabling adjustments which will encourage vitality in town centres. In addition, we consider that any potential changes to PDR in this area should be informed by the conclusions of the Town Centre Action Plan Expert Review Group, which is due to report to Ministers later in 2020.
  • The movement of consideration of changes to PDR for hill tracks (private ways) from phase 1 to phase 3 and for micro-renewables from Phase 1 to a later phase. This largely reflects the range of development types within the micro-renewables category, the complexity of the issues around these development types and the recognition that more time will be need to fully explore how changes to PDR might most effectively maximise positive impacts and mitigate the potential negative impacts arising.
  • In addition, in light of recommended support for the tourism sector from the report of the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery, Planning and Architecture Division undertook to engage with snow sports operators. Subject to views on whether the options covered in the Sustainability Appraisal have potential to support economic recovery, it was proposed to address this as part of Phase 1. Discussions with the sector did not however provide a clear basis for a proposition in Phase 1.

4.2.11 Where the consultation responses suggested additional development types for PDR these have been noted but are not currently being considered for inclusion in the work programme. This is because either the suggestions received were not considered to be suitable for the granting of PDR and/ or because inclusion would require significant additional work to identify and assess the likely environmental, social and economic impacts and are not considered a priority at this time.

4.3. Comments on the Sustainability Appraisal

4.3.1 Three questions invited comments specifically on the SA. Corresponding views and comments received have been summarised in the sections that follow.

Question 2. What are your views on the accuracy and scope of the information described in the SA report?

Consultation responses

4.3.2 A total of 74 respondents addressed Question 2, including 40 organisation respondents and 34 individuals. Of these 74 respondents, 20 expressed broad support for the SA baseline, 18 provided comments which criticised aspects of the accuracy and scope of information described or offered suggestions as to how this could be improved, and 36 did not give a clear overall view. Most of those expressing broad support raised some issues; overall, 59 respondents (27 organisations and 32 individuals) offered suggestions regarding the information described in the SA.

4.3.3 Most of the issues or suggestions raised related to specific development types. However, a number of common themes were also evident across these responses. It should be noted that these common themes, and the great majority of points relating to specific development types, were raised in relation to the SA baseline as a whole, or were raised specifically in relation to the environmental baseline. Relatively few respondents raised issues specifically related to the social and economic baselines.

4.3.4 Some were of the view that some of the information set out in the SA is ‘generic’ rather than specifically related to the development types under consideration, and based on assumption and broad assessment. These respondents wished to see more detailed information provided for consultation as the work programme progresses, including more qualitative consideration of impacts. It was suggested that the Post Adoption Statement should be the mechanism by which key SA findings and evidence are taken forward to inform the ongoing work programme.

4.3.5 Some respondents suggested that aspects of the evidence base as set out in the SA includes out of date sources. This included comments from other public bodies, private sector and third sector respondents. Some also noted that references to legislation and wider policy objectives should be kept under review to ensure they remain current.

4.3.6 Additional comments included ones such that further information on cultural heritage should be included under each development type; that the environmental baseline should recognise the pressure on biodiversity across Scotland, not only in designated areas; and that further development of the environmental, social and economic baselines was required to support consideration of ‘reasonable alternatives’ to the extension of PDR.

4.3.7 Some third sector respondents referred to specific designations which they considered had been omitted from the environmental baseline set out in the SA, for example Special Landscape Areas.

4.3.8 Several respondents suggested that the environmental, social and economic baselines do not include sufficient consideration of the potential impact of PDR on flood risk.

4.3.9 Finally, a range of individual and specific points were made concerning specific data to be updated or included in the baseline, including information on the quality of place and the economic impact of flooding..

SG response

4.3.10 Where respondents have suggested that specific data sources could be updated and/ or have suggested additional sources of information, these comments have been noted and will be taken into account, where relevant, as future work is progressed. The proposed work programme was the first step in an iterative and ongoing policy process which has been, and will continue to be, informed by the Sustainability Appraisal (SA). We will also give consideration to whether any further appraisal or assessment is required at each step of the iterative policy process.

Question 3. What are your views on the predicted effects set out in the SA report?

Consultation responses

4.3.11 A total of 81 respondents provided an answer at Question 3, including 45 organisation respondents and 36 individuals. Of these 81 respondents, 13 expressed broad support for the predicted effects set out in the SA, 44 provided comments which criticised aspects of the predicted effects (the majority being individuals, including 16 campaign plus responses), and 24 did not express a clear overall view.

4.3.12 Several common themes were evident across the responses. A number of respondents raised concerns regarding potential cumulative effects of extending PDR, and felt that further consideration of these effects, and how they can be assessed, is required. Concerns regarding cumulative effects were primarily related to landscape and biodiversity, particularly in designated areas. However, some respondents also referred to potential cumulative effects in relation to flood risk. This was a particular concern in relation to householder developments but is also noted below in relation to other specific development types.

4.3.13 In addition to these specific issues, some respondents raised concerns regarding how predicted effects are described throughout the SA and associated appendices. This included some suggesting that, where predicted effects are significantly negative, or are uncertain, consideration should be given to whether these development types are suitable for PDR.

4.3.14 Others suggested that greater consistency is required in the language used to ascribe value to predicted effects, and that use of ‘reversible’ should be better qualified. Some also commented that they had difficulty reading between the main SA report and appendices to assess the significance of predicted effects.

4.3.15 Specific points raised at Question 3 in relation to social effects include a number of respondents questioning the extent to which the SA has considered mental health impacts associated with increased flood risk, similar comments were also received in relation to economic effects linked to financial impacts.

4.3.16 Some third sector and individual respondents raised concerns regarding the potential for PDR to undermine local community and authority influence on planning. This included reference to PDR contradicting the principle of a ‘plan-led’ approach to development, to removing the ability of local communities to influence decisions affecting their local area, and reducing planning authority income. Mixed comments were received in relation to agricultural development PD proposals. A third sector respondent suggested that extending PDR for change of use of agricultural buildings to residential housing is not consistent with a plan-led approach to delivery of new housing, and could place greater pressure on rural services and infrastructure. A public sector respondent suggested that conversion to housing should be excluded from PDR, raising concerns around standards of accommodation and impact on privacy and amenity. In contrast, some private sector respondents suggested that the SA did not give sufficient consideration to the positive social and economic effects of extending PDR for agricultural developments in terms of improving existing housing for farming families and local communities and supporting farm succession.

4.3.17 In relation to active travel, some were concerned that extending PDR could lead to delivery of lower quality active travel developments that may not work for all users, and will not deliver objectives for increased use of active travel.

4.3.18 In relation to allotments and community growing schemes, it was suggested that controls may be required to ensure PDR does not lead to proliferation of buildings on allotments, negatively impacting on amenity.

4.3.19 In relation to town centre changes of use, several respondents raised concerns that extending PDR for town centres may undermine plan-led approaches to town centre regeneration, suggesting that a coordinated and collaborative approach has been shown to be more effective in improving the economic and social viability of town centres.

4.3.20 In relation to domestic and non-domestic energy storage, some private sector respondents referred to positive economic effects in terms of encouraging investment in battery storage.

4.3.21 Several planning/ other professional and third sector respondents raised concerns regarding the extent to which information set out in the SA takes sufficient account of potential impacts on Scotland’s historic and cultural heritage. These respondents expressed a view that historic and cultural heritage is relevant to the environmental, social and economic baselines and should be referenced by each.

SG response

4.3.22 The comments received have been taken into account in finalising the work programme and will continue to inform the development of detailed draft proposals for individual development types where relevant. The proposed work programme was the first step in an iterative and ongoing policy process which has been, and will continue to be, informed by the Sustainability Appraisal (SA). We will also give consideration to whether any further appraisal or assessment is required at each step of the iterative policy process. Further information on the detailed proposals for individual development types, including any additional assessment undertaken, is contained in the appendices to this report.

Question 4. What are your views on the findings and the proposals for mitigation and monitoring of effects set out in the SA report?

Consultation responses

4.3.23 A total of 75 respondents provided an answer at Question 4, including 40 organisation respondents and 35 individuals. Of these 75 respondents, 6 expressed broad support for mitigation and monitoring proposals, 23 provided comments which criticised aspects of mitigation and monitoring, and 46 did not express a clear overall view.

4.3.24 Some common themes were evident, including a number of the themes discussed previously such as monitoring cumulative impact, and on mitigating effects on cultural heritage and other environmental receptors. This included concerns regarding the lack of mitigation proposals specifically to address increased flood risk. However, respondents also raised general issues and concerns regarding proposals for mitigation and monitoring which did not relate to specific development types.

4.3.25 Some respondents, including other public bodies, felt that information provided on mitigation proposals was very limited and incomplete. Some also noted that proposals did not include detail on implementation mechanisms, which were seen as a key factor in the effectiveness of proposals. It was suggested that mitigation mechanisms should be outlined more comprehensively in the Post Adoption Statement, and should remain a key aspect of discussions for individual work streams.

4.3.26 Similar concerns were raised in relation to proposals for monitoring, which were also described as limited and incomplete. This included comments from planning authorities, other public bodies and third sector respondents. It was suggested that the SA as a minimum should indicate how existing monitoring regimes could contribute to monitoring the effects of PDR. Some respondents again suggested that further detail should be included in the Post Adoption Statement.

4.3.27 Some respondents also expressed concern regarding what was seen as over-reliance on good practice guidance to mitigate the effects of PDR. Some planning authorities suggested that good practice could have limited mitigation benefits if it cannot be implemented or enforced, although other respondents suggested specific aspects of good practice guidance as having a potential role in the approach to mitigation.

4.3.28 Concerns were also raised regarding the potential benefits of prior notification/approval as a means of mitigating the effects of extending PDR. This included suggestions that this ‘intermediate’ approach may cause confusion for applicants, and can undermine the benefits of extending PDR in relation to streamlining the planning process and reducing burden on planning authorities. Some third sector respondents referred to evidence from monitoring the use of the new prior notification process as having highlighted issues with this approach.

4.3.29 Specific points raised at Question 4 in relation to mitigation of social effects included comments that the SA includes little reference to mitigation of the impact on a plan-led system and provision of public services (in relation to agricultural developments). In addition, respondents suggested that prior notification submissions in relation to micro-renewables may need to include a supporting assessment of impacts on the host community.

4.3.30 In relation to the mitigation of economic effects, some respondents noted that they did not anticipate significant negative economic impacts that would require mitigation.

SG response

4.3.31 The SA makes recommendations for a number of potential mitigation measures, where applicable, for each development type. Examples include, but are not limited to, i) imposing conditions or restrictions on the extension of particular PDR, ii) redefining distance thresholds for particular PDR by establishing minimum distances beyond which effects from particular development types are unlikely to be significant, and iii) retaining or requiring prior notification/prior approval.

4.3.32 Where recommendations have been made these will be taken into account as more detailed proposals are progressed. Next steps are discussed further in section 7 of this statement.

4.3.33 Further information on monitoring is set out in section 6 below.

Contact

Email: Planning.PDRphase1consultation2020@gov.scot

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