Permitted Development Rights review - phase 3: consultation analysis

Analysis of responses to a public consultation on phase 3 of our programme to review and extend permitted development rights (PDR).

Executive Summary

Permitted development rights (PDR) provide flexibility to carry out certain types of development without an application for planning permission having to be submitted to, and approved by, the relevant planning authority. The Scottish Government is reviewing PDR on a phased basis; this consultation relates to Phase 3 and is primarily focused on PDR for domestic and non-domestic renewables equipment. It also considers PDR associated with the rollout of transmission and distribution infrastructure needed to support the expansion of renewables and to meet increasing demands for electricity and seeks views on potential amendments to PDR for reverse vending machines (RVMs) and temporary target shooting ranges.

The consultation opened on 31 May 2023 and closed on 23 August 2023. In total 467 responses were received, of which 104 were from groups or organisations and 363 from individual members of the public.

Domestic Renewables

Domestic solar energy equipment

Around two thirds (65%) of those who answered the question and gave a clear view agreed with the proposed PDR for solar panels attached to domestic properties in conservation areas, while 35% disagreed. Respondents who supported the proposed PDR tended to see the approach as reasonable and to view concerns with respect to possible impacts on visual amenity or the character of conservation areas as being outweighed by the potential benefits. The most frequent reason for opposing the proposed PDR was concern for the cumulative impact of solar panels on the appearance and character of conservation areas. In particular, the proposed exclusion with respect to solar panels ‘on a principal elevation or a side elevation where that side elevation fronts a road’ was considered inadequate, since solar panels may still be visible from many other vantage points.

Around three quarters – 74% of those who gave a clear view – agreed with proposals for PDR for solar panels on outbuildings ancillary to, and within the curtilage of, a dwellinghouse while 26% disagreed. Arguments in support of the PDR tended to reflect points raised at the previous question in terms of the reasonableness of the approach, with an additional suggestion that ancillary buildings are well suited to solar PV, with the potential to provide a less obtrusive option than mounting panels on the main building. Reasons that the new PDR should not be introduced included both that current requirements to obtain planning permission should remain and that to make it even easier to generate solar energy, some or all of the proposed restrictions should be removed.

Domestic Air Source Heat Pumps

The majority of those giving a clear view agreed with the proposed amendments to PDR for ASHPs; 59% were of this view while 41% disagreed. Those who supported the proposed amendments saw heat pumps as a key technology for delivery of net zero policy targets, and agreed with the need for expansion of PDR to support wider roll out of ASHPs. Objections to proposed changes were most commonly related to noise impacts, including potential for cumulative noise associated with multiple installations in close proximity, and there were concerns around the current methodology for the assessment of noise impacts. There were also concerns that proposed limits on the size and positioning of ASHP units could be too restrictive, and that allowing ASHP installation above ground level could have a significant visual impact even where this is limited to rear elevations.

Domestic Ground Source and Water Source Heat Pumps

Three quarters (75%) of respondents who gave a clear view agreed with the proposed amendments to classes 6D and 6E PDR, while 25% disagreed. Those expressing support for proposals agreed that these would provide greater clarity around the scope of PDR for domestic ground source and water source heat pumps, and would bring existing PDR in line with those relating to non-domestic heat pumps. Concerns around the proposed changes included a view that PDR should continue to be restricted in areas of archaeological interest and within the curtilage of historic sites, and that the proposed limitation of PDR to the curtilage of properties could prevent installers from choosing the most appropriate solution.

Free-standing domestic wind turbines

A little more than half (55%) of respondents with a clear view agreed with the proposed amendments to PDR for free-standing domestic wind turbines, while 45% disagreed. A majority of Planning authority and Professional or representative body respondents disagreed. Some respondents noted that they generally agreed or agreed in principle with the proposed approach, which was described as sensible or reasonable and as an effective way to encourage uptake. However, there was also a view that erection of wind turbines should always require planning permission, particularly with respect to concerns over potential for a cumulative impact on neighbours.

Most of those respondents who commented specifically on turbine height supported the proposed 15m height limit. Among respondents who did not agree, some saw 15m as too restrictive, arguing that there may be situations where taller turbines could be acceptable. There was general approval for the proposed simplification of the prior notification and approval process although also a view that it should be removed where there is scope to do so.

With respect to the current list of designated areas where the PDR do not apply, respondents who answered the question were relatively evenly divided – 52% were in agreement while 48% disagreed. Some respondents argued that the PDR should apply in National Parks and National Scenic Areas with reasons including that smaller domestic turbines would be unlikely to have a significant impact, and that the requirement for prior approval should enable landscape or visual impacts to be minimised. However, National Parks and National Scenic Areas were also the most frequent suggestions for additional places that the PDR should not apply.

Domestic wind turbines attached to a dwelling

Respondents who gave a clear view were relatively evenly divided on the proposed new PDR for wall or roof-mounted wind turbines, with 53% in agreement and 47% disagreeing. Arguments tended to reflect those set out with respect to freestanding turbines. Visual impact, flicker, noise, vibration, risk of malfunction, maintenance requirements and risk of adverse effects on the performance of flues serving fuel burning equipment were all referenced as causes for concern.

There were concerns that the tone of the noise generated by very small turbines can cause problems, and that the noise output information available is more limited than that available for freestanding domestic turbines, making them difficult to assess. Views on the proposed distance of at least 5m to the curtilage boundary included both that it is too low and too high. Respondents taking the first view argued that 5m will not be sufficient to protect neighbours against noise, flicker or vibration issues. However, others thought that 5m may be overly restrictive or could mean that the best location structurally for a turbine is not considered acceptable.

Flues for certain domestic heating systems

Respondents who supported the removal of PDR for flues for biomass heating and wood burning stoves suggested that this would be consistent with national policy aims around climate impacts and air quality, noting that there is no known safe threshold for fine particulate matter. It was also suggested that the current ‘1 metre bubble’ can encourage the inappropriate installation of smaller flues to avoid the need for planning permission, such that proposed changes could lead to improved installations. Objections included a view that requiring planning permission for these flues would not deliver clear benefits, could encourage households to choose (or discourage switching away from) less sustainable options such as oil or LPG, and would disproportionately impact rural areas. It was suggested that planning legislation is not the appropriate means to control emissions from these appliances, and a number of concerns were raised in this regard.

Non-Domestic Renewables

Non-Domestic Solar Panels

The majority of those who gave a clear view (71%) agreed with the proposed amendments to class 6J PDR for solar panels attached to non-domestic buildings, while 29% disagreed. Some respondents expressed support or support in principle for the proposed amendment, including because it will allow generation of more solar energy and will support businesses to decarbonise and reduce their energy costs. Although broadly supporting the principle, some respondents called for additional limitations, most frequently in respect of conservation areas. Among respondents who did not agree with the proposed amendments, several also highlighted concerns with respect to conservation areas.

Enabling solar panels to be attached to non-domestic buildings which are located in conservation areas –subject to conditions that they are not permitted on a principal elevation or side elevation fronting a road or within the curtilage of a listed building – was the amendment that attracted the greatest number of comments. These tended to reflect concerns raised in the context of domestic installations that the visibility of solar panels from other places in a conservation area risks damaging its character.

The reason given most frequently in support of amending current restrictions on solar panels on non-domestic properties and solar canopies in parking areas within 3km of airports and technical sites was that some airports (including Glasgow and Edinburgh) either have, or are planning, installation of their own solar panels. While some respondents specifically noted their approval for reduction of the exclusion zone to 2km or 1km, Private sector energy/renewables respondents in particular proposed that the exclusion zone should be eliminated altogether. An alternative view was that the 3km exclusion zone should be retained, with reasons including the potential for glint and glare to impact on flight crew and air traffic controllers. Reference was made in this regard to statutory requirements on airports regarding safety and safeguarding procedures reliant on there being planning applications for development of concern.

More than three quarters (77%) of respondents with a clear view agreed with the proposed new PDR for solar panels within the curtilage of non-domestic buildings, while 23% disagreed. Some respondents welcomed the proposed new PDR which was described as pragmatic, or as a reasonable compromise that will bring Scotland in line with planning regulations in other parts of the UK. The importance of generating more solar power was also highlighted. Among respondents who disagreed, only a small number opposed the new PDR in principle. However, most of those who agreed and those who disagreed argued for changes to the proposed clauses as set out in the consultation paper.

All of the respondents who commented specifically on the proposed 12m2 limit on the area of solar panels argued that is too low, too restrictive or an arbitrary figure. Suggested amendments included that, rather than a fixed area, there could be a sliding scale according to location (for example whether close to houses) or a percentage of the area within a building’s curtilage.

The proposed exclusion of National Scenic Areas, National Parks and the curtilage of a listed building was the restriction attracting the highest number of comments, albeit from respondents arguing two very different viewpoints. For some the exclusion of national scenic areas and national parks was welcome, although there were also calls to extend the exclusion to other designations including conservation areas, World Heritage Sites, scheduled monuments, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserves.

Solar Canopies in Parking Areas

More than three quarters (78%) of those with a clear view agreed with the proposal to extend class 9M PDR to allow these to apply to solar canopies generally, while 22% disagreed. Some respondents saw the proposed changes as reasonable or logical, and it was suggested that other restrictions in class 9M PDR can protect amenity, minimise impacts in terms of landscape, or ensure that canopies are not overly dominant or inappropriately sited. Private sector energy/renewables respondents in particular pointed to potential to export power, either to the grid or to surrounding homes or businesses if opportunities for peer-peer trading allow generators to sell electricity to local consumers. (The previous section on solar panels on non-domestic buildings covers the issue of restrictions on class 9M PDR within 3km of airports and technical sites.)

Specific objections to the proposed amendments included a concern that the revised PDR could effectively allow development of solar farms in inappropriate locations. There were calls for additional restrictions in relation to the size and dimensions of canopies and the noise generated by ancillary infrastructure, and for exclusion of conservation areas, World Heritage Sites, and the curtilage of listed buildings from the PDR.

Around three quarters (76%) of respondents with a clear view agreed that an extended class 9M PDR should not have a maximum power generating capacity, while 24% disagreed. Some respondents simply noted their agreement with the proposed change or expressed a view that it is not necessary to restrict generating capacity while others suggested that, in practice, generating capacity will be determined by the size of parking structures. However, there were calls for additional restrictions as at the previous question, and also for further consideration of potential health and safety and grid capacity and integrity issues.

Non-domestic air source heat pumps

More than two thirds (69%) of respondents who gave a clear view agreed with the proposed PDR for air source heat pumps on non-domestic buildings, while 31% disagreed. Support for proposals included a view that consistency of regulations across domestic and non-domestic buildings is a logical approach, and reference to perceived inconsistencies and delays in application of current regulations. Objections to proposed changes reflected comments at previous questions on domestic properties around noise emissions and visual impacts, including for conservation areas and other sensitive landscapes.

Non- Domestic Ground Source and Water Source Heat Pumps

Three quarters (75%) of respondents with a clear view agreed with the proposed amendments to PDR for ground and water source heat pumps on non-domestic buildings, while 25% disagreed. Those in favour expressed general support for the proposals as a reasonable approach for ground and water source heat pumps, including specific support for a consistent approach across domestic and non-domestic buildings. Objection to proposals included concern that they do not include consideration of potential noise impacts, and a view that allowing ground and water-source heat pumps under PDR would not be appropriate in areas of archaeological interest.

Thermal Efficiency: Domestic and Non-Domestic Buildings

Replacement Windows - Domestic buildings

Around two thirds (66%) of those who gave a clear view agreed with the proposed PDR for replacement windows of domestic buildings located in conservation areas, while 34% disagreed. A majority of Planning authority respondents disagreed.

In addition to general comments of support, there was reference to the proposed PDR being a reasonable compromise and a proportionate adaptation to address future climate challenges. It was suggested that the planning system must be streamlined in order to facilitate greater uptake of energy efficiency measures across Scotland’s homes and buildings. A view was also expressed that additional PDR should apply but not for replacement windows that are visible from the public realm.

Those disagreeing with the proposed PDR tended to raise concerns about the potential negative impact on the appearance and character of conservation areas. It was reported that the existing restrictions are frequently breached already, and that a nuanced approach will only worsen the situation further and have a negative impact. It was also suggested that any harmful impact would be on arguably the nation’s biggest asset – Scotland’s outstanding historic environment.

A number of the specific concerns about the proposed PDR related to the consultation paper’s suggestion that the installation of new materials could be ‘more sympathetic in design terms’. Points included that using traditional materials in historic buildings is a key fundamental to protecting their special character, and that allowing the use of modern materials, such as uPVC, would undermine decades of work to preserve and enhance these areas.

Respondents also raised some concerns about which elevations should (or should not) be covered by any relaxation of restrictions, and there was a call for the wording to be amended to read ‘For windows situated on the principal elevation, or an elevation visible from the street or public place’.

Replacement Windows - Non-domestic buildings

The majority of respondents who gave a clear view agreed with the proposal to align non-domestic buildings with domestic buildings, as regards PDR for replacement windows; 65% were of this view while 35% disagreed.

Respondents who agreed with the proposal suggested that it should be limited to buildings where the existing windows are traditional sash and case, or other traditional window types which contribute to the character of the building/area. Some considered that World Heritage Sites should also be excluded.

Those who said they did not agree sometimes noted that they did not support the proposed PDR for domestic buildings and therefore, by extension, did not support its extension to non-domestic buildings. Specific points made about non-domestic properties included that the proposals could lead to unsympathetic alterations to shopfronts and other commercial buildings, to the detriment of the character and appearance of conservation areas.

Electricity Undertakings

Class 40 (Electricity Undertakings)

Most of those offering a clear view agreed that existing PDR should be clarified to include the purposes of ‘smart meter communications’ and the ‘distribution’ and ‘interconnection’ of electricity; 61% indicated this while 39% disagreed. Support for the proposed change included comments agreeing with the need for PDR to clearly reflect evolving technologies and Scotland’s changing energy system, and a view that significant upgrades will be required to Scotland’s electricity network to support decarbonisation and delivery of net zero targets. Others objected to statutory undertakers being permitted to carry out any forward development without planning consent and concern around the potential noise impacts of distribution and interconnection development.

Substation Infrastructure

The majority of those with a clear view agreed with the proposed amendments to existing PDR relating to new or replacement substations; 62% were of this view while 38% disagreed. Support for proposed changes reflected comments at earlier questions around the need for change to enable ongoing improvement to the electricity network to support net zero targets. There was also support for proposed restrictions on the size and location of substation development allowed under PDR. Opposition to proposed changes to PDR was linked to the potential noise and visual impact of larger substations on the local area, and to concerns around biodiversity loss, infringement of access rights and public health impacts.

Communications Lines

Most of those with a clear view agreed with allowing the replacement of communications lines in National Scenic Areas and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) under PDR; 61% agreed while 39% disagreed. Support for the proposal again referenced the need to enable upgrades to Scotland’s electricity system, and it was suggested that changes are consistent with existing PDR enabling statutory undertakers to replace below-ground electric lines. Opposition to the proposed changes included a particular focus on the value of National Scenic Areas or SSSIs as wild areas with considerable biodiversity value, and a perceived need for full planning scrutiny to secure improvements to design and materials of communication lines. Potential issues were also raised around the exclusion of other designated areas from PDR, noting that these often overlap with National Scenic Areas and SSSIs.

Those expressing support for proposals to allow replacement of lines longer than 1,000m noted that the deployment of longer lines will be essential to improve grid connections and modernise Scotland’s electricity infrastructure, and suggested that replacement of existing lines is unlikely to have a significant local impact. Potential objections to the proposals included some who questioned the rationale for the 1,000m threshold, suggesting that this is not reflective of electricity network projects and is not consistent with PDR for underground cables. Concerns were also raised around the potential for adverse impacts on particularly sensitive landscapes and sites, including the historic environment.

Site Investigation Works

More than two thirds (68%) of respondents who gave a clear view agreed with the proposal to extend the range of site investigation works that can be carried out under PDR, while 32% disagreed. Those expressing support saw proposals as a means of providing statutory undertakers with greater flexibility to enable necessary site investigation works, and suggested that proposals are consistent with the range of investigation works typically required for sites of electricity undertakings. Opposition included reference to the potential for unintended impacts if the proposed site investigation works are not subject to sufficient scrutiny, especially in designated areas and other sensitive landscapes.

Nearly three quarters (73%) of those offering a clear view felt that there are designated areas where PDR for certain site investigation works should be restricted, while 27% disagreed. Some argued that additional restrictions on PDR should not be necessary in designated areas if full site restoration is required, and if specific conditions are applied for particularly sensitive sites. Others suggested some restriction on PDR for site investigation works, most commonly in relation to sites of archaeological interest and nature or habitat-related designations.

Fences, Gates, Walls and Other Means of Enclosures

The majority of respondents with a clear view agreed with proposals for specific PDR to enable electricity undertakers to erect, construct, maintain or improve means of enclosure up to 3m in height; 71% indicated this while 29% disagreed. Support for proposals included a view that increasing the permitted height of gates, fences and other enclosures is a reasonable change in the context of public safety requirements around electricity network infrastructure. Objections were most commonly related to potential visual impacts, including concern that proposals would remove any control over the quality and design of enclosures. Other concerns included potential for proposals to lead to increased noise emissions, and to obstruct future transport improvements.

Development on Operational Land

Views were divided on proposals to remove prior notification and approval requirements that apply to certain works under PDR; 49% of those with a clear view agreed and 51% disagreed. Consistent with comments at earlier questions, support for the removal of prior notification and approval was linked to the need to streamline processes to support necessary upgrades to electricity network infrastructure. Other anticipated benefits included reducing the administrative burden on planning authorities. Opposition to the removal of prior notification and approval included a view that these processes can improve outcomes in some circumstances, for example improving the integration of development with residential areas or other sensitive sites.

Other Phase 3 proposals

Reverse Vending Machines (RVMs)

Overall, respondents were relatively evenly divided with 53% of those who gave a clear view disagreeing with the proposed amendments to PDR for RVMs, while 47% agreed. However, most organisations disagreed, including a majority of Planning authorities. General points made by respondents who agreed with the proposals included support for a more circular economy and reducing litter. Potential benefits for small retailers were noted, including by providing a collection point for multiple outlets.

Among respondents who did not support the proposed amendments some argued that, although the PDR would provide a solution for small retailers, the need to balance this with road safety, visual impact and residential amenity requires assessment through the planning process. The absence of any reference to or mitigation of potential noise impacts was also a matter of concern. A different perspective was that the proposals do not go far enough.

Planning authority respondents in particular argued that a clear 1.5m pavement width is not acceptable for safe passage and concerns were raised with respect to contribution to street clutter, safety for pedestrians, and additional hazards for people with impaired mobility or vision. Rather than the 1.5m proposed, some respondents argued that a clear width of at least 2m is required.

With respect to designated areas where class 9H PDR do not apply there were views that National Parks and National Scenic Areas should be excluded, but also that blanket exemptions are not required. There were also calls to exclude other designations including conservation areas and to protect the setting of listed buildings.

Temporary Use of Land: Shooting Ranges

Around three quarters of those commenting on proposed changes to PDR in relation to use of land for target shooting did not respond to any other consultation questions. These were primarily individuals whose sole focus was on this proposed change to PDR, some of whom indicated that they were responding as a member of a shooting club.

Most of those answering the question expressed their opposition to the exclusion of temporary target shooting ranges from PDR, with a number of these drawing on standard text provided by another organisation or individual (campaign-plus responses). Opposition was most commonly linked to a view that the proposal is disproportionate to the impact of this land use, is not evidence-based, and unfairly targets recreational shooting. Respondents suggested that target shooting does not cause the level of disruption suggested by the consultation paper, and noted that other current licensing and regulations help to minimising impacts. There was also reference to the potential adverse impact on target shooting events and clubs, and on stalkers, hunters and pest controllers who use fixed targets.

A minority of those commenting at Question 30 expressed support for the exclusion of temporary target shooting ranges from PDR. Reasons for this view were primarily related to the potential impact of target shooting on the local area and other land users, including specifically around noise disruption and safety concerns.

Assessment of Impacts

Sustainability Appraisal Update

General points on the SA Update included a call for assessment of how a principle of biodiversity enhancement could be applied as a condition for benefiting from a PDR.

Some respondents commented on the assessment of temporary shooting ranges including a suggestion that the assessment is flawed including because it assumes noise disruption and/or loss of amenity without providing any supporting evidence, and fails to consider the benefits of shooting ranges/activities for nature and the environment or the benefits of engaging in sporting activities for individuals and communities.

Other Assessments

Comments on other partial and draft impact assessments included that it is important to protect the collective rights of communities to influence delivery of net zero targets, with a related concern that extending PDR may risk a backlash against the necessary infrastructure if communities have no means of influencing the decision-making process.



Back to top