The Government has suspended the requirement for public events due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus (Covid-19).
A guidance note has been prepared and provides information in relation to the measures in replacement of public events in the Pre-Application (Planning) stage of development. This guidance note is structured under the following headings:
Full note of the provisions set out by the Scottish Government, enforced from 24 April 2020 are available to view here.
Existing legislation requires that a 'public event' is undertaken by the applicant or developer as part of the pre-application consultation process for all new major and national development in Scotland as set out in the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2013, and the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, as amended by the Planning Etc. (Scotland) Act 2006.
An application cannot be lodged with the local planning authority until the pre-application requirements (including the public event) have been satisfied.
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is not feasible for public events to go ahead as they ordinarily would. Restrictions have been placed on public gatherings and social distancing has been enforced to mitigate the risk to public health.
The continued functioning of the planning system is required to support our future economic and societal recovery, businesses and jobs and to avoid delays to necessary infrastructure, housing and other developments. Temporary legislation has been passed by the Scottish Government which seeks to help keep the planning system going throughout this emergency.
The Town and Country Planning (Miscellaneous Temporary Modifications) (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 therefore suspend temporarily the requirement for a public event as part of the Pre-Application Consultation (PAC) process. This came into effect on 24 April 2020. This also makes provisions to allow alternative online consultation to take place.
This suspension of the public event applies to development proposals where the Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) was submitted prior to the end of the emergency period (currently 30 September 2020) and where the application for planning permission is made within 6 months following the end of the emergency period.
Alternative means which sufficiently facilitate meaningful engagement and consultation with local communities and stakeholders are required to be adopted as a solution to the temporary suspension of the requirement to host a public event.
There are a number of statutory minimum requirements which are still in place regarding pre-application activity for major/national development.
The key minimum statutory requirements which are required to be upheld throughout this period are:
The PAN must contain:
Throughout this period, the required newspaper notice must contain such information regarding:
Importantly, there is no statutorily specified alternative to a public event during the period of the COVID 19 outbreak, however, prospective applicants are expected to propose "reasonable alternatives" based on the guidance provided by the Scottish Government. Planning authorities remain permitted to require additional consultation steps to those specified in legislation, if deemed necessary. Examples of such "reasonable alternatives" are provided in section 5 of this guidance note.
In replacement of the public event, temporary online measures must provide an alternative way to enable the exchange of views that would otherwise be achieved by face to face interaction. Alternative consultation must allow "two way traffic" where a conversation can be held and immediate responses provided to the public from the applicant.
The Scottish Government state that the minimum requirement for the temporary substitute requires both:
Information hosted at a central, free, publicly accessible web location
This information must:
The public should be allowed a minimum of 7 days to submit questions or views electronically in response. The prospective applicant must respond to all comments and questions.
Live and interactive web-based consultation
The public must be allowed a minimum of 21 days to access information on the proposals and submit comments online. This should run from the date of the newspaper notice. This may be distinct from the "two-way" event. Ordinarily, legislation does not provide a minimum amount of time for a public event.
In addition to the public notice, the Council expects that reasonable measures should be in place to advertise the PAC including arrangements for accessing and commenting on information and for attending and engaging in a live online event, in place of ordinary measures.
As well as the requirement to serve a public notice at least 7 days before any event is held, prospective applicants could do a mail drop to local residents, perhaps advertise the PAC at the local supermarket and should engage with the local community councils to determine the best ways to reach people, which could be through social media.
This temporary alternative to the public event as part of the PAC process is, in part, open to interpretation and requires a creative and considered response from the prospective applicant in respect of the proposed development.
The opportunity is presented to engage a wider audience through different means. Reasonable efforts should be made to ensure that this alternative consultation is not exclusionary and is accessible to those whom the proposed development may interest and/or affect most.
Some ideas of how the alternative public event may be facilitated are outlined below. This note may be used by prospective applicants to understand the PAC requirements for major/national development and how these have changed with the introduction of temporary national legislation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is ultimately the responsibility of the prospective applicant to make suitable provisions for PAC throughout this emergency period. They should consider which tools are the best and most proportionate to their proposal. On submission of the PAN, discussion regarding the suitability of the proposed PAC should be expected and suitable arrangements agreed with Planning.
Best practice will be where as similar an experience as a public event is adopted and the event is widely targeted and advertised to a wide audience of people. The public should be able to access the required information and engage with the proposals effectively.
A series of suggestions for each stage of PAC are provided which prospective applicants may wish to refer to. Multiple measures from under each heading may be adopted.
Pre-Event - Advertising
In addition to the minimum statutory requirements outlined in section 3, measures may be required to further advertise the alternative event and ensure that the people who may be most interested/ affected by the proposals are informed at an early stage of how they can engage with the PAC process.
Such additional measures for advertising may include:
Event - Information
Information regarding the proposal may be hosted at a central, free, publicly accessible web location. Additionally, information could be provided:
Event - Feedback
In place of the public event where feedback is often received and documented through the completion of questionnaires or feedback forms, an alternative may involve:
Event - Interaction
To facilitate the "two-way" interaction element of the alternative public event, the following means may be adopted:
You may find the following examples in this link useful.