Two sets of Regulations have been added to the Scottish Government's package of measures addressing the impact on the planning system of the Covid-19 crisis:

The Town and Country Planning (Miscellaneous Temporary Modifications) (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 24 April 2020
The Electricity Works (Miscellaneous Temporary Modifications) (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 24 April 2020
Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 * 7 April 2020
Chief Planner's letter * 3 April 2020

* see Brodies update -

What changes are made to pre-application consultation procedures?

There is temporary suspension of the requirement to hold a public event as part of pre-application consultation. The Scottish Government issued guidance on 23 April 2020 – "Coronavirus (COVID-19): planning guidance on pre-application consultations for public events". The guidance suggests alternatives to public events, including live and interactive web-based consultation.

This applies to existing PAC, where a pre-application notice has already been served (even it was served before the emergency period started); and PAC where the PAN is served during the emergency period. The only requirement is that the planning application must be submitted during or in the 6 months after the end of the emergency period.

Where a PAN has been submitted already, the Scottish Government guidance indicates there is no need to submit a new PAN specifying alternative consultation approaches.

For new PAC, the newspaper advertisement is to include mention of the electronic means for obtaining information on the proposal.

What other changes are made to planning procedures?

There is temporary suspension of requirements to:

  • Make copies of an EIA report for inspection at a physical location.
  • Hold meetings of local review bodies in public

Although these changes are relatively minor and technical, they do remove barriers to projects proceeding through the various planning procedures.

What changes are made to procedures for consent applications for electricity generating stations?

The following changes are made to the section 36 procedures, in Scotland only:

  • Introduction of the concept of the "application website", maintained by the developer for the purpose of making information available publicly, rather than documents being available for inspection in a public place
  • objections can be submitted electronically
  • EIA documents to be available for inspection electronically

What's happening about registration of section 75 agreements?

Registers of Scotland officially launch the digital system for registration on 27 April. It will not be available for applications which involve land recorded in the Register of Sasines. There will be a system to prioritise applications over at least the first couple of weeks.

Are oral procedures continuing for planning appeals?

DPEA issued updated guidance on 17 April 2020. If it is not possible to substitute a written procedure, then reporters will try to continue with oral procedure, adapting those procedures – if possible – so that they can be conducted remotely by communications technology (Zoom is the preferred technology). The decisions on how oral procedures will be adapted are for the reporters to make in each case.

There is acknowledgment of the potentially significantly greater practical and other challenges for inquiries, compared to pre-examination meetings and hearings.

No site inspections will take place until travel restrictions are lifted and it is otherwise safe to do so. Reporters will give consideration to determining matters before them without a site visit, utilising plans and any photographic evidence already submitted. DPEA have trialled a real-life site inspection by Zoom video meeting. This worked well and will be considered for use in other cases where suitable.

What is happening with court actions?

The Court of Session held its first virtual hearing on 21 April.