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Scottish government plans to extend PDR under ‘radical shake-up’ of regs

Shutterstock scottish barn scotland
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The Scottish government has said old agricultural buildings could be converted into homes without planning permission under a proposed extension of permitted development rights (PDR)

In a consultation launched this week, the Scottish authority is seeking views on giving landowners a de facto right to carry out construction or changes of land use.

Under the Scottish Government’s Proposed Programme for Extending Permitted Development Rights, which introduces a number of new rights (see below), the ’size and scale of farm sheds’ could also be increased.

The proposals also suggest giving an automatic right to change the use of buildings in town centres and increased rights to alter or extend homes which are listed or are in a conservation area.

However, the accompanying sustainability appraisal acknowledges this proposal could have a ‘significant negative effect […] on cultural heritage’.

The Scottish government argues the ‘radical shake-up’ of planning rules will help tackle depopulation in rural communities and provide a boost to local economies.

Planning minister Kevin Stewart said: ‘These reforms will help support work aimed at increasing the rural population, will support succession planning for farmers and will provide an opportunity for the planning system to positively contribute to the long-term sustainability of rural businesses and communities.’

PDR allows certain building works and changes to be carried out without permission from a local authority – but critics argue the rights let developers bypass scrutiny and build poor-quality housing.

Last month, talking about the situation in England, where the government is also looking to expand PDR despite a number of ‘hugely concerning’ office-to-resi conversions, RIBA president Alan Jones said the rules ‘allow projects to sidestep vital quality and environmental standards’.

But Alan Dunlop, whose practice Alan Dunlop Architects is based near Aberfoyle, said there was a different context for permitted development rights in rural Scotland.

Dunlop said it was hard to get sustainable employment in rural areas, and therefore there was a desperate need for affordable housing.

‘Anything which means more affordable homes can be built is good,’ he said.

However, he added: ‘The consequences of commercial-to-resi [applications of PDR] in London are diabolical. Developers have jumped on that to make substantial money. If the implication for Scotland is that, then nobody could support it.’

Proposed areas of change in Scottish planning regulations

Introducing permitted development rights for:

  • Creation of ponds for wildlife purposes
  • Activities to restore peatland, including managing water levels, stabilising peat and managing vegetation
  • Developments which support the allotments or community gardens, such as changing use of land, fencing, buildings, access and water
  • Public defibrillators
  • District heating infrastructure
  • Domestic energy storage
  • Non-domestic energy storage
  • Developments which support sustainable transport, such as new footpath and cycle routes, provision of safe road crossing points, provision of docking stations for e-bikes
  • Infrastructure to support the energy needs, water requirements and snow-making equipment needed at snow sports centres

Expansion of permitted development rights:

  • Changes to the use of buildings in town centres
  • Changes relating to size and scale of farm sheds, as well as development of polytunnels and conversion of agricultural buildings to residential or commercial use.
  • Changes relating to development of micro-renewables within protected areas
  • Changes relating to removal of restrictions on PDR for solar panels mounted to roofs or walls
  • Changes relating to the size, scale and location of digital communications infrastructure
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