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Article published 02/06/2020

To enable Scotland’s planning system to continue to function effectively, confidently and with fairness during these difficult times for everyone a number of temporary legislative changes and supporting guidance has been published.

Planning can play an important part in enabling business operations to get back up and running. Examples may include allowing temporary on-street seating or enabling seasonal businesses such as holiday parks to continue to operate beyond any conditioned limits to their seasons. 

Changing business practices during physical distancing restrictions

As we progress through a phased approach to easing physical distancing measures, the Scottish Government recognises that life within our communities is likely to remain unusual for a further period, in terms of the impacts on businesses and how many aspects of daily life will function.

To enable re-opening of businesses, the Scottish Government is working collaboratively with industry, unions and stakeholders to build trust and cooperation on a phased approach.

Planning can play an important part in enabling business operations to get back up and running within the terms of the ongoing restrictions, and also support them to regain some lost ground and revenue as a direct result of the lockdown.

It is important to recognise the impact of recent months, as well as the need to get people back to work, which might mean businesses diversifying or needing to adjust the ways they operate to suit current circumstances. Planning can support well-measured temporary solutions.

An exhaustive list cannot be produced on what that might mean in practice, as there will be many circumstances in which reasonable, temporary relaxation of planning controls will help businesses to re-start and return some normality to life within our communities.

Examples might include taking a reasonable, positive and supportive approach to allow temporary use for on-street seating for cafes, bars, beer gardens and similar to accommodate physical distancing; and also to enable seasonal businesses such as holiday parks to continue to operate beyond any conditioned limits to their seasons. This may be another example where agreement not to take enforcement action is all that is needed for a temporary period.

Beyond any relaxation in planning to support temporary changes, there may of course be some matters to consider through other consenting and licensing regimes.

Scotland’s planning authorities and planning stakeholders have been adjusting their working practices accordingly and continue to do so. For the full update on activity, take a look at the Coronavirus (COVID-19): planning procedures - Chief Planner letter May 2020.