On Friday 31 March 2023 the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development and Use Classes) (Scotland) Miscellaneous Amendment Order 2023 came into force, introducing a number of changes to permitted development rights and planning uses in Scotland.

Permitted Development Rights

The Order represents the latest stage of the Scottish Government’s review of what is commonly known as Permitted Development (“PD”) – the forms of development for which the law grants planning permission, without the need for a full application to be made to and granted by the relevant planning authority.

Some of the most notable changes within the Order relate to the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. With Scotland aiming to phase out new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, the uptake of electric vehicles is expected to increase considerably, and with it the need for an adequate network of supporting infrastructure.

Whilst PD rights for electric vehicle charging points have been in place for almost a decade now, the Order revisits these and expands upon them. Significantly, the Order removes earlier restrictions that prevented these rights from being exercised in designated areas such as Conservation Areas, National Parks and National Scenic Areas. It also confers new rights to install solar canopies and associated equipment for the recharging of electric vehicles.

Of particular interest to those in the hospitality industry will be the new provisions around outdoor servery on public roads and pavements. Following its adoption by many businesses as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the on-street outdoor dining/drinking area is likely to remain a feature of our town centres, with the Order granting new PD rights for food and drink operators to use – and place furniture on – part of the public road adjacent to their premises.

These changes have not been without controversy, with some raising concerns around the potential for outdoor furniture to obstruct pavements and impact upon local amenity. Notwithstanding the Order, the Scottish Government has been keen to stress that outdoor servery remains subject to other statutory controls in terms of both roads and licensing legislation.

In addition to the headline changes, the Order also extends PD rights for port operators in Scotland, broadly bringing these into alignment with those of airport operators, as well as their counterparts south of the border.

Use Classes

Recognising the longstanding challenges facing town centres, and the need for adaptability in their regeneration and recovery, the Order also amends Scotland’s system of planning use classes, with the intention of providing greater flexibility around changes of use.

A new ‘Class 1A’ use, combining the previous Class 1 (shops) and Class 2 (financial, professional and other services) use classes, is introduced by the Order. As a result, the change of use of a retail premises to use as, say, an estate agency, would now constitute a change within the same class, and would no longer require planning permission.

The flexibility afforded by this new use class is supplemented by expanded PD rights for changes of use. Whereas most departures from Class 1A uses would have previously required planning permission, the Order permits changes to Class 3 (food and drink) and Class 4 (business) uses in some circumstances.

These new PD rights are not unrestricted. For instance, a change to a food and drink use would still require planning permission where the premises is located beneath or in close proximity to a residential dwelling, and a change to a business use would only be possible where the premises did not exceed 300 square metres in floor area. Nevertheless, they represent a significant change in approach, with greater emphasis given than ever before to the diversification of town centre uses.

Next Steps

Further changes are also on the horizon, as the Scottish Government moves towards the final stage of its review of PD rights. Citing the cost of living and climate crises, the Chief Planner and Planning Minister have signalled their intent to expand PD rights for domestic and non-domestic renewable energy equipment, including solar panels on non-domestic buildings. Further consultation on these proposals is expected in the coming months.

 If you have any questions about the impact of these changes and would like to discuss, please do contact a member of our Scottish planning team