Latest developments in Scottish planning and environmental law

The next year is going to be a busy one for planning in Scotland, judging by the Scottish Government’s Programme for Scotland 2016-17.  The dual priorities of modernisation and increasing housing delivery are shaping policy direction, but it is in the courts that real-world issues affecting implementation and delivery of policy are addressed.

Reflecting on recent case law

Key court cases examined in the October 2016 edition of SPEL include that perennially thorny topic of wind farm consents.

Firstly, the quashing of Stronelairg wind farm consent was overturned by the Inner House. This decision, which included the comment that ‘Creating images from different angles on the surrounding landscape does not provide the public with any information not already readily known and understood,’ may prompt discussions among planning authorities, statutory consultees and applicants about how visualisations and photomontages should be treated.

Secondly, the successful challenge of four offshore windfarm approvals by the RSPB highlights the difficulty for the Government and environmental stakeholders of achieving a balance between a commitment to realising the full potential of renewable energy in Scotland (including off-shore) at the same time as appropriately protecting the marine environment. Finding that necessary balance appears to be proving hard even in relation to projects where the appropriate environmental impact assessment has been carried out.

Other cases covered in October’s SPEL include:

  • Public sector equality duty as a relevant planning consideration [LDRA Ltd & Others v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Others] – This decision is a reminder that protected characteristics have a wide scope and points to an onus being placed on decision-makers to demonstrate that the requirements of s149 of the 2010 Act have been considered.
  •  ‘Community focused’ renewables planning permission quashed [R (on the application of Peter Wright) v Forest of Dean District Council and Resilient Energy Severndale Ltd]. This case focused on whether a financial contribution in the context of a wind turbine development may be taken into account in granting planning permission. The decision is in line with previous case law but as Karen Hamilton of Brodies LLP notes “If policy ‘encouragement’ of community schemes is to persist then a clearer path should be laid out to enable participating developers to be credited for their efforts“.
  •  Liability of roads authority for injuries to cyclist [Robinson v Scottish Borders Council]. Whereas English courts have been reluctant to impose liability on highway authorities, this judgment found that the hazard would have been apparent to a roads authority of ordinary competence, using reasonable care.

The journal also includes commentary and articles on topical issues and policy developments.


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