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Cracking the countryside planning code An understanding of how Local Planning Authorities work is essential for any would-be developer, says Joanne Plant.

local planning authorities (lpas) in rural areas of scotland generally seek to strike a balance between protecting the landscape and wider environment from isolated residential proposals, while recognising the benefits of appropriately considered housing in terms of supporting existing communities and services.  LPAs are generally more supportive of housing in remote or economically fragile rural areas (as opposed to locations within a reasonable drive time of cities and towns) as a means of stemming outmigration, providing affordable accommodation for local people and supporting existing services and facilities. Each LPA has its own specific planning policies and guidance regarding housing in the countryside, but there are a number of categories of rural housing development that are typically supported ‘in principle’ – subject to sensitive siting and design, maintaining residential amenity, and satisfying technical considerations such as access and servicing. These categories are: Infill development between existing houses and buildings. Factors to be considered include respecting the established pattern of development and ensuring that infilling does not result in or add to ribbon development along a road frontage.


Adding to or rounding off an established cluster or group of residential properties. Each LPA has different criteria for this category. For example: some LPA’s define a cluster/ group as comprising two, three or five dwellings; some include nonresidential buildings that are capable of conversion to housing as forming part of a cluster/group while others do not; and some limit the growth of any identified cluster/group within a stated period of time to a fixed percentage increase.


It should be noted that the presence of a cluster/group alone is not necessarily sufficient to meet policy objectives. Subject to satisfying associated supplementary planning guidance on such matters, as a minimum, proposed sites should be well-related to the existing cluster/ group, form a logical extension to it and contribute to its sense of place, and be well-defined in terms of natural boundary features such as treebelts, hedges and watercourses.

Exceptional circumstances relating to the need for agricultural or forestry workers to live in a particular countryside location for the purposes of their business. In such cases, LPAs will require an economic viability report to be provided as part of a planning application.


Replacement dwellings in cases where the existing property is no longer fit for purpose and its renovation is not economically viable. In the latter case, LPAs will typically require a full structural survey of the existing building to demonstrate that its rehabilitation is not practically or financially viable.


Conversion of redundant, traditional buildings in the countryside to form residential accommodation.


Again, LPAs have different criteria for this category. In terms of the physical appearance of the building proposed for conversion, a number of LPAs make reference to the term ‘substantially intact’ however, this is rarely defined and is open to debate.

Bats in buildings: How careful

There can also be disagreement between applicants and LPAs as to what constitutes a traditional building. Other factors to be aware of include: demonstrating the structural stability of the building and its suitability for conversion; potential presence of bats and owls, which are protected species; and possible limitations on internal layout and new-build extensions especially if the building retains a number of its original features.

Bats are protected species and developers and renovators need to take care to stay within the law, says James Taylor.

As already noted, each LPA has different policies, guidance and advice on housing in the countryside and each site should be assessed on its merits.

Scotland is home to nine species of bat and England has 18. All have legal protection and so do their roosts, so special consideration must be given to them when undertaking building projects where bats have taken up home.

Given the range and complexity of housing in the countryside policies across Scotland, it is imperative that prospective developers seek professional planning advice from the outset. The planning team at Galbraith is experienced in assessing the development potential of rural housing sites and correctly interpreting associated planning policies and supplementary guidance. 0131 240 3030

page 12 | property matters | summer 2019 |

most people are resigned to the fact that building works can be delayed by setbacks in the construction process or bad weather – but very few expect their renovation to be delayed by bats.

Bats are woodland animals, but many species have taken to roosting in buildings as the availability of natural roosting sites in trees has fallen. Bats use buildings like houses, churches, bridges and schools. They tend to return to the same sites year after year and are more of a problem for building projects in summer when they need somewhere safe to rear their young. Galbraith has advised a number of clients on how to deal with bats and other protected species during building projects, particularly in more rural areas where bats thrive. Special measures must be implemented to adhere to ecological legislation and project design must be

Profile for Galbraith

Galbraith Property Matters Summer 2019  

News and views from Galbraith on the current issues affecting the Residential Property Market.

Galbraith Property Matters Summer 2019  

News and views from Galbraith on the current issues affecting the Residential Property Market.