Carter Jonas
Carter Jonas

Scotland on track for PD Rights changes

23 September 2014, While everyone has been preoccupied with the debate on the Scottish referendum, an important change affecting the rural community has been announced.

A prior notification and approval process is to be introduced later this year for the formation of agricultural and forestry tracks under permitted development (PD) rights to allow greater control over the siting, design, and appearance of tracks.

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992 (the GPDO) grants planning permission under Class 18 (Agricultural Buildings and Operations) for PD rights for "the formation, alteration or maintenance of private ways" (private roads or footpaths not maintained at public expense) required for the purposes of agriculture within an agricultural unit. Class 22 (Forestry Buildings and Operations) applies the same rules to forestry.

With limited exceptions, where a track is to be used for agricultural or forestry purposes it can presently be constructed without the need to apply for planning permission. The planning authority has no control, nor can it prevent, development of tracks through the planning application process and third parties cannot make representations on the proposed track.

This has been especially contentious in sensitive upland areas and Scotland's national parks. Environmental and recreation groups, and some planning authorities, said in responses to a Scottish Government consultation on potential amendments to the GPDO that many PD hill tracks have had adverse habitat and visual effects. Rural business and landowner interests queried the extent of damage caused by hill tracks and highlighted their importance to maintaining a fragile rural economy. In December 2012 the Scottish Government announced that PD rights for agricultural and forestry tracks would not be amended but kept under review.

Following further consultation, the Scottish Government announced earlier this month it plans to introduce a prior notification and approval process for tracks, a process already applicable to many PD rights in the GPDO, including erection of new agricultural and forestry buildings.

Details of a proposed track will have to be notified in advance to the planning authority which then has 28 days to decide whether its prior approval is required for the siting, design and appearance of the track. The development cannot begin until the planning authority either confirms that prior approval is not required, or does not respond within 28 days, or confirms that prior approval is required and then gives such approval. The track must then be constructed in accordance with the approved details (where prior approval is required) or the notified details (where prior approval is not required).

The planning authority may refuse approval of a track which would have an unacceptable impact. Prior approval is a process between the planning authority and the landowner. Unlike a planning application, third parties such as environment or recreation groups have no opportunity to make representations.

Apart from tracks for agricultural or forestry purposes, others, for example for wind farm development, already require an application for planning permission and that is unchanged.