December 2021

Christmas and New Year Holidays 

The Comhairle closes for business on the afternoon of Friday 24 December and reopens on Wednesday 5 January 2022. 

Building Standards

Site Inspections

Although we have seen some easing of work restrictions in the past few months it seems likely now, given the appearance of the new COVID19 variant, that we may need to maintain the existing safety measures for some time, at least for the first few months of 2022.

We would therefore repeat the guidance previously given in the last newsletter and which is reproduced below.

As soon as it becomes apparent that an inspection will be required, please contact Building Standards to arrange an inspection.  As much notice as possible should be given in order for Officers to be able to arrange inspections efficiently.  Notifications of inspections should be in accordance with the CCNP (Construction Compliance Notification Plan).  This is a document which is issued along with the building warrant approval and shows a schedule of stages of work (or actions) in the construction where the building standards officer should have opportunity to inspect the work in order to assist with verification of compliance with building regulations.  These stages of the work correspond to stages where the work will be covered up and no further inspection would be possible without intrusive investigation.

If it is found not to be possible, for whatever reason, to schedule a site inspection at a scheduled CCNP stage or any other critical time, then it may be acceptable to use photographic evidence to demonstrate compliance.  Alternatively, in some instances, and where the relevant person or the applicant has the means available, it may be appropriate to participate in a video call with a building standards officer.  The idea being that the person on the site can use the camera on their device to target specific areas of the building work being carried out, as directed, whilst going round the site.  Where this can be viewed by the Building Standards Officer it may provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate compliance.

For further information on inspection protocols or to arrange an inspection please speak to the appropriate area officer.

Development Plan and Marine Planning

Draft National Planning Framework 4 Consultation

The Scottish Government has published the draft National Planning Framework (NPF) incorporating revised Scottish Planning Policy for consultation.  This will form Scotland’s national Development Plan and inform development and planning policy at local, regional, and national levels.

The draft NPF4, which details the Scottish Government’s long-term plan for what Scotland could be in 2045, was laid in Parliament on 10 November 2021.  This is a significant milestone in the development of Scotland’s Fourth NPF.  The Scottish Parliament will be considering the Draft NPF4 for a period of up to 120 days.

View Scotland 2045 - Our Draft Fourth National Planning Framework (Opens in a new window or downloads a file)

The Scottish Government is keen to get a wide a range of views on the document as possible and has created a package of resources to assist stakeholders, businesses, communities, and individuals to access the consultation and prepare responses.  These are available online.  The consultation runs until the end of March 2022.

To further enable communities to participate in the consultation process, Government is hosting a series of online events and is also offering small grants to help facilitate community involvement. Further information is available online. 

Outer Hebrides Local Development Plan Supplementary Guidance

Supplementary Guidance (Opens in a new window or downloads a file) which forms part of the Development Plan provides more detailed or technical policy on some areas of development and can be statutory or non-statutory.  Whilst new draft national policy was published in November in the draft National Planning Framework 4 (see above), incorporating Scottish Planning Policy, this will not come into force until later into 2022, so interim draft updates of existing policy are appropriate.

Following consultation on two revised draft Supplementary Guidances on Wind Energy, and Caravans, Huts and Temporary Buildings notified in the previous stakeholder update, the Comhairle has now adopted these documents.  They form a part of the statutory Development Plan and will guide planning for and assessment of applications for development in these sectors.

Outer Hebrides Fact File and 2021 Fact Card

Preparing and maintaining planning policy relies on access to up to date and robust socio-economic information and statistics across of range of topics including data and projections on, population and demographics, economic data, physical and environmental statistics etc.  The Development Plan team maintains a fact file of current and archive data which are available on the Comhairle website.

The latest publication is the 2021 Fact File (1.5MB) (Opens in a new window or downloads a file) which provides a snapshot of data on topics including populations, households and health, commerce, transport, community, education, culture, and some geographical statistics.  Previous editions of the Fact File are available on the Comhairle website

Development Management

Service Continuity - Office Based Working and Meetings

In line with Government guidance, the staff of the Service largely continue to work from home.  Planning staff are undertaking site visits as normal, can meet customers on site, subject to now standard safety protocols but office-based face to face meetings remain in abeyance with meetings arranged via Microsoft Teams or an alternative platform.  You do not need to have a Microsoft account to join a call.  An email address and smartphone or tablet are all that you require.

Telephone calls to the Service remain routed to a voice mailbox with messages forwarded to staff who are using their own personal phones to return calls.  All staff have Microsoft Teams and while priority is being given to live applications, we can schedule either voice or video calls to discuss certain types of projects.


As advised in the last bulletin, there have been some changes to the staffing of the Development Management Team over the past year. 

Anne Napier and Lee Harkness are the planning officers now based in the Uists, while Helen MacDonald, Iain Macleod and Mike Scott are based in Lewis.  While all officers have a geographic remit, some cases from across our geography are allocated according to officer experience and in some cases specialisms.

The planning officers are supported by a small pool of administrative staff, some of whom also carry out work for other Services.

Pre-planning Advice

The Comhairle Planning Service developed an on-line Pre-Application Planning Advice Form to elicit as much information as possible at the outset of an enquiry.  This indicates the level of detail we require to provide better quality advice on a proposal.  Further details can be found on our Contacting the Planning Service (Development Management) – Pre-Application Advice and General contact page

The demand for pre-application advice remains high and being a non-statutory provision, cannot be prioritised over the determination of formal applications made to the Comhairle.

Validation Guidance

The Government has widened the scope of performance data required to be submitted for the first six months of the business year, to include detailed information on applications received, and those valid on initial receipt.  It is a valuable measure and disappointing to report that only 20% of all applications made to the Comhairle between 1 April and 30 September 2021 could be made valid upon receipt.  Validation is a resource intensive part of the process, and we appeal to developers and agents to carry out a more robust check of their applications prior to submission.  The Comhairle is working with the national standards for the validation and determination of planning applications and other related consents in Scotland (») and we request that agents please make themselves familiar with the standards.

Design Standards – Single Houses

The Outer Hebrides Design Guide was developed by the Comhairle with support from Scottish Government to address concerns over the decline in aesthetic and appropriateness of the character of new houses being built in the Outer Hebrides.  While Scottish Government is championing the value of Placemaking and Design, it is a growing concern of the Planning Service that over the last eighteen months, there would appear to be a gradual decline in awareness of and reference to the principles set out in the local design guidance within submissions.  We appeal to agents and stakeholders to refresh their knowledge of the design guidance and employ the principles in their submissions.

Major and National Development – pre-application consultation changes

Changes to the requirements for pre-application consultation with communities about national and major developments which were initially due to come into force on 1 October 2021 will now come into force on 1 April 2022.  The Town and Country Planning (Pre-Application Consultations) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 (the Regulations) amend the existing detailed statutory requirements for preapplication consultation (PAC) which apply to major and national developments.  They also specify criteria for exemptions from PAC requirements, made under powers introduced by the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019.

The changes to PAC are the first part of a wider package of measures on improving community engagement in planning matters and building public trust.

Various transitional arrangements will apply, arising from the transition from the old to the new regulations (as is typical) but also from initial and more recent Coronavirus modifications.  The transitional arrangements are therefore complex but can be viewed online. (Opens in a new window or downloads a file)

Briefly, the new Regulations provide for a minimum of two physical public events to be held at least 14 days apart with feedback on comments received at the first event to be provided at the second event.  The information which the public can obtain is to be made available electronically as well as in physical format.  The events require to be promoted via statutory press notices and the content of the resultant PAC Report will now be a statutory requirement.

Developers of major or national developments are encouraged to engage with the Planning Service for guidance at an early date in their project planning.

The challenges of peat for development

The Outer Hebrides has one of the largest peatland resources in Scotland.  Peatland is now known to store significant quantities of carbon, combating the effects of climate change.  In all cases where peat and other carbon rich soils are present, Scottish Planning Policy is clear that applicants should assess the likely effects of development on peatland with the aim of minimising the release of carbon dioxide through peatland disturbance or excavation.  Avoiding development in peat is the best approach but as this in not always possible, careful planning and management of works on peatland soils, is essential to reduce the significant risk of project on-costs in addition to mitigating climate change impacts.  The planning team at SEPA has indicated a willingness to deliver initial training on what information will become essential as well as good practice for development in or near peat.  This initial training can be offered over the Microsoft Teams platform if there is sufficient interest to merit setting up such training sessions.  Please let us know if such training would be of interest to you by emailing

Christmas and New Year holidays 

The Comhairle closes for business on the afternoon of 24 December and reopen on Wednesday 5 January. However, a number of staff are off on annual leave from the start of the week of commencing 20 December.  Please bear with us over this period as it may not be possible to respond to correspondence submitted in this period.

Performance Information

Building Standards

For Quarter 1 of 2021/22 (01 Apr – 30 June), 96% of Building Warrants were responded to within 15 days and 93% of warrants were issued within 6 days.  In terms of Certificates of Completion, 90% were responded to within 9 days.  The target for these indicators is 85% in each case.

For Quarter 2 of 2021/22 (01 July – 30 Sept), 98% of Building Warrants were responded to within 15 days and 99% of warrants were issued within 6 days.  In terms of Certificates of Completion, 91% were responded to within 9 days.  The target for these indicators is 85% in each case.

Development Management

The Scottish Government has issued its summary of Planning Performance by the Comhairle in the context of Scottish Planning Authorities.  Statistical bulletins give the latest information on planning authority performance.

The Comhairle Planning Performance Framework, which shows the Performance of the Planning Service and areas for improvement, is available online.

Online Resources

We would remind and encourage developers to make best use of on-line resources for generic queries thus minimising the draw on the time of local officers.

Preparation of Planning Applications:  Validation and Determination Guidance (»)  

Submitting Planning Applications:

Viewing Planning Applications:  Comhairle Public Access (Opens in a new window or downloads a file)

Comhairle Planning Service

Scottish Government Planning and Architecture

Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)

Planning Aid for Scotland (PAS)

Historic Environment Scotland (HES)

NatureScot (formerly SNH)

Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)

Marine Scotland (Marine and Fisheries)

Scottish Water (connecting to our network)

Contact Information

Building Standards

01851 822692 (Stornoway)

01870 604990 (Balivanich)

Development Management

01851 822690 (Stornoway)

01870 604990 (Balivanich

Development Plan and Marine Planning

01851 822690 (Stornoway)

01870 604990 (Balivanich)