December 2022

Building Standards and Planning Service Update

Christmas and New Year Holidays

The Comhairle closes for business on the afternoon of Friday 23 December and reopens on Wednesday 4 January 2023.

Building Standards

Modern Methods of Construction (MMS) guidance

Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) guidance for building standards verifiers and certifiers has now been finalised, published, and added to the Scottish Government website.

The MMC guidance document aims to provide verifiers and certifiers with high level considerations, including associated risks, as well as providing a national and consistent approach to the assessment of building warrants where MMC is proposed. It is focused on volumetric MMC construction (where typically rooms or part of rooms are constructed in the factory and assembled on site) and not panelised systems that have been widely used in Scotland for many years.

National Customer Survey

The Improvement Service has been working with Building Standards Division and a working group of verifiers to redevelop the National Customer Survey.

The new national customer satisfaction survey enables customers of the building standards service to provide feedback on the service received and provides all local authorities real-time customer feedback to support their continuous improvement.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) guidance change - Water Supply for Fire Fighting

The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 places responsibilities on the SFRS to secure an adequate supply of water for use in extinguishing fires and protecting life and property. This would normally be by use of a public water main. However, in rural and isolated areas, it could be a private supply or other suitable means. The guidance to standard 2.13 requires that:

“A domestic building should be erected no more than 100m from a fire hydrant. An existing hydrant may be used in agreement with the fire and rescue service.…”
“Where a domestic building is being erected more than 100m from an existing fire hydrant, the fire and rescue service should be consulted to establish whether additional fire hydrants are necessary to assist fire-fighting and rescue operations.”
“Where no piped water supply is available, or there is insufficient pressure and flow in the water main, or an alternative arrangement is proposed, the alternative source of supply should be considered as appropriate by the fire and rescue service.”

Previously agreed guidance with SFRS relating to water supplies for domestic premises less than 200m2 was rescinded on 6 October of this year. That previous agreement with SFRS agreed that the use of water carried on fire appliances would meet the above requirement. SFRS now expect every new house, or conversion to form a house, to have a hydrant or alternative water supply. If this cannot be provided then there is now a requirement to consult with SFRS in every case, regardless of floor area, in accordance with the guidance to 2.13.

Given that Verifiers are now required to apply the guidance in clause 2.13 it would be advantageous for applicants or agents, where consultation is required, to seek the views of SFRS as soon as possible to avoid delays. This can be done using the e-mail address for the SFRS water planning team which is:

Scottish building regulations – deferment of the December 2022 energy standards.

The Scottish Government has taken a decision to defer the implementation date of the revised December 2022 Technical Handbooks by two months, from 1 December 2022 to 1 February 2023. These new versions of the handbooks incorporate changes to energy and environmental standards, among other changes.

This delay follows an assessment of the delivery timetables for energy compliance software when concerns had been expressed over the delay in the availability of assessment software to support the new standards. Without energy compliance software developers cannot prepare and validate design proposals as compliant with the new standards.

The most significant changes of the February 2023 changes are to section 6 – Energy, where a significant uplift in the required energy performance of buildings has now been incorporated into the standards of that section. The majority of these changes relate to improvement in specified performance to deliver the intended 32% aggregate reduction in carbon dioxide emissions on the 2015 standards and to support the planned implementation of the 2024 New Build Heat Standard.

The key changes that have been made to the standards and guidance since 1 October
2015 include:

  • Standard 6.1 amended to introduce a new energy target for new buildings.
  • Standard 6.1 amended to apply requirements to reduce carbon dioxide emission only to new buildings using direct emissions heating systems. Note: definition of ‘direct emission heating system” introduced under regulation 2.
  • Clause 6.1.1 – explanation of new energy target and exemption from TER for non-direct emission heating systems. Confirmation of application of SAP 10 as the current version of the UK assessment methodology.
  • Clause 6.1.2 – Amendment to the notional buildings used to set compliance targets. Three variations on the notional building, applied based upon use of electric heat pump, heat network connection or any other heating solution.
  • Clause 6.1.3 – explanation of revised treatment of the export component of on-site generation of power and of the amended approach to compliance for dwellings connected to a heat network.
  • Note: ‘Simplified approach’ to compliance with standard 6.1 (build to notional building specification, no SAP compliance calculation needed) is now removed as an option.
  • Clause 6.2.1 – Area-weighted average U-values for elements of fabric improved; one set of values now apply to all building work. Option of demonstrating compliance of new buildings via ‘space heating demand limit’ set out.
  • Clause 6.2.5 – airtightness testing now undertaken on each new dwelling. No exception for high infiltration dwellings. Test methodology refers to CIBSE TM 23.
  • Clause 6.2.6 – reference now made to fabric values in clause 6.2.1 for conversion of heated and unheated buildings. A robust demonstration of ‘reasonably practicable’ solutions is sought.

A more detailed summary of the February 2023 changes can be found on the Technical Handbooks page of the Scottish Government website.

Development Plan and Marine Planning

Outer Hebrides Development Plan

The Development Plan team has initiated preparatory work on the new Outer Hebrides Local Development Plan. This will be prepared under the 2019 Planning Act, for which the Development Plan regulations are still being finalised. However, work on the evidence report stage, information auditing and gathering and other initial assessments will be progressed. The Team will be publishing information on how communities can contribute further to the Development Plan process shortly. In the meantime there is more information available on the Scottish Government website.

Local Place Plans

Local Place Plans (LPPs) have been introduced as part of a wider programme of planning reform to encourage communities to be active participants in planning for their futures. LPPs are community-led plans setting out proposals for the development and use of land. Once completed and then registered by the Planning Authority, they are to be taken into account in the preparation of the relevant Local Development Plan (LDP). The Planning Service is currently preparing some online resources to support communities who may be considering preparing LPP for their area, and anticipate issuing an invitation to communities to prepare Plans in 2023.

Fact File and Socio-Economic Updates

Development Planning and a wider range of Comhairle activities rely on having robust and credible baseline data and statistics at a local level to enable it to plan. The Planning Service’s Research officer supports this function and there is a suite of information on the Fact File web pages covering various topics from economy, environment, population etc. These pages are updated as new information is made available from national statistical organisations.

The most recent publication is the latest Socio-Economic update (880.3kB) which looks at demographic and household statistics, and some information on income, employment and transportation.

Conservation Area Grants – Buildings and Painting Grant Schemes

The Comhairle administers a series of grants schemes applicable to the four conservation areas in the Outer Hebrides: Stornoway; Gearrannan; Ruisgarry; and Howmore. These schemes aim to offset the additional costs associated with works specific to the conservation area. Further information and the conditions that apply are available on the Building Conservation Grant Schemes page. Potential applicants are encouraged to speak with the Planning Service before submitting an application, with regards to eligibility and any necessary planning consents.

Thatching Grant Scheme

Due to its perishable nature, a traditional Scottish Thatched roof will rapidly deteriorate unless it is regularly maintained. Historic Scotland encourages owners of historic and traditional thatched buildings to maintain and repair them by providing grants for the maintenance of thatched roofs under the Historic Environment Support Fund, which is administered by the Comhairle, within the Outer Hebrides. The scheme provides grant funding to meet a proportion of the cost of repairing and maintaining traditional roof structures. This can include re-thatching, replacement of top coats, repairs and associated minor works to roofing divots and roof timbers. Information on the grant and eligibility is available online or you can contact Hannah Morrison 

For further information on any Development Plan matters please contact the Development Plan and Marine Planning team on 01851 822690 or e-mail

National Planning Framework

As part of wider Planning reform Scottish Government has laid before Parliament a revised draft of its National Planning Framework 4. Once adopted, this will provide new national planning policy, which will also be used to assess planning applications at a local level. Further information is available at the website

Development Management


The initial recruitment exercise in the summer of 2022 to appoint a planning officer to the vacant post in the Development Management team, based in Stornoway, was not successful. The post has just been re-advertised on myjobscotland with a closing date of 19 December 2022.

Planning Decisions – Duration of a Planning Permission

With effect from 1 October 2022 the duration of a planning permission has reverted to being addressed by way of planning condition. The default duration of a planning permission, prior to commencement of development, is three years for a detailed Planning Permission and five years for a Planning Permission in Principle (subject to a reserved matters application). However, subject to a need for an extended period being justified by the applicant, at application stage, consideration may now be given to increasing the length of the default period.

Planning Permission granted subject to conditions

It is a concern that some developers and/or their agents are not addressing/dealing timeously with Conditions imposed on the grant of a planning permission. A planning condition imposed upon a permission may be appealed within 3 months of the grant of the planning permission, failing which appeal, it requires to be complied with. Where conditions are suspensive, it is expected that the information submitted to discharge these conditions is submitted at least two months prior to the intended commencement of development. Failure to discharge or comply with planning conditions may result in the Comhairle having to invoke enforcement action.

Major and National Development – pre-application consultation changes

The changes to the requirements for pre-application consultation with communities about national and major developments came into force on 1 October 2022. 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.

Planning fee increase

The Scottish Government issued revised fee scales which came into force on 1 April 2022. It should be noted that the fee exemption that was formerly granted to developers of agricultural buildings that required planning permission, is no longer in place.

Permitted Development Rights Review

The next tranche of Permitted Development Rights is focused on EV charging equipment, Changes of Use in town centres, and ports developments. These are in the final stages of refinement with the expectation that the statutory instrument that will bring the changes into force will be laid in Parliament at the start of the new year.

Pre-planning advice

The Comhairle Planning Service has developed an online 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 it remains a challenge to service the demand given there is still a backlog of applications, and this discretionary service cannot be prioritised over the determination of formal applications made to the Comhairle.

Validation Guidance

Validation failure on first submission remains a challenge. 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 (1.6MB) and we request that agents please make themselves familiar with the standards.

Performance Information

Building Standards

For Quarter 1 of 2022/23 (01 Apr – 30 June), 97% of Building Warrants were responded to within 15 days and 79% of warrants were issued within 6 days. In terms of Certificates of Completion, 89% were responded to within 9 days. The target for these indicators is 85% in each case.

For Quarter 2 of 2022/23 (01 July – 30 Sept), 94% of Building Warrants were responded to within 15 days and 94% 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.

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 publishes Performance of the Planning Service and areas for improvement, on the Planning Performance Framework page.

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.

Contact Information

Building Standards

Tel (Stornoway):  01851 822692 
Tel (Balivanich):  01870 604990

Development Management

Tel (Stornoway):  01851 822690
Tel (Balivanich):  01870 604990

Development Plan and Marine Planning

Tel (Stornoway):  01851 822690
Tel (Balivanich):  01870 604990