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Glasgow City Council

Public Consultation (PAC)

What is it

The Government has suspended the requirement for public events due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus (Covid-19). 

A guidance note has been prepared and provides information in relation to the measures in replacement of public events in the Pre-Application (Planning) stage of development. This guidance note is structured under the following headings:

  • The Requirement for Pre-Application Consultation
  • COVID-19 and Temporary Planning Legislation
  • Alternative PAC Requirements
  • What this means for Applicants/Developers
  • Alternative PAC Approach

Full note of the provisions set out by the Scottish Government, enforced from 24 April 2020 are available to view here.

The Requirement for Pre-Application Consultation

Existing legislation requires that a 'public event' is undertaken by the applicant or developer as part of the pre-application consultation process for all new major and national development in Scotland as set out in the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2013, and the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, as amended by the Planning Etc. (Scotland) Act 2006.

An application cannot be lodged with the local planning authority until the pre-application requirements (including the public event) have been satisfied.

COVID-19 and Temporary Planning Legislation

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is not feasible for public events to go ahead as they ordinarily would. Restrictions have been placed on public gatherings and social distancing has been enforced to mitigate the risk to public health.

The continued functioning of the planning system is required to support our future economic and societal recovery, businesses and jobs and to avoid delays to necessary infrastructure, housing and other developments. Temporary legislation has been passed by the Scottish Government which seeks to help keep the planning system going throughout this emergency.

The Town and Country Planning (Miscellaneous Temporary Modifications) (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 therefore suspend temporarily the requirement for a public event as part of the Pre-Application Consultation (PAC) process. This came into effect on 24 April 2020. This also makes provisions to allow alternative online consultation to take place.

This suspension of the public event applies to development proposals where the Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) was submitted prior to the end of the emergency period (currently 30 September 2020) and where the application for planning permission is made within 6 months following the end of the emergency period.

Alternative means which sufficiently facilitate meaningful engagement and consultation with local communities and stakeholders are required to be adopted as a solution to the temporary suspension of the requirement to host a public event.

Alternative PAC Requirements

There are a number of statutory minimum requirements which are still in place regarding pre-application activity for major/national development.

The key minimum statutory requirements which are required to be upheld throughout this period are:

  • the prospective applicant must serve a Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) on the planning authority;
  • the planning authority has 21 days from receipt of the PAN to require any additional consultation steps beyond the new statutory requirements;
  • the prospective applicant must serve a PAN on the community councils whose area covers or adjoins the proposal site; and
  • the prospective applicant must place a newspaper notice indicating how the public can engage with the pre-application process.

The PAN must contain:

  • a description in general terms of the development to be carried out;
  • if the site at which the development is to be carried out has a postal address, that address;
  • a plan showing the outline of the site at which the development is to be carried out and sufficient to identify that site;
  • details as to how the prospective applicant may be contacted and corresponded with; and
  • in replacement of the provision of details of the public event, the PAN must provide an indication of the alternative consultation arrangements and how/ when and where they will operate.

Throughout this period, the required newspaper notice must contain such information regarding:

  • a description of, and the location of, the proposed development;
  • details as to where further information may be obtained concerning the proposed development (including online);
  • a statement explaining how, and by when, persons wishing to make comments to the prospective applicant relating to the proposal may do so; and
  • a statement that comments made to the prospective applicant are not representations to the planning authority and if the prospective applicant submits an application there will be an opportunity to make representations on that application to the planning authority.

The Event

Importantly, there is no statutorily specified alternative to a public event during the period of the COVID 19 outbreak, however, prospective applicants are expected to propose "reasonable alternatives" based on the guidance provided by the Scottish Government. Planning authorities remain permitted to require additional consultation steps to those specified in legislation, if deemed necessary. Examples of such "reasonable alternatives" are provided in section 5 of this guidance note.

In replacement of the public event, temporary online measures must provide an alternative way to enable the exchange of views that would otherwise be achieved by face to face interaction. Alternative consultation must allow "two way traffic" where a conversation can be held and immediate responses provided to the public from the applicant.

The Scottish Government state that the minimum requirement for the temporary substitute requires both:

Information hosted at a central, free, publicly accessible web location

This information must:

  • set out the pre-application consultation steps being undertaken, the location of information, how to engage and specify any time limits;
  • identify the location of the development site;
  • present the proposal for the site;
  • be accessible and available in one place;
  • be in a format which can be downloaded and printed by the public; and
  • be as user friendly as possible.

The public should be allowed a minimum of 7 days to submit questions or views electronically in response. The prospective applicant must respond to all comments and questions.


Live and interactive web-based consultation

  • For example, this could be at least one event of 2 - 3 hours duration with a live Q&A session and link to other online opportunities for the public to make comment, ask questions and receive responses (in case they prefer not to comment during live events). Any such time-limited online sessions would need to be scheduled and pre-advertised to facilitate public participation.
  • These should both be referred to within the newspaper notice and in any other pre-application advertisements relating to the development. Online consultation must also comply with current Data Protection obligations.

The public must be allowed a minimum of 21 days to access information on the proposals and submit comments online. This should run from the date of the newspaper notice. This may be distinct from the "two-way" event. Ordinarily, legislation does not provide a minimum amount of time for a public event.

In addition to the public notice, the Council expects that reasonable measures should be in place to advertise the PAC including arrangements for accessing and commenting on information and for attending and engaging in a live online event, in place of ordinary measures.

As well as the requirement to serve a public notice at least 7 days before any event is held, prospective applicants could do a mail drop to local residents, perhaps advertise the PAC at the local supermarket and should engage with the local community councils to determine the best ways to reach people, which could be through social media.

What this means for Applicants/Developers

This temporary alternative to the public event as part of the PAC process is, in part, open to interpretation and requires a creative and considered response from the prospective applicant in respect of the proposed development.

The opportunity is presented to engage a wider audience through different means. Reasonable efforts should be made to ensure that this alternative consultation is not exclusionary and is accessible to those whom the proposed development may interest and/or affect most.

Alternative PAC Approach

Some ideas of how the alternative public event may be facilitated are outlined below. This note may be used by prospective applicants to understand the PAC requirements for major/national development and how these have changed with the introduction of temporary national legislation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is ultimately the responsibility of the prospective applicant to make suitable provisions for PAC throughout this emergency period. They should consider which tools are the best and most proportionate to their proposal. On submission of the PAN, discussion regarding the suitability of the proposed PAC should be expected and suitable arrangements agreed with Planning.

Best practice will be where as similar an experience as a public event is adopted and the event is widely targeted and advertised to a wide audience of people. The public should be able to access the required information and engage with the proposals effectively.

A series of suggestions for each stage of PAC are provided which prospective applicants may wish to refer to. Multiple measures from under each heading may be adopted.

Pre-Event - Advertising

In addition to the minimum statutory requirements outlined in section 3, measures may be required to further advertise the alternative event and ensure that the people who may be most interested/ affected by the proposals are informed at an early stage of how they can engage with the PAC process.

Such additional measures for advertising may include:

  • a mail drop to nearby residents to notify them of the proposal and PAC (the geographical extent of the mail-drop could be agreed with the Council beforehand);
  • letter and/or email sent to the respective community council(s);
  • letter and/or email sent to relevant local interest groups (may be identified through discussion with both Planning and the community council);
  • using social media (e.g. LinkedIn or local community group Facebook pages);
  • displaying an advert in a publicly visible place (e.g. outside a supermarket); and
  • using local media advertising (online or offline).

Event - Information

Information regarding the proposal may be hosted at a central, free, publicly accessible web location. Additionally, information could be provided:

  • in the form of posters, site plans etc. of the proposals on a website/webpage;
  • in a downloadable and printable format;
  • by letter/mail drops within the local community inviting questions and/or comments which can then be answered remotely;
  • via prepared video presentations/ slideshows streamed online for public viewing;
  • in an updateable FAQs section on the website;
  • a printed material request form could be offered for individuals to receive relevant project information offline; and
  • targeted social media directing the public to a dedicated webpage.

Event - Feedback

In place of the public event where feedback is often received and documented through the completion of questionnaires or feedback forms, an alternative may involve:

  • an online questionnaire/ survey on the webpage;
  • polls, quick questions and mapping/location tools throughout online content;
  • providing a dedicated email address for specific questions or comments;
  • a dedicated phone number for those with restricted online access;
  • distribution of leaflets and newsletters with freepost surveys;
  • a discussion forum on the webpage; and
  • sign up/registration capability to generate a database for further updates and communications (GDPR legislation will apply).

Event - Interaction

To facilitate the "two-way" interaction element of the alternative public event, the following means may be adopted:

  • a live Q&A on the website with specific timings advertised in advance;
  • a live pop-up web chat on the webpage;
  • telephone access opportunities for Q&A with specific timings advertised;
  • online conferencing platforms (audio/video) to facilitate direct discussion;
  • virtual town hall/ virtual exhibitions to simulate the public event;
  • webcasts/webinars with opportunity to ask questions directly and/or through text chat and polls;
  • scheduled digital project drop-in sessions; and
  • interactive engagement via social media.

 You may find the following examples in this link useful.



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