Leaf green planning

Planning need to knows

As of February 2024, tunnel structures and associated infrastructure in a community-growing setting will still most likely have to apply for planning permission, this includes sheds, shipping containers, and other structures. If food is being grown in a market garden setting or as part of a community-supported agriculture scheme, it may be possible to erect structures under permitted development rights. But, strictly speaking, this will only be the case if food is grown on agricultural land of 0.4 ha or more and is done so in the course of a trade or a business, with it also being necessary to go through a prior notification process before carrying out any works. Your planning status may also vary depending on whether you are growing in an existing site or just starting out on a new site.  

This mini-guide will help you know what you need to know to make an informed decision about your next steps. If you would like further advice with any of the steps outlined below or have experience that you want to share, please don’t hesitate to get in contact. 

Taking a step-by-step approach: 

Once you have an idea of the infrastructure you think you require, it can be beneficial to seek pre application advice from your local authority planning department. If you can get support in a reasonable timeframe, this can often save time and money. However, feedback from groups on the ground is that response times vary widely across different local authorities, as do costs and the level of service provided. In all cases, though, it is worth checking what your local authority offers and considering this as an option. 

If proceeding with a planning application, every local authority should publish Validation Guidelines (sometimes referred to as Standards) containing a checklist of the information and the scale and technical detail they require – look for guidelines for non-householder local developments. Or, if there are no local authority-specific guidelines, reference should be made to Heads of Planning Scotland’s guidance note on national standards.   

Here is a common list of requirements expected with an application submission: 

  • A location plan (which should make it easy to identify where the site is located relative to surrounding land, with the site outlined in red on this) 
  • Existing and proposed site layout plans (with the site again outlined in red and with the proposed site plan showing all new infrastructure proposed, including any ancillary elements such as fencing or solar panels);  
  • Try emapsite for a basic location plan and layout plan to the scale you want for a small fee. 
  • Maps and drawings submitted in the scale published in your local authority Validation Guidelines. 
  • Scaled drawings of the tunnel or other structure for which you seek planning permission, including floor plans and elevations. In the case of tunnels, the tunnel manufacturer can often provide these. 
  • Details of any existing site drainage and your plans for how water run-off will be dealt with (in many cases, requirements in this respect can be addressed through the use of rainwater harvesting). If the site has not been used for community growing previously, you may also need to provide details of the nature of the proposed use (i.e. the activities that would be undertaken, the expected number of visitors to the site, and proposed access arrangements,etc).  

Planning fees: 

Local authorities publish guidelines on planning fees; do note: you can half the cost of your planning application if your local community council submits this on your behalf. See  Friends of Forres Land Story

Get help: 

  • For more detailed technical planning guidance, please see the Planning Matters section of the Growing in the Community- Scotland Land Guide.  
  • You can access specialist planning advice and guidance through the Community Land Advisory Service. Contact us for more information. 




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