Orkney Islands Council
Working together for a better Orkney

Planning Constraints

In considering whether it is appropriate to undertake development on land or buildings, it is necessary to take into consideration constraints which may affect the site. The principal constraints are listed below. An explanation of how every listed constraint could impact on the outcome of a planning application is given and this may include the possibility that a proposed development could be refused if ways of safeguarding the constraint cannot be found. We would be keen to discuss potential impacts on constraints from any development you may be considering as early as possible, so if you are uncertain if, or how a constraint may affect your development proposal, please contact a Development Management Planning Officer for advice.

Built Heritage

Listed Buildings:

An application for Listed Building Consent will be required for demolition or any alterations or extensions to a listed building that will affect its character. In general, works that will usually require listed building consent include:

Replacing doors and windows.

  • Re-roofing.
  • New chimney pots.
  • New rainwater goods.
  • Wholesale re-pointing.
  • Rendering or re-rendering.
  • Painting of render, stone, brickwork and external joinery.
  • Internal structural works, including removal of walls and partitions, formation of new doorways, blocking (or un-blocking) of doors/windows, any works to staircases, fireplaces, chimney breasts or other structural/decorative elements of the interior.

This shortlist is not definitive and anyone considering works to a listed building should always make enquiries with the Council’s Development Management Planning Officers as to what works may require consent. It is a criminal offence to undertake works to a listed building without obtaining Listed Building Consent prior to works taking place.

Applications for Listed Building Consent should contain full information (drawings, photographs, research etc) to enable the Planning Authority (and consultees and members of the public) to fully understand the extent, scope and detail of the proposed works. Use the ‘Submission Guidance’ document found in the ‘Related Downloads’ section of this site to find out what should be submitted with your application. Prior to submission of an application the Council’s Development Management Planning Officers would be keen to discuss proposals and provide advice and information.

In addition, any proposals to form an extension, or any other work that physically abuts or attaches itself to the listed building, may also require Planning Permission. Also, consideration has to be given to whether planning applications for developments in the vicinity of a listed building may affect its setting.

Section 14 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 requires that “in considering whether to grant listed building consent for any works, the planning authority shall have special regard to the desirability of preserving the building or its setting or any features of special architectural or historic interest which it possesses.” If a proposal threatens the preservation or setting of a listed building it could be refused.

Applications for Listed Building Consent or for Planning Permission where the development would affect the setting of a listed building have to be made the subject of a Notice in the press and on site.

More detailed information on Listed Buildings can be found via the ‘Built Heritage’ and the ‘Listed Buildings and the Local List’ pages found in the ‘Related Links’ section

Conservation Areas:

A Conservation Area is 'an area of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance'. Any application within a Conservation Area will be evaluated to ascertain if the proposed development enhances or preserves the character or appearance of the area. If it fails to do so the application could be refused.

Conservation Area designation introduces some extra controls to protect the special qualities of the area. This means that planning permission may be required for certain work that outside of a Conservation Area would normally be classed as 'permitted development'. Demolition of unlisted buildings in a Conservation Area would normally require Conservation Area Consent.

Once an area is designated a Conservation Area, the Council has a duty to advertise proposals that may affect it, by site notice and in the local press, so that public opinion can be obtained.

Applications for development in a Conservation Area should contain full information (drawings, photographs, research etc) to enable the Planning Authority (and consultees and members of the public) to fully understand the extent, scope and detail of the proposed works. Use the ‘Submission Guidance’ document found in the ‘Related Downloads’ section of this site to find out what should be submitted with your application. Prior to submission of an application the Council’s Development Management Planning Officers would be keen to discuss proposals and provide advice and information.

Applications for Planning Permission where the development would affect the character of a conservation area and applications for Conservation Area Consent have to be made the subject of a Notice in the press and on site. More detailed information on Conservation Areas can be found via the ‘Built Heritage’ page found in the ‘Related Links’ section.

World Heritage Site (WHS):

The Heart of Neolithic Orkney WHS comprises six individual component sites, each of which are Scheduled Monuments: the settlement of Skara Brae, Maeshowe, the Stones of Stenness, the Watch Stone, the Barnhouse Stone, and the Ring of Brodgar and its associated ritual and funerary monuments.  WHS inner sensitive zones and sensitive ridgelines have been identified and these have to be taken into account when determining applications for development. Information on these can be found on the ‘Natural Heritage’ page fund via the ‘Related Links’ page of this site.

If it is considered that a proposal could have a significantly detrimental impact on the universal value of the WHS it could be refused.

Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs):

A scheduled monument is a monument of national importance that Scottish Ministers have given legal protection under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. Although the majority are on land, a small number lie under the sea. If a planning application is submitted for development that would affect the setting of a SAM, the Council will consult Historic Scotland for its views. If proposed development were to directly affect a SAM, SAM Consent from Historic Scotland would have to be sought.

If it is considered that a proposal could have a significantly detrimental impact on a SAM it could be refused.

Natural Heritage

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs):

SACs are designated under the European Habitats Directive and are selected for a number of habitats and species, both terrestrial and marine, which are listed in the Habitats Directive.

The Directive also has a number of wider implications, such as those relating to European Protected Species. In Scotland, the requirements of the Habitats Directive are translated into specific legal obligations by the Habitats Regulations.

More detailed information of on SACs in Orkney can be found via the ‘SAC’ page in the ‘Related Links’ section of this site.

Special Protection Areas (SPAs):

SPAs are designated under the European Birds Directive to support rare and vulnerable species and regularly occurring migratory species. SPAs are intended to safeguard the habitats of the species for which they are selected and to protect the birds from significant disturbance.

More detailed information of on SPAs in Orkney can be found via the ‘SPA’ page in the ‘Related Links’ section of this site. 

SPAs and SACs are collectively termed Natura sites. Any proposal that may have a significant impact on the integrity of a Natura site has to be subject to an Appropriate Assessment and, if it is concluded that such impact would be adverse, permission may be refused unless adequate mitigation can be assured.

Ramsar sites:

Ramsar sites are classified to meet the UK's commitments under the Ramsar Convention relating to Wetlands of International Importance. All Ramsar sites in Scotland are also Natura sites, and many are also Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). Although there is no specific legal framework that safeguards Scottish Ramsar sites, they benefit from the measures required to protect and enhance the Natura sites and SSSIs which overlap them. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) also includes Ramsar sites in its site condition monitoring programme. There is one Ramsar designation in Orkney which covers the East Sanday Coast.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs):

The Marine (Scotland) Act and the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act both contain powers to designate MPAs. An MPA is an area which has either/both marine biodiversity (species and habitats) and geodiversity (the variety of landforms and natural processes that underpin the marine landscapes). The designation of any MPAs in Orkney waters will be of particular relevance to the determination of planning applications for marine fish farms.

Where it is considered that a proposal would have a significantly adverse impact on the qualifying interests of an MPA it could be refused.

Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI):

SSSIs are those areas of land and water that SNH considers to best represent Scotland’s natural heritage - its diversity of plants, animals and habitats, rocks and landforms, or a combinations of such natural features. SNH designates SSSIs under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004. SSSIs are protected by law. It is an offence for any person to intentionally or recklessly damage the protected natural features of an SSSI.  In Orkney there are 36 SSSIs.

Where it is considered that a proposal would have a significantly adverse impact on the integrity of an SSSI it could be refused.

More information about Sites of Special Scientific Interest can be found via the ‘Sites of Special Scientific Interest - SSSI’ page in the ‘Related Links’ section of this site.

National Scenic Area (NSA):

Section 263A of the Planning (Scotland) Act defines an NSA as an area "of outstanding scenic value in a national context." The purpose of the NSA designation is both to identify Scotland’s finest scenery and to ensure it is protected from inappropriate development. A single NSA covers the western areas of Hoy and the West Mainland, this can be found via the ‘Scottish National Heritage’ website in the ‘Related Sites’ section of this site.

Recently Scottish Natural Heritage has surveyed all the NSAs and, for each one, produced an up-to-date list of the special qualities that justify their designation as Scotland's finest landscapes. 

Where it is considered that a proposed development would have a harmful impact on the qualifying interests of an NSA, it could be refused.

On receipt of an application which may have an impact on any of the designations mentioned above SNH will normally be consulted.

Local Nature Conservation Sites (LNCS):

LNCS are designated by the Council as being worthy of protection for their ornithological, botanical or geological interest. More information on this can be found via the ‘Built Heritage’ page found in the ‘Related Links’ section of this page. It will be expected that any proposal for development will not have an adverse impact on the character of LNCS.

Local Nature Reserves (LNRs):

LNRs are designated by the Council to protect sites of local importance for nature conservation, education and amenity. The Council must either own or have a legal interest in the land before a LNR can be declared. Although LNRs have no direct statutory protection, management rules or bye-laws can be used to control damaging activities.  Orkney’s only LNR is at Mull Head, Deerness. It will be expected that any proposal for development will not have an adverse impact on the character of the LNR.

More information about Mull Head Local Nature Reserve can be found via the ‘Local Nature Reserve - Mull Head’ page found in the ‘Related Links’ section of this page.

Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs):

Trees are protected if they are the subject of a TPO, or if they are within a Conservation Area. In either case consent is required before undertaking any works to protected trees.

If works undertaken to protected trees without the required consent it could lead to prosecution.

More information about Trees and Tree Preservation Orders in Orkney can be found on the ‘Natural Heritage’ page fund via the ‘Related Links’ page of this site.

Other Constraints

Flooding and Areas of Cumulative Drainage Impact:

SEPA has produced indicative flood maps, these can be found via the ‘SEPA’ website in the ‘Related Sites’ section of this site. If there may be issues with flooding, then this may give cause for concern and also may lead to an application being refused.

Some rural settlements are considered to be at, or nearing capacity for accepting additional private sewage treatment systems (notably septic tanks) in respect to potential for ground and water pollution. These have been identified as Areas of Cumulative Drainage Impact, these can be found via the ‘SEPA’ website in the ‘Related Sites’ section of this site. If it is considered that a proposal would lead to extending drainage capacity beyond a safe limit either a modified drainage method would be required of the application could be refused.

The Planning Authority will consult SEPA where proposed development raises flooding or cumulative drainage issues.

Contaminated Land:

The approval of an application for the redevelopment of a contaminated site will only be granted planning permission if the site is remediated to a standard that makes it suitable for the new use of the land.

Contaminated Land issues are dealt with by Environmental Health Officers who are consulted on applications involving contaminated land.

Hazardous Substances and Pipelines:

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) sets a consultation distance around a major hazard site or major hazard pipeline, within which the planning authority must consult HSE over relevant developments which are likely to lead to an increased population around the major hazard. HSE provides advice on applications for planning permission within these consultation distances through PADHI+(Planning Advice for Development near Hazardous Installations). PADHI+ is an online system which allows planning authorities to input information from the planning application and obtain HSE’s advice directly.

In Orkney there are a range of sites with consultation distances around them, including sites where gas, fertilizer, fuel and liquor are stored; quarries and piers which have licences to store explosives; and the Flotta oil pipeline that crosses the south end of the Number 4 Barrier. Consultation distances can be seen, along with other constraints, on the Orkney Local Development Plan Proposals Map, but it is always as well to check with a Development Management Planning Officer as they are liable to change. 

If HSE advises against a proposal it could be refused.

Airport Safeguarding Zone:

There is a safeguarding zone around Kirkwall airport which covers nearly all of the East Mainland and Deerness and extends from the middle of Shapinsay in the north to the north of Burray in the south. It also includes an approach corridor that extends to Scorrodale, west of Orphir.  Depending on the height of the proposed development and its location the Council may have to consult Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd. (HIAL) who will advise on potential impact on aviation safety. A similar consultation process will be undertaken with the Council’s Airport Superintendent with regards to developments near the airports around the outer isles of Orkney and, along with HIAL, for large wind turbines within the flight corridors.

If HIAL or the Airport Superintendent object to a proposal it could be refused unless mitigating measures (such as aviation warning lights) can overcome the objection(s).

Permitted development rights for agricultural buildings are restricted within 3 kilometres of the periphery of an airport.

Core Paths:

Account has to be given to whether proposed development would affect a core path, details of which can be found can be found on the ‘Orkney Core Paths Plan’ page fund via the ‘Related Links’ page of this site.

If it were considered that a proposal would threaten the safe use or integrity of a core path it could be refused.

Related Links

Related Sites

Related Downloads