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Dealing with your application

How to prepare your application

To submit an application, you must complete the relevant application form and prepare plans, elevations and any other drawings or supporting documentation required.

Different application forms are available, depending on the type of application you are submitting. For more information on the different types of application see the 'Application Types' page using the 'Related Links' below.

Care should be taken to ensure that you have completed the form correctly and that all the documentation relevant to the application is included in your submission as failure to do so will result in your application being made ‘invalid’.

The ‘Validation and determination of planning applications’ document used by the Council is available from the 'Related Sites' section of this page. This includes the extent and detail of information required to validate your application.

How much will it cost?

Most applications will require a planning fee. Fees for planning and related applications, and those which are exempt from a fee, are included in the document ‘Planning Fees’, listed in the ‘Related Downloads’ below. Other fee information is available from the Council Charges page available from the 'Related Links' below, and you can use the fee calculator on the Scottish Government ePlanning website, found in the 'Related Sites' below.

Planning applications can be submitted to the Council in two ways:

  1. This is the quickest and simplest way to make and submit your application and we would encourage you to submit online. You will be taken step by step through the process and be able to submit and pay for your application instantly.
  2. Paper form. Once completed you can either bring, or send your forms and plans to us.

Both of these methods can be accessed on the ‘Application Search and Submission’ page via the ‘Related Links’ section.

What happens when your application is received?


When your application has been received, a validation check is carried out. If you application is deemed invalid (due to amended or further information required, for example) you will be advised, and if the application is deemed valid, we will send you an acknowledgement letter stating the name of your case officer and the date you should expect to receive a decision by. Once validated we will undertake several processes which can include notifying neighbours, consulting with other Council services, consulting with other external agencies, and publishing applications online.

Neighbour Notification

We will notify neighbours after a planning application is made valid. All addressable properties within 20 metres of the application site boundary will be sent a neighbour notification letter notifying them of the development proposal. If there is land within 20 metres of the application site boundary which does not contain any addressable properties, a public notice is required to be placed in a local newspaper (at present this is The Orcadian). The applicant will be required to pay for the cost of this advertisement, which is currently £82.50.

Notification to owners and agricultural tenants is the responsibility of the applicant.

Other notification that may be required.

There may be requirements for your application to be advertised in the local press if it falls into certain criteria and certain adverts may require an additional fee.


In order to inform our determination of your application we may consult colleagues within other Council services, for example Roads Services to advise on access, traffic and parking issues, or Environmental Health to advise on noise issues.

We may also consult externally with relevant agencies, such as NatureScot, Scottish Environment Protection Agency or Historic Environment Scotland for proposals that may affect the natural or built environment.

Public access to your application

Your application and plans will be made available online for the public to view, track and comment on. Any representations we receive about an application will also be made publicly available and can be viewed on our website on the ‘Application Search and Submission' page found in the 'Related Links' section of this page.

At this stage in the process, members of the public have opportunity to submit representations in relation to your application.

How we assess your application

When we assess your planning application, we will consider relevant policies in the development plan (at present this is the Orkney Local Development Plan 2017 and National Planning Framework 4. This is because Section 25 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, as amended, states, “Where, in making any determination under the Planning Acts, regard is to be had to the development plan, the determination is, unless material considerations indicate otherwise…to be made in accordance with that plan…”

Relevant “material considerations” include: planning policy; design; traffic; noise; the planning history of the site; impact on public amenity; and external planning constraints. Further information on Material Planning Considerations is provided in the 'Related Links' section of this site. We will also consider comments and advice that received from other Council services or external agencies as well as any material comments received in representations.

Examples of what are not material planning considerations (and so could not be accepted as valid objections to an application) include: issues covered by other legislation (such as licensing or Building Standards); private legal disputes over land and access; the motives of the applicant; loss of financial value of a property; and loss of view.

The Development Management case officer dealing with the application will normally carry out a site visit to the proposed development. There is no requirement for the applicant/agent to be present at this visit.

After assessing all relevant information, the Development Management case officer will prepare a report based on findings and make a recommendation.

How we make decisions

Our aim is to decide your application within two months of it being validated (or alternative timescale for some application types).

Most applications are decided by officers under powers delegated by the Council to the Corporate Director of Neighbourhood Services and Infrastructure, generally over 90% of all planning applications in Orkney annually. The Development Management 'Scheme of Delegation' is available in the 'Related Downloads' section of this page.

Planning Committee

The Planning Committee determines larger or more controversial planning applications. Applications will go to committee if for example an objection has been received and the application is recommended for approval.

The Planning Committee meets approximately ten times a year, with a break over the summer. At Planning Committee, a Development Management officer will introduce the application and present a recommendation to approve or refuse the application. The applicant and any objectors (or their nominees) are also provided opportunity to address the committee in a hearings process. Committee members may also ask questions of both applicants and objectors before reaching a decision. On occasion the committee may defer a decision to allow them to undertake a site visit.

If your application is to be decided by the Planning Committee, you will be informed of the date of the meeting and the process involved. Reports of applications to be presented to the committee are publicly available around one week prior to the meeting taking place.

For minutes of previous meeting together with agenda and reports for upcoming meetings, please follow the links in the 'Committees, Sub-committees and boards’ pages accessed via the 'Related Links' section of this page.

Following a decision

Once a decision has been reached, a decision notice will be sent out to you or your agent. If your application is approved, it may also include any conditions attached to the decision. If it is refused, there will be detailed reasons provided for the refusal. Anyone who has commented on your application will also be notified in writing of the Council's decision.

If your application has been approved, you will receive copies of all your drawings with an approved stamp, along with your decision notice. These documents should be kept safe as they may be required for legal purposes. It is important that you read the terms of your decision carefully.

Planning permission approvals are accompanied by a ‘Notification of Initiation of Development’ form. If you receive one of these, you are required to complete and return it to the Council before starting any works. A ‘Notification of Completion of Development’ form should subsequently be completed and returned to the Council after your development is complete.

If you are building a new house, you will also be sent a property naming form. It is important that you complete and return this well in advance of your expected completion date, otherwise you may encounter issues receiving your energy performance certificate, connecting your telephone, insuring your property, etc.

Right of appeal or review

There is no right of appeal by an objector against the decision of the Council to approve a planning application. An applicant has the right to appeal or ask for a review. If the decision has been made by the Planning Committee or Council, the right is to appeal to the Scottish Ministers through the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division, which will normally appoint a Reporter to determine the appeal by means of written representations, a hearing or, in large and complicated cases, by a public inquiry. If the decision has been made by officers, the right is to seek a review from the Local Review Body (LRB). In Orkney the LRB is made up of the same membership as the Planning Committee. The right to appeal or seek a review applies in the following instances:

  • where the application is refused;
  • where the applicant does not agree with a planning condition attached to the consent; or
  • where the application is not determined within the specified time period.

Further details on the appeals process can be found on the 'Appeal a Planning Decision' pages accessed via the 'Related Links' section of this page.

Commencement and conditions

Planning permission is normally limited to a period of three years from the date of the decision notice, after which the permission or consent will lapse, unless it can be shown that the development has commenced.

By virtue of Section 27 of the 1997 Act, commencement of development is normally taken to be initiated if any operational development or change of use comprised in the development is carried out, such as:

  • Any work of construction in the course of erection of a building.
  • The excavation of a trench which is to contain the foundations, or part of the foundations of any building.
  • The laying of any underground main pipe to the foundations or part of the foundations of a building.
  • Any operation in the course of laying out or constructing a road or part of a road.
  • Any change in the use of the land which constitutes material development.

We do not notify applicants when an approval is due to lapse, and you should therefore make a note of the expiration date.

Pre-commencement conditions

Planning permission (and other approval types) may be subject to conditions that require further details to be submitted for the approval of the Council before the development is commenced.

It is important in these cases that the applicant or agent allows sufficient time for these details to be prepared, submitted to and approved in writing by the Council before the commencement of development.

Please note that any breach of condition is potentially at risk of enforcement action, and the Council cannot guarantee that any retrospective submission of details will be acceptable or approved.

Non Material Variation

It is possible to make a request to vary any planning permission. Any such request must be made by the grantee of the planning permission, or a person acting with the consent of the grantee. The planning authority may approve the variation of the planning permission if it appears to the planning authority that the variation sought is not material.

Note that if a proposed variation is considered material, the request for a non-material variation may be refused. In such cases a new planning application would be required for the variation. Further guidance on what is considered material is provided in the document ‘Non Material Variation Guidance’ which can be found in the Related Downloads section at the bottom of this page.

A ‘Request for Non Material Variation’ form can also be found in the 'Related Downloads' section at the bottom of this page.

Compliance with the permission

There is no statutory requirement on the Council to undertake site inspections to confirm that building work is being carried out in accordance with the approved plans and details. However, any building work carried out in contravention of permission can be subject to enforcement action to ensure compliance with the plans/details and could require the applicant/developer to demolish part or all of a building to remedy any breach.

Applicants are strongly advised to ensure that any hired contractors/builders are fully aware of any conditions attached to the grant of permission as any building work carried out in contravention of the permission will be entirely at the applicant's own risk. Ignorance of the permission, or to argue that it was the builder's fault, is not a defence in law.

Planning Processing Agreement

A processing agreement is a project management tool, available to all applications and normally used for major applications, and is encouraged for local developments which are complex or which are likely to prove contentious.

Processing agreements can be used to set out the key processes involved in determining an application, identify what information is required, and from whom, and set the timescales for the delivery of various stages of the process.

Processing agreements can deliver a number of benefits including:

  • Greater transparency in decision-making for everyone involved in the process.
  • Greater predictability and certainty over the timing of key stages.
  • Faster decision-making.
  • Clearer lines of communication between authority and applicant.
  • More effective and earlier engagement of key stakeholders.

The Application form is available in PDF format from the 'Related Downloads' section of this page.

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