Aberdeen's Christmas Village continues without permission
Published: 06 Dec 2019

The show must go on, as a Christmas Village continues to surge forward despite their lack of planning permission in Aberdeen.

A temporary change of use of land is allowed to occur, as long as it does not exceed 28 days. This year's event (which includes a market, fun fair and an ice rink) breaks this rule, as it will last as long as 40 days, until 31 December. It is up to the planning authority to decide whether they will take enforcement action or not, and how severe that will be if so. The council has said that there were no public safety concerns, as the proper building warrants and inspections were taking place. Similar events occurred on Broad Street and Union Terrace, back as far as 2015, with similar issues of not having the necessary permissions. Despite this, no enforcement action has ever been taken.

This follows Edinburgh's Christmas Market's opening, after the council inspectors were satisfied that the few last minute snags had been fixed. A building warrant had already been granted, but the licence was only given following the undertaking of final checks. The Aberdeen event had first been held in 2015, moving to a new location in 2017, where it attracted thousands of people. It is a very busy and very popular event. 

Speaking on this event, an Aberdeen City Council Spokeswoman has said, "Building Standards officers issue a Section 89 Raised Structure permit and provide feedback to colleagues in licensing with regards to the public entertainment and alcohol licences applications. Building standards inspections have been scheduled for yesterday and today to finalise these aspects".

She explained that the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order SI 1992/223 allows for the change of use of land and any structures on that land, for a period of 28 days in any year, without the need to apply for planning permission under permitted development. In the absence of this planning permission (where it is required), it is up to the planning authority to decide whether it is convenient to take enforcement action or not, and then they must authorise that enforcement action if they come to the decision it is needed. 

Finally adding that, "in coming to this judgement, the planning authority takes into account material planning considerations such as traffic and pedestrian safety, amenity, impact on listed buildings, conservation, and design, along with other considerations".

Running the event with the council, Aberdeen Inspired has said it took the advice from partners in the planning of every Christmas event. They have said, "the duration of the Aberdeen Christmas Village, including the build and derigging, is covered through a range of licensing". This licensing includes:

  • Raised Structure Permit;
  • Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO);
  • public entertainment license;
  • market operators license;
  • several occasional licenses. 

Aberdeen Inspired has worked closely with Aberdeen City Council, in order to ensure all necessary licensing and consents are both in place, and have met their requirements in full.