Fourth National Planning Framework inevitably focusses on sustainability and locality

11.11.21 2 MINUTE READ

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The long-anticipated Draft NPF4 was published for consultation by The Scottish Government yesterday evening (10 November). Given that climate change and the climate emergency are key themes and referenced over 100 times throughout the document, it’s no coincidence that the publication has coincided with the timing of COP26.

The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 had previously directed that the NPF must contribute to the following six key outcomes:

  • Improving the health and wellbeing of our people

  • Increasing the population of rural areas

  • Meeting housing needs

  • Improving equality and eliminating discrimination

  • Meeting targets for emission of greenhouse gases; and

  • Securing positive effects for biodiversity.

As well as setting out a spatial strategy, the draft sets out 18 National Developments which range from single large-scale projects to wider national ambitions which create sustainable, liveable, productive and distinctive places.

With the demise of the City Regions and Strategic Development Plans in Scotland, for the first time the NPF also sets out a centralised approach to the housing land requirements for each planning authority in Scotland, with just over 200,000 new homes forecast to be required across the country over the next 10 years. Planning for housing is one of the most contested areas of the planning system and it has become increasingly litigious in recent years. The forecasting of housing need and demand has become an industry in itself and it is hoped that by setting the housing targets in the NPF it will consume less time and resources for everyone involved.

NPF4 also now incorporates 35 universal Scottish Planning Policies (up until now this has always been a separate document) with some of the key headline areas being:

  • Policy 2: Climate emergency – all development proposals will require to give significant weight to the global climate emergency.
  • Policy 3: Nature crisis – Development plans and all scales of development proposals should facilitate biodiversity enhancement (although no specific targets are set).
  • Policy 7: Local living – supports the principle of 20 minute neighbourhoods for housing and associated services.
  • Policy 8: Infrastructure First - LDP’s and delivery programmes will need to align with relevant infrastructure plans and policies including National Transport Strategy and National Marine Plan.
  • Policy 17: Tourism – supports proposals that will help to inspire people to visit Scotland and sustainable tourism which benefits local people and is consistent with net zero and nature commitments.
  • Policy 19: Green energy – recognises that a wide range of renewable technologies are capable of delivering significant reduction in carbon emissions. Outwith National Parks and National Scenic Areas proposals for new wind farms should be supported unless the impacts identified are unacceptable. Although existing consents may be time limited wind farms should be suitable for use in perpetuity.
  • Policy 30: Vacant and Derelict Land – a renewed emphasis to reuse vacant and derelict land and buildings prior to release of greenfield sites.
  • Policy 31: Rural Places – encouragement to development that helps to support, sustain and grow rural areas and stimulate a greener, fairer and more inclusive wellbeing economy including rural housing outwith more accessible or pressurised rural areas.
  • Policy 33: Soils – to protect carbon rich soils and support the preservation and restoration of peatlands.
  • Policy 34: Trees, Woodland and Forestry – support for expansion of woodland cover and protection to existing woodland.
  • Policy 35: Coasts – while considering the long term impacts of climate change support the sustainable development of coastal communities.

The draft is now available for consultation until 31 March 2022 and is expected to be finalised and approved by Scottish Parliament during Summer 2022 when it will be accompanied by a delivery programme. Once finalised, NPF4 will form part of the new Development Plan system in Scotland and help guide the next generation of LDP’s which for the first time will also have 10-year timeframes.

If you would like any additional information or are considering submitting representations to the draft, please get in touch with Mark Myles or Corinne MacDougall in Bidwells’ planning team.


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Mark Myles

Partner, Head of Planning Scotland

Mark's 30+ years’ experience in public and private sector development management gives him a deep understanding of planning across Scotland.

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Corinne MacDougall

Associate, Planning

Having experience of both the English and Scottish planning systems provides Corinne with a holistic understanding of this specialist area.

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