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Valuing the Natural Environment

Rannoch MoorThe environment is a valued national asset offering a wide range of opportunities for enjoyment, recreation and sustainable economic activity. Planning plays an important role in protecting, enhancing and promoting access to our key environmental resources, whilst supporting their sustainable use.

Planning authorities, and all public bodies, have a duty under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 to further the conservation of biodiversity. This duty must be reflected in development plans and development management decisions. They also have a duty under the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003 to protect and improve Scotland’s water environment. The Scottish Government expects public bodies to apply the Principles for Sustainable Land Use, as set out in the Land Use Strategy, when taking significant decisions affecting the use of land.

Development Plans

International, national and locally designated areas and sites as outlined in the SPP should be identified and afforded the appropriate level of protection in development plans.

Protected Species

The presence (or potential presence) of a legally protected species is an important consideration in decisions on planning applications. The level of protection afforded by legislation must be factored into the planning and design of development and any impacts must be fully considered prior to the determination of an application.

Areas of Wild Land

Plans should identify and safeguard the character of areas of wild land as identified on the 2014 SNH map of wild land areas.  Development may be appropriate in wild land in some circumstances.


Ancient semi-natural woodland is an irreplaceable resource and, along with other woodlands, hedgerows and individual trees, should be protected from adverse impacts resulting from development.

Development Management

Development management decisions should take account of potential effects on landscapes, the natural and water environment, including cumulative effects. Developers should seek to minimise adverse impacts through careful planning and design, considering the services which the natural environment is providing and maximising the potential for enhancement.

Planning permission should be refused where the nature or scale of proposed development would have an unacceptable impact on the natural environment.