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Scottish Planning Policy



34. The Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006 introduced a requirement that functions relating to the preparation of the National Planning Framework by Scottish Ministers and development plans by planning authorities must be exercised with the objective of contributing to sustainable development. The 2006 Act requires planning authorities to have regard to guidance on this requirement issued by Scottish Ministers. This section (paragraphs 34 - 40) is guidance under section 3E of the 2006 Act. The principles of sustainable development outlined in this section are embedded in national planning policy.

35. The Scottish Government supports the five guiding principles of sustainable development set out in the UK shared framework for sustainable development 12. The five principles are:

  • living within environmental limits,
  • ensuring a strong, healthy and just society,
  • achieving a sustainable economy,
  • promoting good governance, and
  • using sound science responsibly.

Achieving a sustainable economy, promoting good governance and using established science responsibly are essential in enabling a strong, healthy and just society and living within environmental limits. The fundamental principle of sustainable development is that it integrates economic, social and environmental objectives. The aim is to achieve the right development in the right place. The planning system should promote development that supports the move towards a more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable society.

36. The Scottish Government's commitment to sustainable development is reflected in its purpose of creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth. This is set out in the Government Economic Strategy, supported by the fifteen National Outcomes. Sustainable economic growth means building a dynamic and growing economy that will provide prosperity and opportunities for all, while respecting the limits of our environment in order to ensure that future generations can enjoy a better quality of life too.

37. The planning system has an important role in supporting the achievement of sustainable development through its influence on the location, layout and design of new development. Decision making in the planning system should:

  • contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in line with the commitment to reduce emissions by 42% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, contribute to reducing energy consumption and to the development of renewable energy generation opportunities,
  • support the achievement of Zero Waste objectives, including the provision of the required waste management installations,
  • protect and enhance the cultural heritage,
  • protect and enhance the natural environment, including biodiversity and the landscape,
  • maintain, enhance and promote access to open space and recreation opportunities,
  • take into account the implications of development for water, air and soil quality, and
  • support healthier living by improving the quality of the built environment, by increasing access to amenities, services and active travel opportunities, and by addressing environmental problems affecting communities.

38. Decisions on the location of new development should:

  • promote regeneration and the re-use of previously developed land,
  • reduce the need to travel and prioritise sustainable travel and transport opportunities,
  • promote the development of mixed communities,
  • take account of the capacity of existing infrastructure,
  • promote rural development and regeneration, and
  • prevent further development which would be at risk from flooding or coastal erosion.

39. Decisions on the layout and design of new development should:

  • encourage the use of and enable access to active travel networks and public transport,
  • promote the efficient use of land, buildings and infrastructure,
  • encourage energy efficiency through the orientation and design of buildings, choice of materials and the use of low and zero carbon generating technologies,
  • support sustainable water resource management,
  • support sustainable waste management,
  • consider the lifecycle of the development,
  • encourage the use of sustainable and recycled materials in construction, and
  • support habitat connectivity.

40. The settlement strategy set out in the development plan should promote a more sustainable pattern of growth for an area, taking account of the scale and type of development pressure and the need for growth and regeneration. The most effective way to plan for change will depend on many factors, including geography, environmental sensitivities, landscape character and infrastructure capacity.

Climate Change

41. The need to tackle climate change, and in particular reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to it, is a principal challenge of sustainable economic growth. Section 44 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 requires all public bodies to act:

  • in the way best calculated to contribute to the delivery of the emissions targets in the Act,
  • in the way best calculated to help deliver the Government's climate change adaptation programme, and
  • in a way that it considers is most sustainable.

The Act sets a target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050, with an interim target of a 42% reduction by 2020. Achieving these targets will require coordinated action and a significant commitment to adapting the built environment to reduce energy and other resource requirements, to reducing the need to travel, and to providing for active travel and travel by public transport.

42. The need to help mitigate the causes of climate change and the need to adapt to its short and long term impacts should be taken into account in all decisions throughout the planning system. Development plans should promote a pattern of development which reduces the need to travel and encourages active travel and travel by public transport, taking into account the likely availability of public transport in rural areas. Development plans should also require the siting, design and layout of all new development to limit likely greenhouse gas emissions, particularly by limiting resource and energy requirements.

43. The design of new development should address the causes of climate change by minimising carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions and should include features that provide effective adaptation to the predicted effects of climate change. The changing climate will increase the risk of damage to buildings and infrastructure by flood, storm, landslip and subsidence. Development should therefore normally be avoided in areas with increased vulnerability to the effects of climate change, particularly areas at significant risk from flooding, landslip and coastal erosion and highly exposed sites at significant risk from the impacts of storms. When designating land for new residential, commercial and industrial development, planning authorities should consider the energy and heat requirements of these new developments. New development should be planned to make use of opportunities for decentralised and local renewable or low carbon sources of heat and power wherever possible.

44. The use of energy efficient, microgenerating and decentralised renewable energy systems will be components in the move towards reducing emissions, but energy efficient design of buildings will make a significant contribution to reducing emissions. Location, siting, orientation, design, materials and insulation are important factors in the energy efficiency of buildings. Under section 72 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 local development plans must require all new buildings to be designed to avoid a specified and rising proportion of the projected greenhouse gas emissions from their use through the installation and operation of low and zero carbon generating technologies. When preparing such policies, planning authorities should take into account technical constraints which may exist including the availability of appropriate and effective technology and its practical application to different scales of development. Local development plans or supplementary guidance should set out the approach to existing buildings which are being altered or extended including historic buildings, and the approach to applications where developers are able to demonstrate that there are significant technical constraints to using on-site low and zero carbon generating technologies. It is recommended that development plan policies for development involving low and zero carbon generating technologies should accord with the standards, guidance and methodologies provided in building regulations.