Planning to reach net zero

Creating more town centre homes and local services to help fight climate change.

Planning applications will have to show how they help meet Scotland’s ambitious targets to cut emissions to net zero by 2045 to get approval under new proposals.

Applications that create more town centre homes or help reuse vacant and derelict land will be more likely to succeed, under the draft fourth National Planning Framework which has been published for consultation today.

These proposals promote the creation of 20-minute neighbourhoods, where services are easily accessible on foot or by bicycle, across cities and towns. Tighter restrictions will be imposed on out-of-town retail development.

The Framework will support developments which contribute to nature restoration, drive population growth in rural Scotland, create more homes to meet local needs and encourage green investment.

Proposals for renewable energy, including increasing the power of existing wind farms, will be supported by planners - helping make Scotland an energy exporter.

It proposes 18 national developments including:

  • a national walking, wheeling and cycling network promoting active travel
  • mass and rapid transit networks for cities to significantly reduce congestion and reliance on the car
  • sustainable drainage and water management solutions to protect cities from future flood risk
  • master planned regeneration and investment along the Clyde and waterfronts in Dundee, Edinburgh and Stranraer
  • supporting transition of key industrial sites to net zero as well as helping to sustain rural and island communities in transitioning to a net zero society
  • pumped hydroelectric storage, large scale renewable energy generation and investment in the electricity grid.

Planning Minister Tom Arthur said:

“As COP26 delegates debate the future of our planet, we are proudly publishing our new draft National Planning Framework that proposes planners will have to consider the impact of applications on climate change and our natural environment.

“This plan for Scotland in 2045 aims to transform places so more of us live in well-designed and energy efficient homes, located within walking distance of local services and green space, and puts planning at the heart of delivering green, inclusive and long‑term sustainable development.

“This is a turning point for planning in Scotland. Our proposals will help us achieve our just transition to net zero emissions by helping to deliver more renewable energy, protecting our natural environment and creating better, healthier places to live.”


Tomorrow COP26 will have the theme of Cities, Regions and the Built Environment. The Scottish Government is proposing a change of direction for the planning of future development as COP26 delegates turn their attention to how leaders must collaborate at local, regional and national levels to accelerate climate action and make positive choices for our built environment.

The draft National Planning Framework 4 is being publicly consulted on and will be scrutinised by the Scottish Parliament for up to 120 days.  

The consultation is available for comment at this link:   

The Framework will embed the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in domestic planning standards and could shape planning decisions for the next 30 years.

Needs of older people and the disabled would be considered when designing housing. Increasing density of existing settlements or building homes on disused land will reduce the need to travel unsustainably for work or leisure.

The Framework would support renewable development, providing the impact is acceptable. This includes building more powerful or new wind farms outside national parks and National Scenic Areas, subject to sensitive case by case assessments. Proposals would still need to include an assessment of the impact on nearby residents and the local community.


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