Cleaner Air for Scotland 2 - Towards a Better Place for Everyone

A new air quality strategy to replace Cleaner Air for Scotland - The Road to a Healthier Future, setting out the Scottish Government's air quality policy framework for the next five years and a series of actions to deliver further air quality improvements.

3. Placemaking

58. Placemaking means working collaboratively across professions and communities to identify the best place-based solutions for the issues that we face. Overall, to improve and maintain air quality, development approaches to place should have an emphasis on mixed use neighbourhoods with:

  • the population density to sustain local services, planned and in locations that reduces the need to travel unsustainably;
  • makes best use of existing transport infrastructure; and
  • builds in walking and wheeling as the most natural choice to get around.

59. Reducing the need to travel will be significant in dealing with air quality in urban areas, but is not the only action needed to improve air quality. 20 minute neighbourhoods,[54] giving people the ability to meet most of their daily needs within a 20 minute walk from home, with safe walking, cycling, and public transport options will allow people to 'live local' and reduce car dependency. Application of these principles will vary across the country given geographical, community and economic influences but can be beneficial in a range of settings.

60. If we get placemaking right, we can tackle air pollution, create better, more sustainable places, contribute to improved physical and mental health and provide high quality spaces for work, life and play. This in turn makes locations more attractive for business, too. The report produced by the CAFS review placemaking working group[55] provides further background and context.

The Place Principle

61. In April 2019, the Scottish Government and CoSLA agreed to adopt the Place Principle[56] to help overcome organisational and sectoral boundaries, encourage better collaboration and community involvement, and improve the impact of combined energy, resources and investment in Scotland's regions, cities, towns, and neighbourhoods. It promotes a shared understanding of place, to support inclusive and sustainable outcome improvement and the need to take a more collaborative approach to a place's services and assets to achieve better outcomes for people and communities. The Place Principle brings ideas about investments, resources and assets under one roof and is based on an understanding that decision making and delivery that is informed by the people who live and work locally is key to the economic, social, cultural and environmental success of places. The principle encourages and enables local flexibility to respond to issues and circumstances in different places.

Nature-Based Solutions

62. Nature-based solutions aim to help societies address a variety of environmental, social and economic challenges in sustainable ways. They are actions which are inspired by, supported by or copied from nature. Some involve using and enhancing existing natural solutions to challenges, while others are exploring more novel solutions, for example mimicking how non-human organisms and communities cope with environmental extremes. Nature-based solutions use the features and complex system processes of nature, such as its ability to store carbon and regulate water flow, in order to achieve desired outcomes, such as reduced hazard risk, improved human wellbeing and socially inclusive green growth. Maintaining and enhancing natural capital, therefore, is of crucial importance, as it forms the basis for implementing solutions. These nature-based solutions ideally are energy and resource-efficient, and resilient to change, but to be successful they must be adapted to local conditions.

63. The European Commission (EC) has highlighted the role that nature-based solutions can play in placemaking.[57] There is growing recognition and awareness that nature can help provide viable solutions that use and deploy the properties of natural ecosystems and the services that they provide in a smart, 'engineered' way. These nature-based solutions provide sustainable, cost-effective, multi-purpose and flexible alternatives for various objectives. Working with nature, rather than against it, can further pave the way towards a more resource efficient, competitive and greener economy. It can also help to create new jobs and economic growth, through the manufacture and delivery of new products and services which enhance the natural capital rather than deplete it.

64. Glasgow City Council's approach to developing scaled-up nature-based solutions is underpinned by its Open Space Strategy (OSS). Based on a wealth of data and spatial analysis, the OSS sets out an approach to coordinate the various open space responsibilities to ensure well-managed, well located and well-connected open spaces that operate as part of a wider green network.

65. Glasgow's OSS is a good example of how using nature-based solutions to enhance and increase open space, can deliver multiple benefits for society, the economy and the environment. In this way, open spaces can offer opportunities for creating places for strong community cohesion, ecosystem services, healthy life, and access to jobs, education and culture, while responding to climate change including heavy rainfalls, heat waves and floods. There are also significant opportunities for air quality improvement driven by key outcomes of the OSS, such as ensuring more journeys are made by active travel and better access to green and blue space.

Planning Policy and National Planning Framework 4

66. The Scottish Government is reviewing its national planning policies, National Planning Framework 3 (NPF3)[58] and Scottish Planning Policy (SPP)[59] with a view to bringing them together into a single policy document National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4). The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019[60] requires that the revised National Planning Framework has regard to any national strategy in respect of the improvement of air quality prepared by Scottish ministers. The Planning Act also makes it a requirement for planning authorities to prepare and publish an open space strategy covering their policies and proposals as to the development, maintenance and use of green infrastructure in their district, including open spaces and green networks.

67. Currently, planning policy includes air quality broadly as a principle that contributes to sustainable development as well as a matter of particular concern for certain types of development including mineral workings and for town centres. The policy strongly supports active travel, green infrastructure and a design-led approach as a basis of placemaking to create high quality places.

68. The NPF4 Position Statement[61] set out our thinking in November 2020 on what the likely policy changes might be in the draft NPF4, reflecting on early engagement undertaken. It established that NPF4 would likely focus on achieving four key outcomes: Net Zero Emissions; Resilient Communities; A Wellbeing Economy; and Better Greener Places. The Position Statement is clear that NPF4 will help to deliver this new air quality strategy, including through new policies to improve air quality alongside reducing climate change emissions. It recognised the contribution of natural infrastructure to clean air and the need to continue to safeguard air quality in meeting demand for primary materials. It highlighted the potential for further development of the six qualities of successful places to reflect broader priorities including clean air. It also indicates that future policies will ensure that the National Transport Strategy 2 Sustainable Travel and Investment Hierarchies are embedded into development plans and proposals.

69. More broadly, the Position Statement identifies key opportunities around climate change that are also relevant to air quality, including:

  • 20 minute neighbourhoods;
  • supporting development locations that help us transition away from car dependency;
  • supporting low carbon living in rural areas as well as towns and cities through digital infrastructure and remote working;
  • low and zero carbon design and energy efficiency;
  • low carbon heating and renewable energy; and
  • expanding green infrastructure.

NPF4 will have development plan status, meaning its policies should be capable of day to day use by planning authorities in determining planning applications.

70. We anticipate a draft NPF4 to be laid before the Scottish Parliament in autumn 2021, which will be accompanied by public consultation. The draft will provide Ministers' spatial planning policy response to CAFS 2. The final NPF4 is anticipated to be approved by the Scottish Parliament and published in 2022.

Impact Assessments

71. Air quality impacts may be considered where required in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of development proposals and in Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of plans, programmes and strategies. In the UK, there are currently several risk assessment tools and mechanisms for making decisions on the risks from air pollution. However, the information required can be held in different places, thus making the process very labour intensive and lacking integration.

72. The UK Inter-agency Air Pollution Group (IAPG) coordinated by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), has been working on alignment and streamlining the risk assessment process of air pollution effects on ecosystems. The wider Integrating Tools for Air Pollution Assessment (ITAPA) project was implemented to assess the options to streamline ecological risk assessment of air pollution in the UK. The ITAPA Project concluded that an integrated tool would provide the best cost-benefit method for risk assessment of air pollution effects in the UK. At the same time, CAFS set out the commitment for a National Modelling Framework (NMF). This identified the need for regional air quality assessment tools as part of the planning and development process.

73. As a consequence of the initial ITAPA recommendations, the UK AERIUS pilot tool partnership project has been initiated between Defra, the devolved administrations (DAs) the country nature conservation bodies (CNCBs) and JNCC and is funded by Defra and DAERA (Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs). The UK AERIUS pilot project was set up to develop an online tool to support UK risk assessment of air pollution effects on ecosystems, statutory reporting requirements and, ideally, issue of permissions for individual plans or projects (e.g. Environmental Permits, planning permissions, etc.). UK AERIUS is based on the Dutch AERIUS integrated risk assessment system for decision making on individual plans or projects seeking permission from competent authorities.

74. Building on the success of the Local NMF, SEPA commissioned a Scottish regional air quality modelling project that will aim to feed into UK AERIUS, with the focus on developing an air quality assessment tool for impacts based on human health standards. Similar to the Local NMF that was used to provide the evidence for Low Emission Zones (LEZs), the regional model will rely on good quality traffic data. The first phase of the SEPA project is to develop the base road network and collect relevant traffic information at a regional scale; this work is underway. The project will identify any gaps in the database and provide recommendations for future traffic collection programmes.

The Place Standard

75. The Place Standard tool[62] was produced by the Scottish Government, Public Health Scotland,[63] Architecture and Design Scotland and Glasgow City Council and launched in December 2015. The Place Standard tool supports individuals, communities and public, private and third sector organisations to think about both the physical elements and the social aspects of a place together in a structured way by asking a series of questions based on the evidence about which aspects of place are important to health and wellbeing, This provides a framework for evaluation, for assessing the strengths and weaknesses and for prioritising areas for action to improve new and existing places. The Place Standard tool is designed to support a place-based approach and the delivery of high quality, sustainable places that promote community wellbeing and more positive environmental impacts, maximising the potential of the physical and social environment to support health, wellbeing and a high quality of life and reduce health inequalities.

76. A revised version of the Place Standard tool will be launched in 2021 to address gaps in the original tool identified, including enhancements to better enable place-based conversations to address climate change and improve environmental sustainability. The integrated approach offered by the Place Standard tool to understanding the physical, social and economic aspects of a place provides a holistic means of assessing and taking action on issues such as travel and transport, green infrastructure, place design and layout, that can deliver co-benefits such as air quality improvements. A 'Design' version aimed at designers (architects, planners), developers and clients is also being created to support the design process to deliver healthier places, including the delivery of air quality improvement co-benefits.

77. Furthermore, for those who wish to look at air quality in more detail, additional prompts with an air quality focus will be available to enhance the Place Standard assessment. This will provide guidance to support a stronger focus on air quality within a holistic assessment of a place, which can support specific action to address air quality concerns.


We will:

  • Ensure that NPF4 has regard to CAFS 2 in its preparation, in accordance with the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019.
  • Continue to promote the use and role of the Place Standard tool(s) in place-based approaches, enabling delivery of air quality improvements as a co-benefit of delivering high quality, sustainable places that support health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities.
  • Work with local authorities who wish to develop a targeted approach where appropriate for utilising the Place Standard tool with an air quality focus.
  • Undertake a review of nature-based, green and blue infrastructure interventions which can benefit air quality, using the outcomes to develop a database of potential solutions for both regeneration and new developments.
  • Work with local authorities to assess how effectively air quality is embedded in plans, policies, City Deals and other initiatives, and more generally in cross-departmental working, identifying and addressing evidence, skills, awareness and operational gaps.
  • Promote the aims of the UK ITAPA project in developing an online air pollution risk assessment tool for air pollution effects on ecosystems.
  • Implement the NMF regional air quality model to assess the effects of land-use development on local air quality.



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