Cleaner air for Scotland: the road to a healthier future

A strategy setting out the Scottish Government's proposals for delivering further improvements to air quality.

7. Placemaking

A Scotland where air quality is not compromised by new or existing development and where places are designed to minimise air pollution and its effects.

Why is placemaking important for air quality?

7.1 Placemaking is the way in which we plan, design and manage our towns and cities. This can make a big difference to air quality and is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s spatial planning policies.

7.2 We can tackle air pollution through innovative placemaking. For example, integrating greenspaces into new and existing developments can act as a buffer against noise and air emissions from vehicles, whilst providing open spaces for walking, cycling and nature.

7.3 Placemaking is also important in helping to better manage the vehicles in our towns and cities. New developments can be designed so that they generate less traffic, are well linked to public transport routes, walking and cycling routes and, where appropriate, prioritise active travellers over people using vehicles.

7.4 Getting placemaking right helps to tackle air pollution, but also creates sustainable places that are vibrant and healthy to live and work in. This makes them more attractive places for businesses to invest in.

Placemaking today – what are we already doing?

7.5 The National Planning Framework 3 [77] ( NPF3) and Scottish Planning Policy [78] ( SPP) set out the Scottish Government’s national spatial strategy and planning policies based around a vision for Scotland – as noted below – which is directly relevant to CAFS:

  • a more connected place ( NPF3 and SPP);
  • a successful, sustainable place;
  • a low carbon place; and
  • a natural, resilient place.

7.6 The NPF3 and SPP provide a framework for a planning system supporting development that:

  • creates high-quality, diverse and sustainable places that promote wellbeing and attract investment;
  • reduces the need to travel;
  • integrates different transport modes;
  • provides safe and convenient opportunities for walking and cycling; and
  • promotes the transition to a low carbon economy.

7.7 Embedding these principles into statutory Strategic and Local Development Plans helps to create places that attract investment and new development, but also ensures that air quality is protected and improved. Planning Advice Note 51 [79] provides additional detail on the role of the planning system in relation to environmental protection regimes.

7.8 The following requirements already ensure that planning authorities consider air quality as part of their decision making:

  • Strategic and Local Development Plans must take into account the implications of development for air quality;
  • Strategic Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Assessments must identify the potential effects of plans and developments on air quality and how these can be mitigated;
  • the impacts of development plans on the transport network must be assessed in line with Transport Scotland’s Development Planning and Management Transport Appraisal Guidance ( DPMTAG) [80] ; and
  • air quality action plans must provide clear direction on when an assessment of air quality is required and what issues should be covered. These assessments must be based on the Scottish monitoring network or modelling data and use the national modelling methodology. Local authorities can also require developers to carry out monitoring over fixed periods.

Placemaking tomorrow – what more do we need to do?

7.9 Land use and transport planners play a key role in designing spaces that avoid reducing air quality in the short term and enhance it in the long term. Scottish Planning Policy requires that Strategic and Local Development Plans, and the planning policies and decisions arising from these plans should consider the implications of development for air quality.

We will:

  • Ensure that future updates and revisions to Scottish Planning Policy and the National Planning Framework take account of CAFS

7.10 Preparation of development plans and consideration of individual planning applications should:

  • demonstrate how the land use planning system can contribute to achieving the CAFS planning objective;
  • investigate and clearly explain how new developments might affect air quality now and in the future, particularly in and around AQMAs;
  • evaluate the impacts on the transport network in line with Transport Scotland’s DPMTAG;
  • locate new developments where they reduce the need to travel and/or offer good access to public transport and shared private transport; and
  • ensure that planning decisions are aligned with, and support the delivery of, air quality action plans.

We will:

  • Expect planning authorities to review their Local Development Plan and revise at the next scheduled update to ensure policies are consistent with CAFS objectives and any local authority air quality action plans

7.11 It is important that planners should have access to, and are made aware of, information that can facilitate better air quality. Clear, simple guidance or protocols on mitigating air pollution in urban and rural spaces can be developed to support this goal (see case studies 10 and 11 for examples of good practice on this issue).

We will:

  • Work with Environmental Protection Scotland to produce updated guidance on air quality and planning
  • Work with SEPA to introduce air quality training for local authority spatial and transport planners

7.12 Strategic and Local Development Plans are required to undergo a Strategic Environmental Assessment. This provides the opportunity to predict the potential effects of these plans, and associated individual developments, on the air and climate, and identify how these effects can be minimised. We must be able to demonstrate that air quality is being considered consistently throughout this process.

We will:

  • Support SEPA in revising its guidance on Strategic Environmental Assessment to bring it into line with CAFS

Measures requiring further investigation and research

7.13 During the lifetime of CAFS, the Scottish Government will also:

  • consider aligning planning guidance on air quality with the requirements of CAFS; and
  • review evidence for the positive and negative effects of permitted development rights for domestic biomass flues, given the significant figures for ‘other combustion’ noted in Table 1.

7.14 Progress on developing specific actions associated with these issues will be outlined in the first CAFS annual report.

Case study 9

Supplementary Planning Document
on Air Quality and Development –
Mid Devon District Council

In 2005, Mid Devon District Council adopted a robust policy to planning decisions and air quality impact. The focus was on:

  • Providing a simple, fixed contribution rate;
  • Being transparent and proportionate; and
  • Avoiding decisions which could be viewed as ‘licence to pollute’.

In May 2008, the Council published supplementary planning guidance to ensure that planning decisions contributed to reducing emissions which cause damage to health and quality of life. The guidance underlined the Council commitment to improving air quality in the District, by explicitly stating:

  • the importance of air quality as a material planning consideration;
  • the type of development that would require an air quality assessment;
  • the Council’s approach to assessment, planning conditions and agreements with respect to air quality; and
  • a range of mitigation measures including transport interventions and monitoring approaches.

Case study 10

Stirling LDP Place Making Guidance – Stirling Council

In 2001, the Scottish Government published Designing Places. This document raised the standards of design in our built environment. In 2011, Stirling Council produced draft supplementary guidance on placemaking linked to their Local Development Plan for anyone considering development within their area. The guidance emphasised the need to design urban spaces without detriment to air quality, particularly on heavily trafficked streets.

Designers were encouraged to deliver mitigation measures, such as blocks of tree planting to create microclimates that would allow vehicle fumes to dissipate. Specific references to transport included:

  • spaces should consider the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport ahead of private motor vehicles;
  • developments should help to create a clear hierarchy and structure to open spaces and routes; and
  • overall designs should be well connected and interlinked by transport.



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