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National Planning Framework 4 - draft: consultation analysis

Independent analysis of the responses to our consultation on the draft fourth National Planning Framework (draft NPF4), which ran from 10 November 2021 to 31 March 2022.


Part 3 - National Planning Policy, Sustainable Places (Universal Policies)

To achieve a net zero, nature-positive Scotland, we must rebalance our planning system so that climate change and nature recovery are the primary guiding principles for all our plans and all our decisions.

The following Universal Policies should apply to all planning decisions.

Question 22 – Do you agree that addressing climate change and nature recovery should be the primary guiding principles for all our plans and planning decisions?

Around 390 respondents made a comment at Question 22.

Some of these comments were wide ranging, addressing issues covered in greater detail at subsequent questions in relation to Sustainable places. The focus of the analysis presented here is on the most frequently-raised themes, and in particular those which address the narrative on Sustainable places set out in the draft NPF4.

Many of those commenting simply expressed their support for climate change and nature recovery as the primary guiding principles for plans and planning decisions. These respondents referred to the planning system as having a key role to play in Scotland's response to the climate emergency. This was described by some as the key issue facing society at present, and there was also strong support for the emphasis on nature recovery and biodiversity in the draft NPF4.

Respondents highlighted planning decisions in relation to transport infrastructure, protection of natural areas, aquaculture, and renewable energy infrastructure as having a significant role to play in delivering climate and biodiversity policy objectives. There were specific calls for these principles to have greater priority in managing development for active travel, reduction in car use, and the delivery of renewable energy.

Comments in support of Policy 1 (Plan-led approach to sustainable development) also highlighted the role of the Place Principle in enabling planning to integrate climate change and nature recovery with other considerations, and ensuring a community-centred approach to spatial planning. Respondents also noted the importance of cooperative working for the delivery of nature recovery objectives, as set out in Policy 2 (Climate emergency) and Policy 3 (Nature crisis), and suggested that the Place Principle could support this. It was suggested that this could be strengthened by including clearer links with the role of Local Place Plans in community-driven spatial planning.

Some respondents sought clarity on how the guiding principles set out in Policy 1 (Climate emergency) would apply in practice across the planning system. This included questions around whether guiding principles should apply only to NPF4, to LDPs and/or to other plans. Some noted that the guiding principles would represent a significant diversion from the policy drivers under which existing LDPs have been developed.

Respondents also sought clarity on how the principles of climate change and nature recovery are expected to influence individual planning decisions. Questions were raised around how these principles should be balanced with other planning considerations, and how potential conflict between the two principles should be resolved. These comments reflected a view that the draft NPF does not go far enough to achieve the scale of change required to deliver climate change and nature recovery policy objectives.

It was also suggested that the draft NPF lacks a coherent account of how the national policies will collectively support climate change and nature recovery and does not set out a clear mechanism for implementation of these principles. In addition to suggestions for stronger wording of specific policies, respondents called for climate change and nature recovery to be given greater weight in development management decisions. It was suggested that this is necessary to achieve the required rebalancing of the planning system. In this context, there were calls for guidance to support planning authorities in applying these principles, with some suggesting that a clear hierarchy is required, setting out how these, and other planning policies, should be balanced in practice.

Others saw a need for flexibility in the application of guiding principles, for example to allow other considerations to be given equal priority in planning decisions, where appropriate. This included specific reference to the potential for development proposals to require planning authorities to consider factors such as housing need, health and wellbeing, and economic growth, alongside climate change and nature recovery.

Some went further and suggested other considerations which they felt should be recognised by NPF4 as guiding principles alongside climate change and nature recovery. These respondents cited environmental, social and economic considerations as the three pillars of sustainability, noting that Policies 1, 5 and 6 (Climate emergency, Community wealth building and Design, quality and place) make clear that Sustainable places should include consideration of sustainable development and other social and economic factors. Some wished to see these considerations reflected in the approach to Sustainable places set out in NPF4. Various existing policies and plans were referenced by respondents as potentially relevant here, including the National Performance Framework, Housing to 2040, and the NSET.

Specific themes which respondents wished to see represented alongside climate change and nature recovery included health and wellbeing, ensuring sustainable economic growth, tackling poverty and reducing economic and social inequalities, addressing housing need, and protecting the historic and existing built environment.

Several respondents suggested other principles which they felt should be given primacy over climate change and nature recovery in the draft NPF4. This included reference to the creation of sustainable places and sustainable economic development.

Policy 1: Plan-led approach to sustainable development

All LDPs should manage the use and development of land in the long-term public interest. This means that new LDPs should seek to achieve Scotland's national outcomes (within the meaning of Part 1 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Question 23 – Do you agree with this policy approach?

Around 360 respondents made a comment at Question 23.

Most of those commenting expressed their support for a plan-led policy approach, and the role of LDPs in guiding use and development of land in the long-term public interest. These comments included specific support for the role of LDPs in delivering national outcomes and for a plan-led approach in providing certainty for communities and developers. There was also support for the reference to the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, and the potential for a plan-led approach to enable effective democratic involvement and accountability in the planning system. Some also highlighted the importance of the Place Principle in underpinning engagement with local communities and wished to see this referenced at Policy 1.

Some of those expressing support for the policy noted that the effectiveness of a plan-led approach is dependent on the quality of LDPs and other plans. There was reference to the importance of LDPs being supported by a robust evidence base (particularly in relation to climate change and nature recovery), being revised as circumstances change, and recognising that new, unanticipated sustainable development opportunities may arise over a 10-year plan period. Some also wished to see Policy 1 emphasise the primacy of LDPs, for example by making it clear that proposals which deviate from LDPs should be discouraged. It was also suggested that development proposals should be expected to reflect Local Place Plan aspirations.

In terms of its specific content, there were calls for Policy 1 to reflect the guiding principles of climate change and nature recovery, as described in the introduction to Sustainable development in the draft NPF. This included reference to the role of the environmental principles (precautionary, prevention of harm, rectification at source, and polluter pays) in delivering sustainable development. Others suggested that NPF4 focuses too narrowly on the environmental aspects of sustainable development and wished to see the policy highlight social and economic considerations, alongside environmental ones.

Citation of other relevant policy was also recommended, with respondents suggesting that this could add clarity to the policy, including through definition of key concepts and setting out detail on the national outcomes, and other priorities, which LDPs are expected to reflect. Respondents referenced several documents which they wished to see referenced, including Development Plan regulations (and including reference to spatial themes and principles), SPP, the Land Use Strategy and the NSET.

Others wanted to see Policy 1 focus on key considerations for the delivery of sustainable development in Scotland, including suggestions that reference to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals is unrealistic. These respondents called for a tighter focus on measurable outcomes that can inform LDPs and local planning decisions.

Respondents also suggested that clarity is required on how NPF4 (and LDPs) will help to deliver national outcomes and sustainable development targets, including calls for detail on how the policies set out will be integrated and applied to local decision-making.

Some questioned the value of Policy 1 as currently drafted, noting that the policy does not add significantly to requirements already set out in legislation. It was also suggested that the policy is focused exclusively on the production of LDPs, contrary to the statement earlier in the draft NPF that Universal Policies should apply to all planning decisions. In this context, it was suggested that NPF4 should distinguish between policy principles (such as Policy 1) and the policies which are expected to directly influence the assessment of development proposals.

Others proposed that, as the first of the national planning policies, Policy 1 should be stronger and more definitive in tone than currently drafted, and that phrasing such as 'seek to achieve' and 'long-term public interest' is too open to interpretation. These respondents called for the policy to set out a more detailed account of how LDPs should ensure that development management reflects national outcomes and strategies, including specific reference to Scotland's NSET and energy policy, in addition to sustainable development objectives. This included several respondents calling for NPF4 to set out a presumption in favour of sustainable development, with some describing the existing presumption in SPP as unwieldy.

It was also suggested that the policy would benefit from a more detailed definition of concepts such as sustainable development, plan-led, and long-term public interest, the latter including suggestions that NPF4 should include reference to decision-making for the wellbeing of future generations. Some also questioned the definition of the purpose of planning as set out, in terms of the focus on the outcomes of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, and UN Sustainable Development Goals. It was noted that this is a narrower definition than that set out by the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, from which the primary clause of Policy 1 is taken. It was suggested that the broader statutory definition should take precedence.

Respondents were also looking for further detail on how communities will be able to shape the use and development of land in their area. The role of Local Place Plans was highlighted as a means of ensuring local communities are at the heart of a plan-led approach, including the suggestion that NPF4 should provide clarity on where Local Place Plans sit in the planning hierarchy. It was also suggested that a plan-led approach should ensure the participation of communities in areas which do not have a Local Place Plan, including calls for a right for communities to appeal decisions contrary to LDPs.

Finally, concerns were raised around the resourcing of planning authorities to deliver a plan-led approach. This included a perceived need for additional resourcing and guidance for preparation and revision of LDPs, and to ensure local authorities can support community-led spatial planning.

Policy 2: Climate emergency

Question 24 – Do you agree that this policy will ensure the planning system takes account of the need to address the climate emergency?

Around 410 respondents made a comment at Question 24.

a) Consideration of all development proposals should give significant weight to the Global Climate Emergency

Most of those commenting supported the policy objectives and the need to ensure that the climate emergency plays a sufficiently prominent role in NPF4. These respondents suggested that transformational change is required across the planning system to support the response to the climate emergency and deliver net zero targets. Several themes and NPF4 policies were identified as particularly important, including biodiversity, retrofitting and the reuse of existing assets, and the circular economy. It was also suggested that Policy 2 should do more to highlight the link between climate change and biodiversity.

Some felt that 2(a) is not strong enough to deliver the scale of change required and wished to see the climate emergency be given pre-eminence over other parts of NPF4. There were calls for 2(a) to state that all development proposals 'must' (rather than 'should') give significant weight to the climate emergency, including suggestions that any development which contributes to climate change or nature loss should be rejected.

Further detail was sought on how 2(a) will be delivered, including the methodology for assessment of development proposals against the policy. This reflected a view that the current wording is highly subjective – for example lacking detail on how 'significant weight' is to be defined – and does not include sufficient detail on how it will enable planning authorities to strike a planning balance in the assessment of development proposals. Respondents also suggested that LDPs should have a significant role to play in supporting climate and carbon policy targets, and wished to see 2(a) expanded to ensure preparation of LDPs gives significant weighting to the climate emergency, in addition to the assessment of individual development proposals.

Also in relation to delivery, it was suggested that NPF4 and associated guidance must be more specific about the criteria against which proposals will be assessed. This included calls for more detail on the low carbon technology that development proposals are expected to include, and also that proposals which contribute to delivery of carbon targets including the decarbonisation of heating, transport and power generation, should be supported.

There were also calls for NPF4 to make clear the range of development types to which 2(a) is expected to apply. For example, some questioned whether the policy was intended to apply to minor developments or permitted development rights. Respondents also wished to see recognition that developments will vary in terms of their potential to support a response to the climate emergency, and to minimise their adverse climate impact, and it was suggested that planning authorities should be allowed to take this into account. An associated view was that current planning policy can be a barrier to the retrofitting of historic and listed buildings.

Other points raised in relation to the delivery of 2(a) included:

  • Impact acceptability should be assessed in the context of the predicted scale of a positive contribution towards emissions reduction, rather than these factors being considered separately.
  • Further detail is required on the relationship between 2(a) and the presumption in favour of sustainable development at Policy 1 (Plan-led approach to sustainable development), and with the provisions of Policy 19 (Green energy).
  • NPF4 should make clear that 2(a) will apply to any change of land use.
  • Proposals should be required to identify suitable sites for the restoration of native carbon sequestering habitats.
  • Concerns were raised around resourcing, particularly if the policy is expected to include relatively minor development, and there was seen to be a need for significant additional resourcing of planning authorities to avoid delays to planning decisions.

Some suggested that giving significant weight to the climate emergency in the assessment of development proposals should not be at the expense of other important planning principles. These respondents wished to see more detail on how 2(a) will be balanced with other considerations, such as deliverability and economic recovery.

b) All development should be designed to minimise emissions over its lifecycle

Comments on 2(b) included specific support for a focus on development seeking to actively reduce emissions. This was seen as a key element in the delivery of decarbonisation targets. In this context, it was suggested that minimising lifecycle emissions will be particularly important for transport infrastructure proposals, including new road building. Respondents suggested that there should be more emphasis on the role of public and active travel, and the circular economy, in minimising emissions.

Some felt that 2(b) should be strengthened by requiring that all development 'must' (rather than 'should') be designed to minimise emissions. It was also suggested that the policy should include more positive phrasing to promote carbon negative development, for example by stating that where a proposal is assessed to be carbon positive over its lifetime, this should be given significant weight in the planning balance. There were calls for 2(b) to set out a clear position on issues associated with the assessment of emissions, including embodied carbon, development-associated carbon, and the creation of carbon sinks, through nature-based solutions. This included calls for emphasis on reducing embodied emissions relating to materials and construction processes.

Respondents also sought greater clarity to enable effective implementation of 2(b), with some suggesting that, as written, it is not suitable for inclusion in a development plan. There was a perceived need for specific criteria to support a consistent approach to assessment of proposals and to provide applicants with clarity on the evidence required. This included calls for further detail on whether, and how, 2(b) is expected to apply to minor developments, and what are national decarbonisation pathways.

Further detail was also sought on how emissions are to be assessed, noting that developers and planning authorities currently use a wide range of different measurement systems, which adds delay and uncertainty to decision-making. It was suggested that a standardised tool for measurement of lifecycle emissions is required to support implementation, although some felt that such a tool would sit more appropriately within Building Standards than planning policy. Several respondents expressed concern that the assessment of emissions must include whole-life assessment, taking account of materials, construction and energy use. However, others noted that the proposed changes to Building Standards focus only on operational emissions as lifecycle emissions cannot currently be measured with sufficient accuracy to support Policy 2(b).

Concerns were also raised around how the measurement of lifecycle emissions will be resourced. Respondents suggested that planning authorities currently lack the resourcing and technical knowledge to deliver this. However, it was also suggested that placing the burden on the applicant could disadvantage those who lack the means to carry out the measurement.

Some noted that the ability of residential developers to reduce lifecycle emissions is in part dependent on the ability of energy providers and the wider supply chain to deliver other aspects of decarbonisation. It was suggested that the supply chain for sustainable and local materials should be assessed to support delivery of 2(b). Respondents also suggested that some degree of flexibility is required, for example to ensure that any increase in construction costs to minimise emissions does not jeopardise delivery of other benefits, such as affordable housing targets.

c) Development proposals that will generate significant emissions should not be supported unless it is proven that the level of emissions is the minimum that can be achieved

Policy 2(c) was seen as vital to ensuring that planning can contribute to climate change and nature recovery. This included calls to make clear that emissions reduction is the primary objective, reflecting a perceived need to ensure that new development must not be allowed to contribute to climate change or nature loss.

Some expressed a view that further detail and guidance is required to ensure that 2(c) is implemented effectively. This included calls for the definition of key concepts such as 'significant emissions', and further detail on how planning authorities should determine that developments are in the long-term public interest.

In relation to the assessment of developments that will generate significant emissions, respondents saw a need for a standard methodology or tool to ensure consistency of approach across planning authorities. Some referred to the current carbon calculator and built environment carbon database as potential starting points for a whole lifecycle assessment methodology. Also in relation to emissions assessment, some suggested that 2(c) should link the definition of 'significant' to the size or type of development, while others wished to see it make clear that the magnitude of the sequestration of carbon should be a key factor in determining the balance of the planning decision. It was also suggested that assessment should incorporate: carbon associated with any demolition required for new development; emissions generated by transport to, and from, the development; its lifetime emissions from carbon-rich soils and peatlands; and end of life considerations.

However, concerns were also raised around whether an accurate whole-life assessment of emissions will be possible within the timescales available and based on the information provided through a planning application. Concerns were also raised that planning authorities do not currently have the resources, tools or technical expertise to support 2(c), and in particular to deliver whole lifecycle emissions assessment, and some raised concerns around the potential costs associated with implementation of 2(c) for planning authorities and/or developers. There was thought to be a need for an agreed mechanism or detailed guidance to support this assessment, with respondents noting that whole-life assessment is not currently possible in the absence of an agreed approach. Reference was made to guidance on carbon removal due to be published later in 2022, with calls for this to be reflected in the final NPF4.

Some respondents suggested that 2(c) should be further strengthened by not limiting opportunities for the approval of carbon positive developments. For example, some wished to see the inclusion of more positive criteria to prioritise development required to deliver carbon reduction targets, with specific reference made to renewable energy development.

Concerns were also raised around the inclusion of exceptions for viability of development or long-term public interest, and the use of emissions off-setting measures:

  • Some wished to see 2(c) remove the reference to viability of development, expressing concern that this prioritised economic viability over climate impacts. It was also suggested that this part could lead to legal challenge on how viability is determined.
  • Several respondents also wished to see the exemption for long-term public interest removed, suggesting that this could undermine the focus on climate change and nature recovery across NPF4. This also reflected a view that any development which contributes significantly, or moderately, to climate emissions cannot be in the long-term public interest. Questions were also raised around how long-term public interest should be defined, including suggestions that 2(c) should include an upper limit on carbon emissions beyond which considerations of public interest are insufficient to support a development.
  • In relation to emissions off-setting measures, some wished to see 2(c) dissuade carbon off-setting, unless as a last resort. This included calls for NPF4 to set out a hierarchy of policies, noting that 2(b) requires developments to be designed to minimise emissions before any off-setting is considered.

Others suggested that emissions off-setting should be made a requirement (rather than a consideration) for any development likely to generate a significant volume of emissions, although some felt that it should make clear that off-setting cannot be used to justify proposals resulting in significant emissions. Concerns were also raised around the regulation of off-setting, including potential for off-site measures to lead to inappropriate tree planting. There was a view that the community affected by the development should be the recipient of mitigation.

Other comments reflected concerns that 2(c) should balance the level of emissions with other planning considerations in the assessment of development proposals. For example, some suggested that refusal of a proposal on the basis of the cumulative impact of multiple development proposals would be unfair if these are outwith the control of the developer. Questions were also raised around how cumulative impact will be assessed, including calls for clarity on which other proposals should be considered.

Some raised concerns around potential for supply chain issues and delays in development of technologies limiting the ability of developers to reduce emissions. This included a particular concern that an overly strict application of 2(c) could delay the delivery of required housing. On this basis, a phased approach to implementation of the policy was suggested.

Respondents also questioned whether all Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) developments should be required to include a whole-life emissions assessment. It was suggested that local development could trigger the requirement for an EIA, but still have zero emissions. Others went further and suggested that the decision on whether an EIA should include whole lifecycle emissions should be left with the planning authority, rather than being set by national policy. However, some suggested that the assessment of lifecycle emissions should be extended to include smaller developments, recognising that the cumulative emissions from these developments can be significant.

Other issues or concerns raised in relation to 2(c) included:

  • An exemption should be made for national developments where the principle of development has already been established by NPF4 and a lifecycle emissions assessment has been completed.
  • There was also a view that a whole-life assessment adds to a lengthy list of application requirements for larger scale development.

d) Development proposals for buildings, infrastructure and spaces should be designed to be adaptable to the future impacts of climate change

Comments at 2(d) included support for a focus on the climate adaptability of development, and for the reference to climate adaptation and mitigation measures for existing buildings. Some respondents noted that the adaptation of existing buildings will be essential to meeting Scottish Government net zero targets.

Some respondents wanted to see 2(d) strengthened, for example to include a reference to the consideration of biodiversity, and to incentivise emission reduction for existing sites. It was also suggested that 2(d) should require development proposals to set out how they will transition to net zero in the future, if they are not able to achieve it from the outset. Respondents also wished to see reference to renewable energy generation as an element in ensuring developments are adaptable to the future impacts of climate change, along with the retrofitting of existing buildings and brownfield redevelopment.

Some also wished to see a focus exclusively on adaptation for climate impacts and questioned the reference to mitigation in the draft NPF. For example, it was suggested that the reference to supporting proposals incorporating mitigation measures is inconsistent with the statement at 2(a) that development which generates significant emissions should not be supported.

Others suggested that 2(d) goes too far in its support for climate adaptation and mitigation. For example, the proposed presumption in favour of climate adaptation and mitigation to existing buildings was seen by some as too broad, and as failing to recognise that the reuse or adaptation of buildings may not be the most sustainable approach in all cases. This reflected a view that every site and opportunity should be assessed on its own merits to determine whether the reuse of buildings, new development on existing sites, or complete re-development is the most sustainable option. It was also noted that planning authorities must balance 2(d) against other planning policy and it was suggested that there should be links with other relevant parts of NPF4, such as Policy 6 (Design, quality and place) and Policy 7 (Local living).

Calls for further detail reflected a view that the policy lacks sufficient clarity to inform planning decisions. Respondents identified several issues that they wanted to be addressed, including:

  • Providing a definition of future climate change impacts that development proposals are expected to anticipate, with some suggesting that these are likely to be highly variable and site-specific.
  • Developing an agreed standard of 'adaptable to the future impacts of climate change' to ensure a consistent approach across planning authorities. Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) flood risk maps, IPCC assessment reports and the Committee on Climate Change publications were suggested as potentially relevant here.
  • Ensuring that planning authorities can be confident that any refusal of applications on the basis that they are not adaptable to the future impacts of climate change will not be overturned.
  • Clarity on how 2(d) relates to Building Standards and policies on emissions reduction for new buildings, and which agencies will monitor enforcement of the policy. Some suggested that adaptation for climate change was more relevant to Building Standards than planning policy.

Questions were also raised around the delivery of 2(d). These included calls for guidance on how planning authorities should assess the adaptation of existing infrastructure, ensuring that proposals are proportionate such that costs do not affect the deliverability of vital works. Respondents also noted that improvements in the evidence base to support the assessment of climate adaptation plans, for example in relation to coastal erosion and flooding, will be required. There was also thought to be a need for additional training to ensure planning authorities have the technical expertise to assess climate adaptation proposals. Some suggested that resilience and adaptation to climate change would be better delivered via LDPs, rather than through the assessment of individual proposals.

Comments also highlighted that adaptation for climate change impacts may be more challenging for some buildings, such as listed buildings, and in Conservation Areas and for heritage sites. These respondents sought clarity on how NPF4 policy will ensure climate adaptation of these buildings and sites is a priority. This included by addressing how climate adaptation can be balanced with heritage principles to avoid buildings entering decline.

Policy 3: Nature crisis

Question 25 – Do you agree that this policy will ensure that the planning system takes account of the need to address the nature crisis?

Around 385 respondents commented at Question 25.

There was support for recognition of the nature crisis within NPF4 and for the emphasis on improving biodiversity. To ensure that the inextricable link between the climate emergency and the nature crisis is fully taken into account, it was suggested that Policy 3 should refer to Policy 2 (Climate change).

While some respondents argued that Policy 3 does not go far enough, others felt it goes too far. One perspective was that the policy should be strengthened further, particularly with respect to the language used throughout and that, reflecting Policy 2, it should require planners to give significant weight to the nature crisis when considering development proposals. An alternative view was that more balance is required, including in relation to demand for renewable energy and housing. Some respondents argued that the approach should be more flexible, or more proportionate to the type and scale of development proposed.

There were calls for:

  • The use of clearer and more consistent terminology, and for definitions including 'nature crisis', 'positive effects for biodiversity', and 'nature-positive' development.
  • Clarity on methodology, and how impacts or mitigation are to be quantified. Development of a biodiversity metric to measure impacts was referenced.
  • Guidance for planners and developers. A link to the new NatureScot 'Developing with nature' guidance was suggested, although it was also noted that this guidance applies only to 'local development'.
  • Information on monitoring, including arrangements for monitoring long-term biodiversity impacts.
  • Resources for local authorities to employ enough suitably trained staff to ensure a consistent approach.

With respect to additional content respondents would like to see included, or subjects that should have a greater focus, suggestions included:

  • Creation of a Scottish Nature Network as a national development.
  • Use of management plans for NSAs and SSSIs.
  • Wider land management and strengthened links to the Land Use Strategy and future Regional Land Use Frameworks.
  • Inclusion of the historic environment as a consideration.
  • More focus on nature-based solutions.
  • Reference to the concept of biodiversity net gain.
  • Consideration of the role of transport in addressing the nature crisis.
  • Recognition of biodiversity benefits from agroecological farming and crofting.
  • Facilitating access to nature and greenspace through cycling and walking networks and paths.

Other issues raised included a view that Policy 3 is too high level, or that it reads more as a vision, or ambition, rather than a planning policy. It was also thought to be too long. Suggestions included that the policy could be condensed and simplified, or that more detailed sections could be included in other topic-specific policies rather than this Universal Policy. Combining Policy 3 with Policy 32 (Natural places) or cross-referencing between them, were also proposed. Several alternative titles were suggested including 'Tackling the Nature Crisis', 'Biodiversity Conservation and Enhancement' and 'Nature Positive Development'.

a) Development plans should facilitate biodiversity enhancement

Comments with respect to 3(a) included calls to strengthen the text so that development plans 'must' facilitate biodiversity enhancement. There were also requests to:

  • Clarify what it meant by 'facilitate', and whether this includes scope to identify and protect spaces within a planning authority area.
  • Explain the role of LDPs in promoting biodiversity enhancement in relation to other mechanisms such as Local Biodiversity Action Plans (LBAPs) or other green network strategies.
  • Define the terms used, including 'priority species'.
  • Provide implementation criteria.

While supporting the reference to nature networks, some respondents expressed concerns that there may be a fragmented approach or sought a clear delivery mechanism. In the absence of a National Nature Network there was a query around how nature networks fit together with LDPs, the Infrastructure Investment Plan (IIP) and RLUPs. It was argued that, as part of the spatial strategy in the LDP, planning authorities should be required to produce opportunity mapping-based nature networks.

Other suggestions included that:

  • Interpretation of what nature networks might include would be helped by expanding the list in 3(a) and making clear that it is not exhaustive.
  • Rather than focusing on a small number of 'priority species', a more holistic approach to biodiversity enhancement would consider all aspects of flora and fauna.

b) Contribute to the enhancement of biodiversity

At 3(b) there was again a view that the language needs to be strengthened. The need to define the terms used and to provide guidance was also highlighted, with a suggestion that the mitigation hierarchy (avoid, minimise, remediate, compensate) should be reflected.

Other respondents expressed concern that, as drafted, 3(b) does not take account of the scale of a project and could place significant burdens on development proposals. It was argued that, as at 3(d) and (e), the approach should be proportionate. There was also a view that, if a particular development has no impact on biodiversity, it would be unlawful to require it to contribute to the enhancement of unspecified and unrelated biodiversity.

Suggestions included that:

  • 3(b) should be removed as it fails to take account of project scale, or that it is unnecessary as enhancement of biodiversity is already covered at 3(d) and (e).
  • A biodiversity metric will be needed to determine the biodiversity baseline for a site, and then what enhancement would be reasonable.
  • There should be greater flexibility in demonstrating the delivery of biodiversity enhancement, taking account of site and development characteristics. Potential for off-site enhancement should be clarified.

c) Impacts of development proposals on biodiversity, nature networks and the natural environment should be minimised

Comments on 3(c) included that some of the wording of this section is vague. Further suggestions included that what is meant by 'should be minimised' needs to be clarified, and that the mitigation hierarchy should be referenced. It was also argued that the need to 'reverse biodiversity loss' should be explained and, specifically, whether this is a reversal of loss from before development, or as a consequence of development. Reference to biodiversity net gain was also suggested.

Concerns were also raised including that:

  • Current SPP says developments will be refused if they would have an unacceptable impact on the natural environment and what is proposed at 3(c) is a weaker policy.
  • The policy appears to assume that biodiversity enhancement is best achieved through restoration. This might not apply in all cases, so simply referring to the 'enhancement of biodiversity' would be preferable.

d) Conserve and enhance biodiversity

In terms of the types of development to which 3(d) applies, suggestions included that:

  • 'All national, major or EIA development' should be included. It was suggested that the text as drafted suggests the policy would not apply to national and major developments that are not EIA development.
  • Development requiring an Appropriate Assessment can be very small scale, so it may not be appropriate for the requirements to apply in all cases. An alternative view was that reference to 'development for which an Appropriate Assessment is required' should be omitted, as this is not a development category.
  • Proposals for developments on Local Nature Conservation Sites (LNCS) should be added, as they are currently a class that receives negligible protection from the planning system.

Concerns were raised that the requirements risk creating a complex and onerous system and that, to facilitate a streamlined approach, it should be a key principle that only one EIA is required throughout the planning process. It was argued that adding further assessments to the existing EIA process is likely to complicate and slow the planning process, without achieving better outcomes. It was argued that there should be a more proportionate approach, and that the proposals as drafted could create challenges in terms of progressing nationally significant projects in relation to mitigating climate change.

As elsewhere in Policy 3, the need for tools to evaluate biodiversity in a consistent manner was highlighted. The Natural England Biodiversity Metric and Guidance was suggested as a potential model that could enable developers and planners to calculate biodiversity net gain for a development, and that requiring a percentage increase against set criteria would enable consistent application.

A frequently-made point at 3(d), and also at 3(e), related to the exclusion of application for farmed fish or shellfish development. Although this was welcomed by some respondents, the majority of respondents who commented on the exclusion (and all 'Local authority' respondents who did so) questioned or opposed this provision or argued that the reason for the exclusion is not clear. A respondent who agreed that the exclusion is appropriate, suggested this is necessary in light of the lack of guidance on how positive effects in the marine environment could be achieved. It was also argued that there may be other developments which are necessary in the public interest, but which cannot meet the policy test in 3(d), and that renewable electricity generation development should be given the same status as farmed fish or shellfish in this respect.

Some respondents commented on the requirement that biodiversity enhancements 'should include management arrangements for their long-term retention and monitoring, wherever appropriate.' It was argued that long-term monitoring and evaluation should be a policy requirement of every national, major and EIA development, and that monitoring should be mandated. It was also suggested that it should be made clear that the requirement as drafted would apply to areas in the applicant's ownership or control, and not to third party land.

With respect to the requirement to provide significant biodiversity enhancements, comments included that it is not clear how this will be measured or evaluated. Without a robust approach to measurement and evaluation, it was argued that the intention of this policy will be undermined by debate over implementation.

It was argued that there may be circumstances where the policy requires habitat connections to be created over land where applicants have no control, potentially making some sites undeliverable. Further clarity or flexibility was requested, including consideration of whether offsetting measures can be put forward to mitigate impacts if this is not possible within the site boundary.

It was also thought important that social and community impacts of biodiversity enhancement are considered, and that a reference to ensuring that biodiversity enhancement proposals are inclusive and equitable to the people affected by development should be added.

e) Enhance biodiversity

Comments on 3(e) included both that the approach is welcomed but also that the text is unclear. There was also a view that local developments should not automatically be held to lower biodiversity enhancement standards by virtue of their classification under the development hierarchy regulations.

Other observations included that:

  • There is no explanation of what 'appropriate measures' would be, although it was noted that the NatureScot 'Developing with nature' guidance will provide advice.
  • The mitigation hierarchy is not referenced.
  • The last sentence requires a caveat of being subject to the balance of other policies in NPF4.

Queries included:

  • Why the requirement should be only to 'enhance biodiversity', rather than to 'conserve and enhance biodiversity' as at 3(d)?
  • Whether the 'scale' will be for individual authorities to determine and what 'in proportion' would mean in practice?
  • What 'or fall within the scope of the policy above' means?
  • How contributions to 'positive effects for biodiversity' will be assessed in a tangible, measurable and consistent way?

With reference to the proposed exclusions, comments included that householder development should not be excluded; it was suggested that the policy could be reframed so that 'householder developments will be encouraged to integrate nature-based solutions and deliver positive effects for biodiversity.' As noted above, there was also a view that farmed fish and shellfish should not be excluded.

Policy 4: Human rights and equality

Question 26 – Do you agree that this policy effectively addresses the need for planning to respect, protect and fulfil human rights, seek to eliminate discrimination and promote equality?

Around 310 respondents made a comment at Question 26.

a) Planning should respect, protect and fulfil human rights, seek to eliminate discrimination and promote equality

Many of those commenting expressed support for the principle of promoting human rights and equality across the planning system. This included suggested amendments to strengthen the phrasing of Policy 4 to ensure delivery of its objectives.

Respondents also noted that existing legislation and regulation already requires public bodies to protect human rights and promote equality, including through the LDP preparation process. These respondents referred specifically to the Fairer Scotland Duty, the requirement to undertake Equality Impact Assessments (EQIAs), and the requirement to report on progress against equality outcomes. Some described NPF4 as an opportunity to build on existing legislation, but many suggested that it is not an appropriate vehicle to meet these duties. This reflected a view that, as currently drafted, Policy 4 simply restates the duties set out in existing legislation. It was also suggested that respect for human rights and promotion of equality should be considered across all parts of NPF, rather than being limited to a single policy.

Many of those commenting suggested that further detail is required on how Policy 4 is to work in practice. There were specific calls for:

  • Guidance on how planning applications are to be assessed against the policy.
  • Detail on how 'discrimination' and 'equality' are to be defined.
  • Clarity on how human rights are to be balanced against other planning considerations.
  • Clarity on how progress against 4(a) is to be measured.

Some also wished to see further detail on which human rights are considered most relevant to the planning system. Respondents referred to human rights legislation, such as The Equality Act 2010 and Human Rights Act 1998, international human rights instruments such as the European Convention of Human Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), and the Aarhus Convention. Specific human rights referenced included a right to: a healthy environment; housing; protection of property; respect for private/family life and home; and clean drinking water.

Respondents' concerns that Policy 4 lacks sufficient detail to enable the planning system to promote human rights and equality also reflected a view that change is required to ensure that planning decisions take better account of – and are seen to take account of – communities' views. It was suggested that a culture change is required across planning authorities, including by strengthening planning service resources and skills, to deliver meaningful engagement with communities.

As noted later under 4(b), this included a perceived need for guidance to inform approaches to community engagement. Some also saw a need for further guidance to ensure that communities have the same rights and opportunities as developers. This included specific calls for a right for communities to appeal planning decisions that are contrary to the LDP, and that any changes to LDPs should be subject to public consultation. Respondents also suggested that the policy will require ongoing monitoring of how well planning authorities and developers are engaging with communities.

Respondents also raised the following issues and suggested amendments to 4(a):

  • Concerns that the application of human rights to the development control process could lead to excessive delays in the planning system and have a direct impact on delivery of housing.
  • That planning decisions should also consider the human rights of communities around the world who are affected by industries supplying materials to Scotland, and communities already suffering from the impacts of climate change.
  • The policy to go further in recognising that planning and infrastructure impact different stakeholders in different ways. In addition to potential for engagement approaches to exclude some groups, there was also thought to be a need to consider how the built environment can promote equality.

b) All planning stakeholders have a responsibility to consult and engage others collaboratively, meaningfully and proportionately

Reasons for supporting 4(b) included a view that improvement is needed around how communities are engaged in the planning system. There was some concern that individuals and organisations can find the planning system very difficult to navigate, for example noting that individuals may find it difficult to find out what is being proposed in their area. Respondents also suggested that planning applications are often difficult to understand, and that people should have opportunities to contribute to a planning application without having to raise an objection.

In this context, some respondents felt that community engagement warrants a separate policy heading in NPF4. This reflected a view that 4(b) is focused more on stakeholder engagement than the promotion of human rights or equality. Respondents wished to see NPF4 set out more detailed policy to improve the approach to engagement with stakeholders. This included suggestions that, as currently drafted, 4(b) does not add to existing requirements for stakeholder engagement as part of the LDP preparation process.

Calls for further guidance had a particular focus on ensuring that approaches to stakeholder engagement are inclusive and consistent across different planning authorities and developers. They included:

  • Specific calls for detailed guidance on recommended engagement approaches.
  • Identification of key stakeholder groups.
  • Providing examples to aid interpretation of 'proportionately'.

Respondents cited several sources as potentially relevant to the policy, with a particular focus on involving stakeholders from the early stages of development proposals, engagement approaches being accessible to all, and ensuring that engagement can result in meaningful changes to proposals. Respondents referred to increasing use of online engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to diversify engagement in the planning system, although some wished to see further guidance on how developers and planning authorities should ensure that engagement does not exclude specific stakeholder groups.

Respondents also raised the following issues and suggested amendments for Policy 4(b):

  • Concerns were raised that placing enhanced responsibility on developers to engage with communities could lead to delay or refusal of planning applications.
  • It was suggested that Policy 4 should reference the current pre-application consultation process for major applications.
  • Some members of the community are particularly likely to have difficulty engaging with the planning system. Young people, older people, those who are digitally excluded, women, those from more deprived communities, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, people for whom English is not their first language, and those without the time to read and respond to lengthy planning documents were also referenced.

Respondents highlighted that undertaking effective stakeholder engagement can be highly resource intensive and suggested that consideration should be given to how planning authorities can be resourced to support this.

It was also suggested that planning policy could better support communities through the application of stronger weighting for community-led development proposals.

Policy 5: Community wealth building

Question 27 – Do you agree that planning policy should support community wealth building, and does this policy deliver this?

Around 330 respondents made a comment at Question 27.

Respondents expressed concern that 'community wealth building' is not a well understood concept, including reference to differing interpretations across planning authorities and other stakeholders. Some noted that they felt unable to comment on Policy 5 in the absence of a clearer definition. Respondents also noted that interpretation of the term may vary across sectors, and most of those providing comment saw a need for the policy to provide an accepted definition of the term. This included a perceived need for specific community wealth building objectives, against which development plans and proposals can be assessed, and practical examples of how planning can contribute to these.

Some of those providing comment suggested potential definitions of community wealth building, including calls for 5(a) to reference social and environmental factors alongside economic development. Other suggestions included adding flexibility to enable the interpretation of community wealth to be tailored to local needs. There was reference to increasing community concern around the potential for inward investment (which may be able to demonstrate community benefits) affecting the sustainability of local communities.

Respondents also suggested that existing policy and legislation could provide the basis for a definition of community wealth building. This included reference to:

  • Locality Plans and Local Place Plans.
  • Local authority Capital Investment Programmes.
  • Local social enterprise and community empowerment strategies.
  • Outcome D of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997.
  • Place and wellbeing outcomes.
  • Scottish Land Commission guidance.
  • Other parts of NPF4, such as Policy 16 (Land and premises for building and employment) and the policies under 'Liveable Places'.

It was also suggested that local community wealth building strategies or objectives may be required to enable LDPs to address identified community wealth priorities.

However, respondents also identified a range of specific considerations which they wished to see reflected in the policy. These included:

  • Improving community resilience and reducing inequalities.
  • Increased spending within communities.
  • Ensuring use of local supply chains and services.
  • Local job creation and providing training and volunteering opportunities.
  • Delivery of community facilities and infrastructure, including connectivity.
  • Supporting local circular economies.
  • Delivery of more affordable and more energy efficient buildings for local communities.
  • Supporting and enhancing cultural wealth.
  • Improving biodiversity and wealth.
  • Renewing democratic participation by putting communities at the heart of the planning process.
  • Supporting community-led proposals, and enabling community ownership of buildings and assets
  • Emphasising cooperation between communities, developers and other stakeholders

a) Development plans should address community wealth building priorities by reflecting a people-centred approach to local economic development

Many of those providing comment at 5(a) expressed support for the role of development plans in supporting community wealth building, and in particular the value of a people-centred approach to local economic development. Some noted that community wealth building is already supported by other legislation and policy, including, for example, the Statement of Community Benefit referenced at Policy 9 (Quality homes). These respondents questioned the need for an additional planning policy specifically focused on community wealth building.

Most of those providing comment suggested that 5(a) lacked sufficient detail to ensure effective and consistent implementation, with some noting that the draft guidance on local development planning does not reference community wealth building. These respondents sought further detail on:

  • Who is expected to identify and deliver community wealth building initiatives?
  • How development plans are expected to take account of community wealth building?
  • How the policy will be applied in planning authority decision-making, how development proposals should be assessed against Policy 5, including consideration of how this may impact the viability of proposals?
  • How community wealth impacts should be measured?

There were calls for practical examples of how development plans, and the planning system as a whole, can support community wealth building. It was also suggested that planning authorities require guidance on how community wealth building is to be balanced against other planning policies and other duties on planning authorities.

Some raised concerns around the resourcing implications of the policy, particularly for planning authorities requiring to assess how development proposals can contribute to community wealth building. This included suggestions that planning services may have a relatively limited understanding of how planning can support this policy objective. Respondents also suggested that delivery of community wealth building is likely to require the cooperation of multiple stakeholders and may be beyond the reach of individual planning authorities. For example, it was noted that the delivery of community assets such as services, social and leisure facilities is likely to depend on relevant projects being brought forward by third parties. Some also suggested that communities will need support to become empowered and build confidence to engage with the planning system.

Respondents also raised the following issues and amendments relating to 5(a):

  • Support for community wealth building should include greater weighting for, or a presumption in favour of, community-led development proposals.
  • Allowing communities to identify Assets of Community Value could be a first step in supporting community wealth building.

b) National and major development proposals should contribute to community wealth building objectives

Consistent with responses to 5(a), many of those commenting on 5(b) called for further detail on how national and major developments are expected to contribute to community wealth building. This reflected a concern expressed by some that, as currently written, 5(b) lacks the detail required to ensure consistent assessment of major and national development proposals. Respondents also noted the lack of a clear definition of community wealth benefits, suggesting that this renders 5(b) 'unworkable' and will lead to uncertainty for developers around how they may be affected by the policy. Respondents suggested that this uncertainty will reduce the time that developers have to prepare for 5(b), and there was a call for further consultation on any revised version of the policy.

There were specific calls for further detail on the range of development proposals to which the policy is expected to apply. This included concern around how 5(b) would apply to smaller major developments, including residential and renewable energy proposals. Some wished to see minimum development size thresholds applied to policy 5(b), with 200+ units proposed for residential developments. Others suggested that the scope of 5(b) should be extended to include other development types, such as smaller housing developments and local non-householder development proposals. It was suggested that this could benefit local authority areas with few national or major developments.

Respondents also wished to see 5(b) give clarity to developers and planning authorities on the kinds of community wealth benefits that will be prioritised in planning decisions. This included suggestions that the production of local community priorities could help to inform how development proposals should contribute to community wealth building, as well as decisions on the viability of proposals. Respondents also wished to see NPF4 identify how each of the proposed national developments are expected to contribute to community wealth building.

Some also raised concerns about the potential impact of 5(b). This included reference to the potential for major development to be justified by community benefits (such as job creation), in spite of community objection. Respondents also noted that 5(b) would lead to a change in the current assessment of renewable energy proposals where community benefits are not currently considered to be a material consideration. There were some concerns about the legitimacy of this change in assessment of development proposals.

Respondents also raised the following issues and amendments for 5(b):

  • Major development proposals should be required to include a community wealth building statement to demonstrate how Policy 5 has been considered.
  • 5(b) should also consider how developments can be monitoring to assess how they have contributed to community wealth building.

Policy 6: Design, quality and place

Question 28 – Do you agree that this policy will enable the planning system to promote design, quality and place?

Around 310 respondents made a comment at Question 28.

Some respondents suggested that Policy 6 lacks clarity and will not provide the direction needed to ensure that design, quality and place are at the heart of the planning system. This reflected a view that transformational change is required to ensure the planning system promotes quality design and delivers successful places. These respondents saw a need for the policy to provide planning authorities with the confidence to refuse proposals on the basis of poor design, without fear of these decisions being overturned. In this context, respondents suggested that Policy 6 would benefit from stronger wording, for example through use of 'must be' rather than 'should be'.

Some also wished to see better integration with other NPF4 policies to reflect the link between design and the broader concepts of placemaking. This included specific reference to: infrastructure first; sustainable design; living locally and 20-minute neighbourhoods; green infrastructure; nature-based solutions; climate change adaptation; and biodiversity enhancement. The six qualities of successful places were also seen as fundamental to many of the national policies set out; it was proposed that Policy 6 should highlight where each of the qualities are linked to other parts of NPF4.

Respondents also sought clarity on the scope the policy, suggesting that it is less applicable to some development types, for example where it is not reasonable to expect developments to contribute positively to the character and sense of place of the local area. This reflected a view that Policy 6 is primarily relevant to housing development and other built environment proposals. Some saw a need to include exceptions, or otherwise make clear, that some development types are not expected to comply fully. There was specific reference to renewable energy, other infrastructure proposals, and aquaculture.

a) Development proposals should be designed to a high quality to contribute positively to the character and sense of place of the local area

Most of those commenting on 6(a) noted their support for the policy, including welcoming the focus on ensuring good quality design and the importance of design for quality placemaking. Some respondents suggested that considerations of viability and delivery can often over-rule quality of design, and there was a view that existing planning policy has allowed a large number of poor quality developments to be approved. Policy 6 was seen as important to addressing this, and respondents highlighted the need to ensure that the policy can effectively inform the assessment of development proposals.

However, respondents also suggested that the phrasing of 6(a) is too subjective, in particular the reference to 'high quality' design. It was suggested that further detail is required to support a clear and objective approach to design, and to ensure consistency across planning authorities. Respondents noted that policies 6(b) to 6(e) provide some of this detail and suggested that 6(a) should be re-framed as an overall statement of policy, rather than a policy that can inform development management.

The six qualities of successful places referenced at 6(c) were seen as having an important role in ensuring a consistent approach to good design, and there were calls for these to be referenced at 6(a). There were also calls for 6(a) to include:

  • Reference to the guiding principles of climate change and nature recovery.
  • An outline of other relevant national policy and strategy that supports prioritisation of good design.

However, respondents also highlighted potential inconsistencies between 6(a) and other NPF4 policies, for example noting that Policy 19 (Green energy) recognises that onshore wind development will require some landscape change that may not contribute positively to the area. In this context, some saw a need for further detail on the range of development types to which 6(a) is expected to apply.

In terms of specific elements of good design, respondents referred to a range of considerations, including factors relating to both the function of a place and to character and sense of place. Specifics included design for lifelong health and wellbeing, ensuring a nature-rich environment, consideration of biodiversity, consideration of landscape character, sensitivity to local built heritage, and sustainability of design. There were also calls for 6(a) to reference the role of communities in good quality design, and to support draft NPF Policy 4 (Human rights and equality) and Policy 5 (Community wealth building).

Respondents also saw a need for the planning system to ensure that high quality proposals are translated into quality developments. The role of Building Standards was highlighted here, and it was also suggested that planning authorities must be sufficiently resourced to support development enforcement. Some also noted that the assessment of development proposals against design principles is likely to require additional resourcing for planning authorities.

b) Development proposals should incorporate key principles of Designing Streets, Creating Places, New Design in Historic Settings and other design guidance

Comments in support of 6(b) included reference to the need for a consistent focus on quality design, to the importance of development proposals reflecting current design guidance such as Designing Streets, and to the access and inclusion aspects of a design-led approach. Respondents noted that the design guidance referenced has already been incorporated into local development planning and suggested this had been effective in informing local decision-making.

However, it was also suggested that some of the policies and guidance referenced at 6(b), such as Creating Places, Designing Streets and New Design in Historic Settings, are out of date and there was concern that 6(b) gives these such a significant role in planning policy. Respondents noted that there has been significant progress in design concepts and theory since the publication of the documents referenced at 6(b), and there was thought to be a need for other guidance to be updated alongside NPF4 to ensure that it better reflects NPF4's priorities. This also included calls for guidance to better reflect the rural context.

Some respondents also expressed support for the reference at 6(b) to other design principles and guidance adopted by planning authorities. There were calls for NPF4 to provide clarity on the status of this guidance for the preparation of development proposals, particularly in the context of Supplementary Guidance being removed.

However, others raised concerns around the reference to use of other design guidance adopted by planning authorities or statutory consultees, suggesting that reliance on a wide range of guidance could lead to slower and less clear decision-making. It was also noted that the Scottish Government may have limited influence over the content of guidance adopted by non-governmental statutory consultees. There was said to be a need for 6(b) to be more specific about which design guidance should take precedence to ensure a consistent approach across planning authorities and provide certainty to developers.

There were also calls for NPF4 to clarify who will be responsible for determining the relevance of the design tools listed at 6(b) for individual development proposals. This included a suggestion that the Place Standard Tool should be made a requirement for major pre-application consultation. Respondents also wished to see further detail to ensure that a consistent approach to design will be taken across all planning authorities. This reflected a view that there has not been a consistent approach to design over the period since the guidance cited at 6(b) was published. It was suggested that 6(b) should be amended to require planning authorities to comply with the referenced design guidance.

In addition to the guidance referenced in the draft NPF, respondents also highlighted other policy and guidance which they felt should be reflected at 6(b). Several national policies were identified as relevant to design, including Policy 4 (Nature crisis) and Policy 20 (Zero waste).

Respondents also wished to see reference to:

  • The guiding principles of climate change and nature recovery.
  • The six qualities of successful places.
  • Transport and active travel guidance, such as Cycling by Design.
  • Green infrastructure design guidance, such as the Green Infrastructure Design Guide and Planning for Green Infrastructure.
  • The National Roads Development Guide.
  • The National Walking Strategy and World Health Organisation Global Action Plan for Physical Activity.
  • Local Place Plans.

Reflecting points raised at 6(a), some respondents expressed concern that better resourced and skilled planning authorities will be required to deliver 6(b). This included a perceived need for greater recognition of the importance of design among planning officers and elected members, and Scottish Government support in relation to design and quality issues at planning appeals. There were also calls for reference to the role of Design and Review Panels to encourage design issues to be addressed at earlier stages of the development process.

c) Development proposals should demonstrate how the six qualities of successful places have been incorporated

Comments in support of 6(c) welcomed the detail provided on the six qualities of successful places, noting their role in supporting delivery of other NPF4 policies and national outcomes. There was particular reference to connectivity, creating distinctive places, and protecting historic assets. Several respondents noted that the six qualities already inform their approach to development.

However, concerns were also raised that, as currently drafted, 6(c) may add to confusion and inconsistency of approach. Respondents felt that some of the language used, such as 'sense of joy', is too subjective, and questioned whether this could support a consistent approach to assessment of design. Some also noted that the six qualities represent a further layer of design guidance, in addition to that referenced at 6(b), and suggested that this could add to delays in planning decisions.

Respondents also noted that the six qualities of successful places have been in place for some time but suggested that this has not resulted in a significant improvement in the design and quality of development. It was also suggested that sufficient resourcing of the planning system will be important to enable planning authorities to properly assess proposals against the six qualities.

There was thought to be a need for further guidance to support a consistent approach to the application of the six qualities across the planning system, although there were also calls for guidance to allow sufficient flexibility to reflect local circumstances and needs, for example in rural areas. Calls for guidance included specific reference to:

  • A need for more robust criteria for the assessment of proposals against the six qualities.
  • Guidance on how developers are expected to demonstrate that the six qualities have been incorporated into the design of a proposal.

Scotland's Place and Wellbeing Outcomes were seen as a potential basis for guidance to support application of the six qualities of successful places. Respondents also saw a need for clearer links between 6(c) and other relevant parts of NPF4 such as Policy 17 (Sustainable tourism) and Policy 31 (Rural places).

There were also calls for clarity on the scope of 6(c), including suggestions that the requirement to demonstrate use of the six qualities should be limited to major and national developments only. Respondents recommended that planning authorities should be permitted to determine what would constitute a more proportionate design quality assessment for smaller developments. Some also wished to see 6(c) allow greater flexibility in the assessment of renewable energy and other proposals that support national outcomes, recognising that proposals which follow best practice design may not be able to fulfil all six qualities of successful places.

Respondents also highlighted points for clarification and suggested amendment to each of the six qualities of successful places. These are summarised below.

1. Designed for lifelong health and wellbeing. Respondents wished to see reference to the contribution that heritage and the historical environment can make to lifelong health and wellbeing, as well as traffic reduction and active travel. This included suggestions that development proposals should be required to provide for active travel and should seek to reduce car travel. It was also suggested that, as presented at 6(c), the quality is too focused on active solutions to health and wellbeing, and respondents wished to see this expanded to include cultural and other activities to promote wellbeing and a sense of connection to a community.

2. Safe and pleasant. It was suggested that the quality should refer to the role of 'active frontages' in creating safe and welcoming environments.

3. Well-connected and easy to move around. There were calls for reference to shared transport and mobility hubs, and recognition that delivering well connected places may be a particular challenge in rural areas.

4. Distinctive. Respondents supported the reference to the importance of cultural heritage and the historic environment in shaping the approach to creating distinctive places.

5. Sustainable. Respondents sought further detail on how the design of developments can support the circular economy, including calls for practical examples and clearer links to Policy 20 (Zero waste).

6. Adaptable. There were calls for reference to the role of user-centred design to enable development to change and cope with changing needs.

Respondents also wished to see reference across one or more qualities to: 20-minute neighbourhoods; more generous living space for residential development; trees and woodland; and sustainable local food production. It was also suggested that 6(c) should require development proposals to include plans for long-term maintenance of any development.

d) Development proposals that are poorly designed, including those that are inconsistent with the six qualities of successful places, should not be supported

Respondents commenting in support of 6(d) welcomed the statement that development proposals can be refused on design grounds alone. These comments reflected a view that the six qualities of successful places are fundamental to delivery of other NPF4 policy, including particular reference to health and wellbeing, climate change and nature recovery, and circular economy principles.

Reflecting comments at 6(c), some respondents suggested that the phrasing of 6(d) is too subjective. There were calls for clearer criteria to clarify how 'poorly designed' is to be defined. It was also suggested that stronger wording – for example, 'must not' rather than 'should not' – is needed to ensure that the planning system rejects development proposals that do not reflect the six qualities of successful places. Some also wished to see 6(d) include a clear statement of the negative impacts of poor design on placemaking and NPF4 policies.

Some respondents questioned the need for 6(d) in addition to 6(c), and suggested that they could be merged.

e) Development proposals that are detrimental to the character or appearance of the surrounding area should not be supported

While most of those commenting supported the principle of 6(e), some saw a need for further clarity on what is considered 'detrimental to the character or appearance of the surrounding areas'. These respondents wished to see specific criteria to support assessment of daylight, privacy, noise and air quality impacts. It was also suggested that NPF4 should set out how development proposals should be assessed against 6(e) as a whole. There were calls for further guidance and practical examples.

Others referred to 6(e) as being too prescriptive in seeking to prevent any negative impact on local character or appearance. There was a thought to be a need for planning authorities to be permitted to balance consideration of 6(e) with other NPF4 policies. Respondents noted that some NPF4 policies recognise the potential for adverse impacts associated with some development types. Proposals for the reuse of brownfield, vacant or derelict land, industrial development and renewable energy proposals were cited as examples where exceptions or flexibility at 6(e) may be necessary. It was also suggested that NPF4 should ensure consistency between 6(e) and Policy 9 (Quality homes) in terms of the consideration of daylighting impacts.

Comments also referred to other impacts which respondents wished to see referenced, with some noting that the impacts listed at 6(e) are primarily relevant to residential development. These included impact on the heritage and historic environment, flood risk, and light pollution.

Contact

Email: scotplan@gov.scot

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