Heat in buildings strategy - achieving net zero emissions: consultation

Draft heat in buildings strategy consultation to gather evidence and views on our proposed actions to meet our climate change targets, whilst maximising economic opportunities, ensuring a just transition and addressing fuel poverty.

Chapter 4 Place

As we transform our homes and buildings by making them more energy efficient and installing low and zero emissions heating, we will need to consider our local surroundings and resources, whether in dense urban or suburban areas or smaller rural towns and villages or in our remote and island communities. As such, the transition to zero emissions buildings may look different in different communities and require approaches tailored to place.

It will be important for local communities to shape and be involved in decisions about solutions that are most appropriate for their local area. Our Local Energy Policy Statement[xxxv] sets out clear principles to guide local energy planning and community engagement.


Communities in Scotland have a strong legacy of engagement in, and ownership of, energy projects, much of which has been based on a strong desire to improve local circumstances by utilising these positive business models to support community led development projects, whilst also championing the climate change agenda.

We believe that communities, large and small, will play an important role in driving forward the transformation of the nation's building stock, not only working to solve local energy challenges but being powerful advocates for local change, motivating volunteers and local champions to take action.

Communities can play an important role in planning, identifying and delivering projects on heat and energy efficiency; demonstrating technologies and approaches to a wider audience. This may include decarbonising community assets such as halls and community centres, or community ownership or co-ownership of communal heating solutions, such as heat networks. Our new CARES programme will focus further on supporting communities to work together to address and champion heat decarbonisation on a local level. Through CARES we will work to understand further the models and solutions most appropriate for communities in Scotland.

Case Study: Community Heat – The Coalburn One Stop Shop.

The Coalburn One Stop Shop in Lanarkshire is the hub of the local community, providing a Post Office, ATM, cafe, function rooms, local food and second-hand shops. It hosts a range of activities such as councillor surgeries, committee meetings, parties, flower arranging and dance classes. It is owned and run by the Coalburn Miners’ Welfare Charitable Society and has provided a service to the Coalburn community since 1925, used by approximately 3,500 people per month. They decided to look into lower running costs to help the centre to become more self-sufficient in managing finances. With support from the Scottish Government CARES programme, they replaced an existing oil boiler and wet heating system with a new air to air heat pump, saving them £1,419 on their annual fuel bills.

Image of Coalburn One Stop Shop – Community Heat- Provided by Local Energy Scotland – Energy Savings Trust (January 2021)

Alongside our CARES support, we will also explore the opportunity to integrate heat decarbonisation in emerging community climate action initiatives such as Climate Action Towns and Community Climate Action Hubs, where there are real opportunities for citizens to shape the future development of their communities.

We will also work in collaboration with the Scottish Cities Alliance and the seven cities on the opportunities to accelerate activity at pace to ensure the Scottish cities cumulatively play their role in meeting our heat decarbonisation and energy efficiency ambitions whilst maximising the economic and well-being outcomes across cities.

Summary of action we will take:

17. We will explore the opportunity to integrate heat decarbonisation in community climate action initiatives such as Climate Action Towns and Community Climate Action Hubs.

18. We will support communities to work together to address, and champion, heat decarbonisation through the new CARES programme and work to understand further the models and solutions most appropriate for communities in Scotland.

19. We will work in collaboration with the Scottish Cities Alliance and the seven cities on the cities’ ambitions for low and zero emissions heat (in particular heat networks), supporting delivery by 2030 of a pipeline of projects.


21. What are your views on how we can support place-based deployment of zero emissions heat within our delivery programmes?

22. What is your view on how best to engage, and support, local communities in the planning and implementation of the heat transition in their area?

23. What role do you think community anchor organisations could play in supporting the heat transition?

24. In your opinion, what steps can we take to ensure that policies set out in this strategy do not unfairly impact Island and other remote communities?

Local Heat & Energy Efficiency Strategies

At the heart of planning a place based, locally-led and tailored approach will be Local Heat & Energy Efficiency Strategies (LHEES). Once in place these local strategies will provide a framework for taking an area-based approach to heat and energy efficiency planning and delivery.

LHEES will set out the long-term plan for decarbonising heat in buildings and improving their energy efficiency across an entire local authority area. For each local authority area, the strategies will draw on a consistent, data-driven methodology to:

  • set out how each segment of the building stock needs to change to meet national objectives, including achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions in the building sector, and the removal of poor energy efficiency as a driver of fuel poverty;
  • identify heat decarbonisation zones, and setting out the primary measures for reducing emissions within each zone, with a view to zones acting as a potential trigger for regulation in the future if required (see Chapter 8); and
  • prioritise areas for delivery, against national and local priorities.

LHEES and their development processes will provide an important platform to consider both local community and wider national infrastructure issues. LHEES will form the basis for local public engagement and involvement in decision making at the local level, and will be developed through extensive engagement with local communities. We will set out further guidance to ensure the involvement of local communities in decision making about the heat transition in their local area as part of the development of Local Heat & Energy Efficiency Strategies

LHEES will support planning for the energy networks and over time will become an important evidence base for both the electricity Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) and Gas Distribution Network (GDN), and will support the Local Area Energy Planning approach being considered by the regulated energy networks sector. They will act as an investment prospectus at both the national and local level, guiding our delivery programmes, and signalling potential areas of investment to market actors.

We are working with Zero Waste Scotland to develop draft guidance and a methodology to underpin and support the development of LHEES. This guidance builds on and takes into account learning from the recent LHEES pilots. Once the final phase of LHEES pilots completes early this year we will commission a full evaluation of the LHEES pilot programme to support future rollout, and test out the full LHEES methodology in partnership with Local Authorities in 2021/22, including through early work on zoning that can be scaled up in 2022/23.

Case study: Glasgow City Council

Glasgow City Council was one of the first local authorities to trial the local heat and energy efficiency strategy approach. Their early strategy was part of a series of pilots in 2018 aimed at testing different approaches. The project was a critical building block in developing our understanding of what is involved in producing a strategy. Glasgow was ambitious from the start, seeking to trial a city-wide approach, rather than target a specific geographical area. Glasgow has a history of strategic planning, through initiatives such as its Energy & Carbon Masterplan, and LHEES was seen as a natural evolution.

Having declared a climate emergency in 2019, Glasgow set its own ambitious targets to be a carbon neutral city by 2030 and to achieve net zero emissions by 2045. Glasgow’s pilot LHEES was an important foundation for the city’s ambition and has allowed the council to begin work on a full LHEES for the city. This will set out a long-term vision for Glasgow’s built environment and how the city’s homes, businesses and public buildings will be decarbonised, while addressing fuel poverty, stimulating inclusive economic growth, and building social justice. Glasgow’s strategy will be coupled with a short term, agile action plan to ensure action starts now to address the significant net zero challenges facing the city.

Image of the Glasgow Science Centre provided by Glasgow City Council (January 2021)

We want Local Heat & Energy Efficiency Strategies and Delivery Plans to be in place for all local authority areas by the end of 2023. We believe that LHEES should be developed on a statutory basis and are committed to resourcing their development accordingly. We see huge potential from the consistent and comprehensive LHEES coverage across Scotland that will be delivered by putting LHEES on a statutory footing, and will continue to work with COSLA to find a way forward. A consistent approach to LHEES for all parts of Scotland will help to ensure that collectively, LHEES Strategies act as a national plan for reducing emissions from our buildings and removing poor energy efficiency as a driver of fuel poverty. The Strategies will be core to providing the evidence base, on an area-by-area, spatially-explicit basis, to underpin targeted energy efficiency and heat investment and deployment decisions at scale. Ultimately, the zones that will be established in LHEES Strategies can serve as the basis for triggering action under programmes and regulation, and we want to ensure LHEES develop into a robust foundation for decision-making.

LHEES Delivery Plans will provide a strong basis for action for local communities, government, investors, developers and wider stakeholders, pinpointing areas for targeted intervention and early, low-regrets measures.

We will consult on the draft LHEES methodology with a view to introducing legislation to establish LHEES on a statutory basis so that they are in place for all local authority areas by the end of 2023.

We will work with local authorities to ensure that the development of LHEES is appropriately resourced and will look to create a centralised resource that local authorities can draw on to support access to the data and analysis needed to underpin authority-wide strategies.

The Heat Networks (Scotland) Bill (as introduced) places a duty on local authorities to consider the designation of heat network zones. Should local authorities choose to designate heat network zones, we propose that LHEES should be the primary means by which these zones will be documented, ensuring LHEES is the principal vehicle for heat planning for all technologies on an area basis. The Bill makes provisions for this duty to be exercised by Scottish Ministers on behalf of local authorities to ensure widespread identification of zones across Scotland.

Summary of action we will take:

20. We will commission a full evaluation of the LHEES pilot programme in 2021-22.

21. We will consult on the draft LHEES methodology and guidance with a view to introducing legislation to establish LHEES on a statutory basis so that they are in place for all local authority areas by the end of 2023.

22. We will use LHEES Delivery Plans to target support for deployment and to help identify early areas for low-regrets action.


25. What is your view on the timescales proposed for LHEES?

26. Do you agree with the approach to LHEES set out above? If not, please give reasons to support this.

Scotland’s Planning System

In the past, the planning system has helped determine the spatial pattern of our heat supply, largely linked to proximity to the gas network. In more recent years it has helped to encourage low carbon development. In the future we will ensure planning policies support the significant reductions in emissions from buildings that we need to see. This is not just about new development – our existing buildings and places will need retrofit solutions and we will enable and encourage deployment of energy efficiency measures and low and zero emissions heating, including by facilitating the development of the networks they require.

National Planning Framework and Scottish Planning Policy

Currently Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) (2014), states that development plans should seek to ensure that an area’s full potential for electricity and heat from renewable sources is achieved, in line with national climate change targets, giving due regard to relevant environmental, community and cumulative impact considerations.

As we revise our National Planning Framework, which in future will incorporate the Scottish Planning Policy, we will look to provide stronger support for sustainable, low and zero carbon developments including ways to actively facilitate decarbonised heating and electricity generation and distribution. Potential policy changes set out in the recently published NPF4 Position Statement include:

  • Introducing new policies that address a wider range of energy generation technologies for example for electrical and thermal storage, and hydrogen.
  • Setting out a more practical and outcome-focused approach to accelerating a transition to low and zero emissions heating in buildings, including by linking with wider policies for green and blue[7] infrastructure and vacant and derelict land and properties and ensuring that Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies inform local development planning to ensure a single coherent approach to heat planning across Scotland.
  • Encourage new buildings to connect to existing heat networks, where located in a Heat Network Zone, wherever feasible; and, encouraging applications for energy from waste facilities to provide a connection to a heat network, taking into account the practical considerations involved.

Permitted Development Rights

The Planning system covers a wide range of development, however minor and uncontroversial developments are often granted Permitted Development Rights. This allows small alterations to be carried out without the need to submit an application for planning permission. For homes Permitted Development Rights are already granted, to some extent at least, for a range of technologies including:

  • Biomass heating systems
  • Ground and water source heat pumps
  • Air source heat pumps

For non-domestic properties Permitted Development Rights[xxxvi] are in place and allow in many instances for the installation of a range of low and zero emissions heating technologies, including solar panels and ground and water source heat pumps.

We are in the process of reviewing Permitted Development Rights, though the phasing of that programme has been affected by COVID 19. Potential extension of existing Permitted Development Rights for heat networks and micro-renewable technologies are part of that programme.

While Permitted Development Rights do allow for the installation of zero emissions systems in many cases, there are circumstances where the size and scale of installation may still require planning permission, as well as within designated places such as conservation areas, World Heritage Sites, or where limitations or conditions attached to Permitted Development Rights for the particular technology cannot be met. Listed building consent is required for any external and internal works to a listed building which affect its historic fabric.

Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas and World Heritage Sites

Scottish Planning Policy also seeks to promote the care and protection of the designated historic environment and ensure change is sensitively managed to avoid adverse impacts on the fabric and setting of these assets.

As set out in Chapter 2 we will work with stakeholders, including Historic Environment Scotland, to develop approaches and solutions to transition Scotland’s historic buildings to low and zero emissions heating while respecting and preserving the special characteristics of our buildings and places.

Summary of action we will take:

23. We will set out further guidance to ensure the involvement of local communities in decision making about the heat transition in their local area as part of the development of Local Heat & Energy Efficiency Strategies.

24. Through National Planning Framework 4 we will look for opportunities to strengthen planning policy to enable and encourage energy efficiency and low and zero emissions heating.

25. We will include low and zero emissions heat networks and micro-renewable technologies in the review programme for Permitted Development Rights.


27. What are your views on what Permitted Development Rights might help enable in the heat transition, in addition to those we have already included in the Permitted Development Rights review programme?


Email: heatinbuildings@gov.scot

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