National Planning Framework 3: monitoring report

Progress of the 30 key actions and 14 national developments listed in the third National Planning Framework.

5. A Connected Place 

“We will maintain and develop good internal and global connections.” 

Map - A Connected Place

The fourth theme of National Planning Framework 3 explores the need to achieve better physical and digital connections across Scotland and beyond. The spatial strategy aims to build on our gateways and existing infrastructure networks and complemented the Infrastructure Investment Plan and the Strategic Transport Projects Review, by reflecting prioritised and long term infrastructure investment in Scotland.

The National Planning Framework 3 aims to ensure cities are better connected, acting also as a gateway to the rest of the world. It recognises the need to make rural areas more accessible, and seeks to reduce the disadvantage of distance for coastal and island communities.

National Developments

Six national developments are designated under this theme - high speed rail, strategic airport enhancements, the Grangemouth Investment Zone, Freight on the Forth, Aberdeen Harbour and a Digital Fibre Network. 

In 2016, the Scottish and UK Governments made a joint commitment to work together, alongside Network Rail and HS2 Ltd, to identify interventions that could be implemented between 2019 and 2029 to improve journey times, capacity, reliability and resilience on routes between central Scotland and London, with an ambition for a three hour journey time. 

As announced by the First Minister in late 2017, Transport Scotland, working in partnership with the Department for Transport, commissioned an in-depth Engineering and Environmental Feasibility Study into two of the better performing options. In the east, the study found that it would be technically feasible to construct a new line between Newcastle and Edinburgh that would deliver a step change improvement in capacity and a sub 1 hour journey time. In the west, the study found that it would be technically feasible to construct a new route between either Abington or Carstairs and Glasgow that would deliver a step change improvement in capacity and a sub 1 hour journey time between Carlisle and Glasgow. One of the west options, in conjunction with the east option could also achieve a sub-two hour time between Glasgow and Newcastle and also reduce the journey time between Carlisle and Edinburgh.

The feasibility study also considered two new cross-border stations: one on a new high speed line at the Eurocentral Business Park and the other on the existing line near Livingston.

Since December 2018, the Edinburgh to Glasgow Improvement Programme has delivered a fastest 42 minute journey time between our two main cities using the new electric Hitachi trains which has also delivered a significant reduction in diesel emissions between both cities. The Edinburgh to Glasgow via Falkirk High route was previously served by 6 car diesel trains and seating capacity has increased by 26% since the introduction of the new 7 car electric trains. This will rise to 44% more seats when 8 cars run on all peak time services. The redevelopment of Queen Street station continues and is scheduled to be completed by March 2020.

As recognised in the National Planning Framework 3, our airports and sea ports are vital global gateways. 

  • Facilities across Scotland’s five main airports of Glasgow, Prestwick, Aberdeen, Inverness and Edinburgh have improved through significant investment in terminal and access facilities for passengers, and the opening of new routes. Glasgow Airport alone has invested almost £100 million in facilities since 2014. There are a raft of infrastructure proposals for the improvement of Prestwick Airport and the aerospace engineering hub around it. Anchor businesses and significant employers include Spirit Aerosystems, BAE, GE Aviation, Ryanair, and Chevron. Central to funding the infrastructure are proposals in Ayrshire Growth Deal, which the Scottish Government committed £100m investment to in January 2019. Edinburgh airport has benefited from the opening of the ‘Edinburgh Gateway’ station. Infrastructure in the areas around Glasgow and Edinburgh airports forms part of City Deals announced for both areas, including as part of the Glasgow City Region Deal, the Airport Access Project progressing now and planned to commence operation in 2025. At Glasgow Airport Investment Area, significant progress is also being made with the National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland and Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre announced as tenants, expected to be operational from 2021. 
  • At Nigg Bay, construction of the expansion of Aberdeen Harbour is underway with the north breakwater partially completed and dredging ongoing.
  • On the Firth of Forth, environmental explorations and licensing activity have been undertaken. Following this activity, the assessment is that the economic environment does not currently support the level of investment required for development of container harbour facilities at Rosyth. This situation will continue to be monitored. 
  • Grangemouth continues to be an important multi-modal hub for freight handling. Motorway junction improvements accessing the port have been completed at the M9 Junction 6 via the Falkirk TIF, with further improvements planned to commence at Junction 5 in the near future. The Scottish Government, Falkirk Council and West Lothian Council are preparing for implementation of works on the A801 (Avon Gorge) to improve access between the M9 and M8. Works have taken place on the electrification of the rail freight line. Forth Ports has increased container freight capacity and the petrochemicals sector continues to invest in new development. This includes site clearance and investment in new chemicals production capacity by INEOS with upgrade of the KG Cracker and development of a new headquarters building. CalaChem have commenced provision of a new energy from waste plant to service its chemical campus. 

National Planning Framework 3 Actions

26. “We will work with the Cities Alliance to progress the Smart Cities initiatives.”

Since 2014, the Cities Alliance has published ‘Smart Cities Scotland’s Blueprint’ (2016)[106] while the Scottish Government has published ‘Realising Scotland’s Full Potential in a Digital World: a digital strategy for Scotland’ (2017)[107], identifying actions to support growth in the digital sector.

Phase 1 of the Alliance Smart City activity is almost complete, delivering a variety of smart services on water management, mobility, public safety, waste, energy, communities and infrastructure. The 8th City, Smart City Programme[108] has delivered fully operational open data platforms in the 7 Scottish cities which will allow them to make data more widely available for use in the development of new products and services. A Data Cluster Manager has been funded to aid the collaboration of the cities on data standards, analytics and community and capacity building.

Through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme (See Action 29), around 930,000 additional premises across Scotland have access to fibre broadband, with the majority of those able to access superfast broadband (speeds greater than 30 Mbps). We also exceeded our target of 95% fibre broadband coverage across Scotland by the end of 2017 largely thanks to the current programme’s roll‑out. 

27. “We will deliver the strategic transport projects in the Infrastructure Investment Plan and work with the freight sector to identify priority developments for inclusion in NPF4.”

The priorities for transport and digital infrastructure set out in our Infrastructure Investment Plan continue to be implemented. Our current plan was published in 2015, followed by annual progress reports. 

Key projects, including the new Queensferry Crossing, the M8, M73, M74 Motorway Improvements Project, the Borders Railway and the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route/Balmedie to Tipperty have been opened since the National Planning Framework 3 was published. 

Other strategic projects continue to progress, including A9 dualling Perth to Inverness, A96 dualling Inverness to Aberdeen and the Edinburgh – Glasgow Rail Improvement Programme, the Highland Mainline and Aberdeen to Inverness Rail, together with significant investment in digital infrastructure. Through commitments made in and alongside City and Regional Growth Deals, work is continuing to progress on road improvements in Inverness, the A90 at Laurencekirk, the A720 at Sherrifhall, and rail improvements on Aberdeen to central belt rail.

A sub-group of the Scottish Freight and Logistics Advisory Group was formed in 2015 to consider strategic freight infrastructure needs. The group identified seven priority projects with supporting information, and we will work closely with the industry to use their knowledge and experience to help inform the development of the National Transport Strategy, as well as the Strategic Transport Projects Review. 

28. “We will continue to provide funding for the installation of domestic, workplace and en-route charging points, as set out in ‘Switched On Scotland: A Roadmap to Widespread Adoption of Plug-in Vehicles’.”

Permitted development rights have been introduced to support the need for a quality network of charging points for electric vehicles, and in 2015 a network of charging points was in place across Scotland. In 2017, the ChargePlace Scotland network extended to over 1400 public charging bays making it one of the most comprehensive networks in Europe. 

For homes, Transport Scotland and Energy Saving Trust provide charge point grants, enabling the installation of 1381 units by 2017. As part of its wider review of permitted development rights, we are considering whether those for EV charging can be extended.

29. “We will work with industry to take forward the Step Change Programme to provide the capacity to deliver next generation broadband to 95% of premises by 2017-18, and a significant uplift in speeds for remaining areas.”

The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB)[109] programme exceeded its target of reaching 95% by the end of 2017. DSSB has connected around 930,000 premises - this is in addition to commercial broadband rollout by suppliers. DSSB deployment will continue across the whole of Scotland, throughout 2019. 

Building on the success of the DSSB roll-out, our Reaching 100% programme[110] will extend superfast broadband access to every home and business in Scotland.

30. “We will continue to progress the Scotland’s Scenic Routes Initiative.”

Complementing the National Long Distance Walking and Cycling Network, the ‘Scotland’s Scenic Routes’ initiative[111] has delivered creative projects in eight locations across Scotland. These projects provide inspiring points of interest and opportunities to experience the landscape along key routes for visitors and those enjoying Scotland’s landscapes and heritage. 

Further changes since 2014

Infrastructure Planning

Wider changes to infrastructure planning and investment form a changing context for the National Planning Framework. The 2015 Infrastructure Investment Plan[112] set strategic priorities for infrastructure investment across Scotland. The plan is framed by four themes: tackling inequalities, supporting a low carbon economy, high quality public services, and supporting employment opportunity across Scotland. 

In 2018, the Scottish Government announced a new National Infrastructure Mission commitment[113] to increase annual infrastructure investment by 1% of 2017 Scottish Gross Domestic Product by the end of next Parliament; meaning annual investment in infrastructure will be around £1.56 billion higher by 2025 than in 2019-20. This is an ambitious programme of infrastructure investment for 2019-20 of over £5 billion, supporting jobs and the economy.

To support the National Infrastructure Mission, Scottish Ministers have established an Infrastructure Commission for Scotland to provide long-term strategic advice to the Scottish Government on national infrastructure priorities, based on evidence and learning from good practice and to align investment with long term inclusive economic growth and low carbon objectives. It will identify key strategic investments in Scotland to be made to boost economic growth and support public service. The Commission will report on infrastructure ambitions and priorities by the end of 2019. 

In 2020, the Scottish Government will publish the next Infrastructure Investment Plan, which will build on the Infrastructure Commission’s recommendations and take account of our National Infrastructure Mission. The Plan will cover the next Parliamentary term and will be prepared in tandem with our Capital Spending Review allowing us to align our stated priorities with the funding and finance to deliver them. 

The National Transport Strategy is currently under review, with a consultation commenced in July 2019[114], and its outcomes will form an important part of the context for National Planning Framework 4. The second Strategic Transport Projects Review will be shaped by the new strategy and fully aligned with the National Planning Framework 4 and 2020 Infrastructure Investment Plan, providing a clear route to prioritisation and delivery of future transport infrastructure investment. The approach will need to reflect new priorities including active travel and the transition away from fossil fuels as well as links with future development. 

The continued transition to alternative fuels is supported by a new target to make Scotland free from harmful tailpipe emissions from land-based transport by 2050 and the roll-out of low emission zones to Scotland’s cities. This includes a commitment to phase out the need to buy petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032. 

Transport, Place and Quality of Life

The relationship between quality of place, connectivity and infrastructure continues to grow in recognition. Transport has an important role to play in shaping places and determining environmental quality. Journey time to access key services is a key indicator of connectivity. In Scotland, the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD)[115] shows concentrations of people experiencing deprivation in an area, the data includes analysis of accessibility considering access to basic services by driving, public transport and/or walking[116]. Access to services and employment is a significant contributing factor to deprivation in parts of rural Scotland.

Since 2014, air quality has become a recognised priority given its impact on health, wellbeing and quality of place. Scotland’s 38 declared air quality management areas are found in 14 Council areas[117]. Most of the areas are declared because of road traffic emissions, with North Lanarkshire and Falkirk Councils also declaring one area as a result of industrial emissions. In 2016, air quality targets were exceeded for two types of pollutants, Nitrogen Dioxide and Particulate Matter (PM10). 

Scotland’s air quality strategy ‘Cleaner Air for Scotland – The Road to a Healthier Future’[118] sets out a series of actions to deliver further air quality improvements across a range of policy areas, calling for national and local planning policies to take this into account. In November 2018, Scottish Ministers announced an independent review of Scotland’s air quality strategy. The review will explore the progress and impact of Scotland’s previous air quality strategy; identify and assess any new evidence and developments; make recommendations for future air quality policy; and outline actions needed to meet targets.

The Scottish Government has announced its intention to create Low Emissions Zones in Scotland’s four biggest cities by 2020, with the first Low Emissions Zone commenced in Glasgow at the end of 2018. By 2023, the intention is to introduce Low Emission Zones to all other Air Quality Management Areas where this is supported by the National Low Emission Framework[119]. The regional level modelling framework supporting low emission zone delivery, has the potential to inform placemaking and planning application decisions. The National Planning Framework 4 will also provide an opportunity to ensure that spatial planning prioritises more sustainable and active travel choices to help achieve a step-change in both health and quality of place.



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