4. A natural, resilient place
We will respect, enhance and make responsible use of our natural and cultural assets.
4.1 Scotland has a world-class environment - our nature and culture are inextricably linked.
4.2 Our principal physical asset is our land. Our most productive soils extend along the east coast and across the Central Belt into Ayrshire. Peatlands are an important habitat for wildlife and a very significant carbon store, containing 1,600 million tonnes of the 3,000 million tonnes in all Scottish soils. Our mineral resources support the construction and energy sectors. Woodlands and forestry are an economic resource, as well as an environmental asset.
4.3 Scotland has abundant water resources, including iconic lochs and river networks and an extensive canal network, which contribute to the quality and distinctiveness of our environment. Clean, high quality drinking water is vital for quality of life and the success of our food and drink sector.
4.4 Scotland's landscapes are spectacular, contributing to our quality of life, our national identity and the visitor economy. Landscape quality is found across Scotland and all landscapes support place-making. National Scenic Areas and National Parks attract many visitors and reinforce our international image. We also want to continue our strong protection for our wildest landscapes - wild land is a nationally important asset. Closer to settlements landscapes have an important role to play in sustaining local distinctiveness and cultural identity, and in supporting health and well-being.
4.5 Biodiversity in Scotland is rich and varied. We have numerous internationally and nationally important habitats and species with a diverse network of protected sites, concentrated particularly in the north and west of Scotland, along our coasts and estuaries and in our upland areas. However, biodiversity is not just confined to our rural areas - our built environment, key infrastructure corridors and the greenspaces within our cities and towns also provide important habitats, and can together contribute to a wider national ecological network. Our marine wildlife is rich and varied. Geodiversity underpins our landscapes and provides important ecosystem services.
4.6 The historic environment is an integral part of our well-being and cultural identity. Scotland currently has five World Heritage Sites, and many historic cities, towns and villages with a rich variety of buildings and townscapes. Our archaeological sites reflect our long history of human settlement.
4.7 We have long sought to protect Scotland's environment, recognising that it is a dynamic resource rather than a fixed asset. To better reflect this, more proactive and innovative environmental stewardship is required. The pressing challenge of climate change means that our action on the environment must continue to evolve, strengthening our longer-term resilience. A planned approach to development helps to strike the right balance between safeguarding assets which are irreplaceable, and facilitating change in a sustainable way. We must work with, not against, our environment to maintain and further strengthen its contribution to society.
4.8 All of our resources, including our waste, require sustainable management to deliver on our climate change commitments and realise opportunities for business and employment. A decentralised network of processing facilities will be needed to achieve our vision for a circular economy where waste is recognised as an opportunity, not a burden. We expect planning authorities to work with the market to identify viable solutions and leave a sustainable legacy for future generations. Working together with the Zero Waste Plan, the Scottish Planning Policy provides a policy framework for achieving this within development planning and management.
4.9 The Scottish Government's Land Use Strategy sets out key principles for the use and management of Scotland's land. It emphasises that land use should deliver multiple benefits, and encourages us to make best use of assets to support primary activities including food production, flood management and carbon storage. To achieve this, we must recognize that the environment is a functioning ecosystem and take into account the opportunity costs arising from poor decisions on land use.
4.10 The 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity aims to promote and enhance Scotland's nature, and to better connect people with the natural world. Maintaining our natural capacity to provide services makes economic sense - to help achieve this, biodiversity in Scotland needs to be viewed at a landscape scale.
4.11 Although there is great scope to further develop our tourism sector, our environment is more than a recreational resource. We will also need construction materials and energy minerals to support our ambition for diversifying the energy mix, and past extraction sites will require restoration. Climate change means that sustainable management of the water environment is not just a national opportunity, but a global issue. Innovation and investment will be required to develop our reputation as a Hydro Nation.
4.12 Scotland's environmental agenda is not only about playing to our strengths. In the coming years, we want to see a step change in environmental quality, especially in places with long-standing disadvantages arising from a legacy of past industrial activity. Vacant and derelict land is a continuing challenge. We are committed to reversing the decline of some habitats and species and regulating environmental pollution. Environmental quality is central to our health and well-being. Green infrastructure and improved access and education have a key role to play in building stronger communities. Our spatial strategy identifies where development needs to be balanced with a strategic approach to environmental enhancement.
Spatial priorities for change
Quality of life and resilience in city regions will be supported by green infrastructure
4.13 Natural and cultural assets in and around urban areas have a key role to play in supporting sustainable growth, maintaining distinctiveness and promoting quality of life. We expect development plans to identify green networks in all of the city regions. But for the next five years, our strategy continues to prioritise environmental improvements in the Central Belt, with the Central Scotland Green Network ( CSGN) now helping to make this area more attractive to investors and residents. It remains a national development with a broad purpose and scope to achieve multiple benefits as it increasingly delivers transformational projects on the ground. Remediation of derelict land, prioritised action in disadvantaged communities and active travel (walking and cycling) should be the priorities for the CSGN Trust and others during the lifetime of NPF3.
4.14 A more integrated approach and 'greening' of the urban environment through green infrastructure and retrofitting can improve quality of life within our towns and cities, alongside enhancing their longer-term environmental performance and climate resilience.
4.15 Creating walkable places, with well-designed streets that link our open spaces and wider active travel networks, can deliver better environments for pedestrians and cyclists in town and city centres, and improve health and well-being. We need to plan now for the kind of change to urban environments which is needed to support the vision in the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland ( CAPS), and the National Walking Strategy, for example by rolling out 20mph zones to more residential and shopping streets and further application of the principles set out in Designing Streets. Our vision is for pedestrian and cyclist friendly settlements and neighbourhoods, to be connected by a coherent national walking and cycling network, making active travel a much more attractive and practical option for both everyday use and recreation. A planned approach will be essential if we are to achieve our vision for 10% of all journeys by cycle safely and effectively.
4.16 Our urban infrastructure will need to change to adapt to the impacts of climate change. The coastal location of many of Scotland's cities means that land use change may be needed to achieve more sustainable and resilient patterns of development in the long-term. In particular, water management and flooding issues will become increasingly important. We have designated the Metropolitan Glasgow Strategic Drainage Partnership as a national development, reflecting its role as an exemplar of sustainable water management at a catchment scale. The canals network supports this initiative and can make a wider contribution to regeneration, particularly across the Central Belt. Both have strong links to the delivery of the Central Scotland Green Network.
4.17 Well-designed green infrastructure can support regeneration efforts within our towns and cities, and improved attractiveness and environmental performance can act as a catalyst for economic investment. Temporary uses for vacant and derelict land, for example for community growing or supporting biodiversity, can also help to attract investment in specific sites or wider areas. Whilst re-use of vacant land remains a priority, in some cases greening initiatives could be the best permanent solutions for sites where built development is unrealistic for cost or other reasons.
4.18 We need to manage change on the urban edge and work to improve productivity and the quality of the landscape setting of our towns and cities. Much of our prime agricultural land, an important and finite resource, is located close to cities, in particular those on the east coast where demand for development land is greatest. This, together with sustainable transport and land for food production within towns and cities, will become increasingly important as we support more localised food distribution networks, reduce emissions and build longer-term resilience.
Rural areas will provide important ecosystem services
4.19 Scotland's rural areas provide many of our natural resources, and help to sustain the ecosystem services upon which our quality of life depends. Scotland's 2020 Challenge for Biodiversity aims to develop a national ecological network over time, and there is an opportunity to link this with green networks in and around our towns and cities. Benefits will be achieved by taking a long-term, strategic approach to environmental management and enhancement. A landscape-scale approach to environmental planning and management should address the decline in some ecosystem services by prioritising action across river catchments, as well as in and around our towns and cities. This can play a long-term role in sustaining diversity and delivering multiple benefits, not only for wildlife but also by providing sustainable food, fibre and fuel.
4.20 We expect further integrated environmental initiatives to emerge over time, drawing on the experience of the Land Use Strategy's two pilot projects. For NPF3, priority lies in taking forward environmental mitigation and enhancement measures in the Firth of Forth, with strong links to be drawn with the Central Scotland Green Network.
4.21 We want to see strengthened links between people and the land. Across Scotland, rural areas will play an important role in supporting the quality of life of all our people, including through renewed interest in hutting and increased community ownership of rural assets.
4.22 Rural areas have a particular role to play in building Scotland's long-term resilience to climate change, and reducing our national greenhouse gas emissions. Peatland restoration is planned on a large scale. The National Peatland Plan will guide planning and decision-making to ensure we protect and enhance the multiple benefits of this internationally significant resource.
4.23 We aim to increase the rate of woodland creation to deliver 100,000 hectares of new woodland over the next 10 years, and have pledged to plant 100 million trees by 2015. Future reviews will assess what further woodland expansion is required in the 2020s to ensure that we meet emissions reduction targets and wider land use objectives. Biomass has a growing role to play in providing heat. As our forests mature, there will be a need to consider timber transport networks and requirements for processing facilities.
4.24 Given its long-term perspective, planning is well placed to deliver adaptation measures that build the resilience of our homes, businesses and infrastructure to our changing climate.
4.25 Adaptation requirements will need to be wide ranging. Catchment-scale flood risk management will become more important in response to changing weather patterns. Planning authorities have a role to play within cross-boundary and multi-sectoral working. Sustainable land management and ecosystems enhancement provide opportunities for adaptation that delivers benefits for communities, the economy and the wider environment. As they emerge, we expect flood risk management plans to become an integral part of strategic and local development planning. Changing water supplies and water quality issues, coastal erosion and increased vulnerability of the historic building stock will also need to be factored into planning decisions over the longer term.
4.26 Reserves of coal bed methane in the Scottish midland valley
(Central Belt) could contribute to secure energy supplies in the
medium term but will require careful planning to avoid negative
environmental and community impacts from extraction activities. A
framework for this is set out in the Scottish Planning Policy.
There is also a continuing need to actively address the impacts of
past uses of the land, including minerals extraction, through
restoration and enhancement. Poor management of restoration
obligations has left a legacy of opencast coal sites in South
Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, Fife and elsewhere, requiring
intervention to ensure that they are properly restored. The
Scottish Mines Restoration Trust has been established to help
communities and other stakeholders involved in restoring
open-cast coal sites across Scotland to bring together viable restoration plans.
4.27 Rural Scotland provides significant opportunities for tourism, outdoor sports and recreation, as reflected in VisitScotland's National Tourism Development Framework, which development plans and planning decisions should support. Scotland's two National Parks are exemplars of sustainable development and growth based on environmental assets and natural resources. World Heritage Sites, geoparks, biosphere reserves and dark skies parks are distinctive assets, whilst forests and key areas for outdoor sports, such as Lochaber and the Scottish Borders, are already important centres for outdoor activities. Closer to the cities network, industrial heritage and the canals network provide opportunities for attracting visitors and are important, place-distinctive resources for communities.
4.28 A national long distance walking and cycling network will link key outdoor tourism locations across the country and will be an important tourism asset in its own right. As a result, we have identified it as a national development. Along the length of the network of routes there will be opportunities to develop shared infrastructure to further enhance the tourism offering. Added benefits for rural communities can also be secured through connections with local core path networks to support recreation and active travel.
A flexible strategy for diverse places - Scotland's National
Scotland's two National Parks - Cairngorms, and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs - are special places. National Park Partnership Plans provide the strategic framework for co-ordinated delivery of the four National Park aims, supporting their role as exemplars of a partnership approach to increasing sustainable economic growth and providing multiple benefits for residents, visitors and the wider Scottish economy.
Our National Parks are sustainable, successful places. We want to see positive planning and innovation continue to strengthen communities, encourage investment, support tourism, deliver affordable rural housing, and encourage high quality placemaking and visitor experiences. Both parks can be low carbon places, with potential for increased use of microgeneration and to support the biomass supply chain. They are also connected places, with programmed improvements to key routes including the A82 and A9, the scenic routes initiative, the development of the National Walking and Cycling Network, and other path network improvements.
Above all, our National Parks are natural, resilient places. We expect their exceptional environmental quality, comprising some of the very best of Scotland's nature and landscapes, to continue to form the foundations of their development plans.
The coast and islands will capitalise on their world-class environment
4.29 The environment of our coastal areas, on land and at sea, is an outstanding, internationally important resource. These natural assets support quality of life and underpin important economic sectors like tourism, outdoor recreation and food and drink.
4.30 The marine environment, and its natural resources, are central to this. National and Regional Marine Plans will provide policies to achieve sustainable development, protection and, where appropriate, enhancement of the marine area. Onshore, land management practices, including crofting in the north and west and on the islands, help to sustain unique cultural and natural environments.
4.31 As climate change impacts on Scotland's coastline, there will be a need to address the long-term resilience of some island and coastal communities.
4.32 Outdoor recreation is important throughout the coastal and marine area, with the West Highlands being a particular asset. Sailing is worth around £100 million to the Scottish economy and is a growing sector. The west coast and the Hebridean islands are a main focus for development, but there is also potential in the north and on the east coast. Cruise activity is also expected to develop. This will bring opportunities for ports from Lerwick and Orkney, to Portree and Greenock, and may require further investment to accommodate larger vessels in the future. The Crinan and Caledonian canals are important assets, as are the World Heritage Sites in Orkney and St Kilda - and those included on the tentative list of sites for nomination in Caithness and Shetland. Many of the special mountain and coastal landscapes in this part of Scotland are identified as National Scenic Areas.
4.33 Further south, there is potential to revive and re-invent the tourism tradition on the Clyde coast, to support regeneration and provide new opportunities for coastal and island communities by building on the area's assets and rich cultural heritage. On the east coast, tourism and recreation opportunities are rich and varied, from wildlife watching, to links golf courses, expansive beaches, and historic buildings and settlements.
4.34 Our proposals for a national network of long-distance routes for walking and cycling, linked to local community networks, will support enjoyment of our coasts and island areas. The network has potential to improve and link a wide range of routes, including the Hebridean Way, the Kintyre Way, the Fife Coastal Path and paths along the Solway coast.
Email: Dr Fiona Simpson