National Planning Framework 4

National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) is our national spatial strategy for Scotland. It sets out our spatial principles, regional priorities, national developments and national planning policy. It should be read as a whole and replaces NPF3 and Scottish Planning Policy.

Annex A – How to use this document

Purpose of Planning

The purpose of planning is to manage the development and use of land in the long-term public interest.

The decisions we make today will have implications for future generations. Scotland in 2045 will be different. We must embrace and deliver radical change so we can tackle and adapt to climate change, restore biodiversity loss, improve health and wellbeing, reduce inequalities, build a wellbeing economy and create great places.

Role of the National Planning Framework

Scotland 2045: our Fourth National Planning Framework, commonly known as NPF4, is required by law to set out the Scottish Ministers’ policies and proposals for the development and use of land. It plays a key role in supporting the delivery of Scotland’s national outcomes and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

National Performance Framework

Our Purpose

To focus on creating a more successful country with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish through increased wellbeing, and sustainable and inclusive economic growth

Our Values

We are a society which treats all our people with kindness, dignity and compassion, respects the rule of law, and acts in an open and transparent way

National Outcomes

  • Children and Young People: We grow up loved, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential
  • Communities: We live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe
  • Culture: We are creative and our vibrant and diverse cultures are expressed and enjoyed widely
  • Economy: We have a globally competitive, entrepreneurial, inclusive and sustainable economy
  • Education: We are well educated, skilled and able to contribute to society
  • Environment: We value, enjoy, protect and enhance our environment
  • Fair Work and Business: We have thriving and innovative businesses, with quality jobs and fair work for everyone
  • Health: We are healthy and active
  • Human Rights: We respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination
  • International: We are open, connected and make a positive contribution internationally
  • Poverty: We tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally

NPF4 includes a long-term spatial strategy to 2045. This reflects the spatial aspects of a range of Scottish Government policies, including the Infrastructure Investment Plan.

The Infrastructure Investment Plan (IIP) identified that NPF4 would include housing land requirements framed within a spatial strategy that aligns with the investment programme and principles, and highlighted that national planning policies would include an infrastructure first approach.

The NPF4 strategy, policies and national developments are aligned to the strategic themes of the IIP: enabling the transition to net zero emissions and environmental sustainability; driving inclusive economic growth; and building resilient and sustainable places. The policies and instruction for LDPs activate the IIP priorities within the themes to the degree that those priorities involve physical development, opportunities for people and improvements for place. Minimum All Tenure Housing Land Requirements are set out at Annex E. The investment hierarchy influences the approach to NPF4 overall and features specifically in instructions for LDPs in Policy 18 ‘Infrastructure First’.

NPF4 replaces National Planning Framework 3 (2014) and Scottish Planning Policy (2014). NPF4 should be read as a whole. It represents a package of planning policies to guide us to the place we want Scotland to be in 2045.

NPF4 is required by law to contribute to 6 outcomes:

  • Meeting the housing needs of people living in Scotland including, in particular, the housing needs for older people and disabled people,
  • Improving the health and wellbeing of people living in Scotland,
  • Increasing the population of rural areas of Scotland,
  • Improving equality and eliminating discrimination,
  • Meeting any targets relating to the reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases, and
  • Securing positive effects for biodiversity.

Statements setting out further detail on the contribution of NPF4 to each outcome are set out in Part 1.

Plan-led Approach

A plan-led approach is central to supporting the delivery of Scotland’s national outcomes and broader sustainable development goals. It is a legislative requirement that planning decisions must be made in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

The statutory development plan for any given area of Scotland consists of the National Planning Framework and the relevant LDP(s). The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 prescribes four different plans, at different scales:

National Planning Framework (NPF)

The National Planning Framework sets out the Scottish Ministers’ policies and proposals for the development and use of land.

The NPF must have regard to any adopted regional spatial strategy.

NPF4 is part of the statutory development plan.

Regional spatial strategies (RSS)

The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 introduced a new duty requiring the preparation of regional spatial strategies.

A planning authority, or authorities acting jointly will prepare these long-term spatial strategies for the strategic development of an area.

RSS are not part of the statutory development plan, but have an important role to play in informing future versions of the NPF and LDPs.

Local development plans (LDPs)

Planning authorities must prepare one or more LDPs for their area.

The LDP sets out a spatial strategy for the development of that area. It must take into account the National Planning Framework and any registered local place plan in the area it covers. It must have regard to the authority’s adopted regional spatial strategy. The LDP must also have regard to any local outcomes improvement plan for the area it covers.

LDPs are part of the statutory development plan.

Local place plans (LPPs)

Local place plans are community-led plans setting out proposals for the development and use of land. They must have regard to the NPF, any LDP which covers the same area, and also any locality plan which covers the same area.

LPPs are not part of the statutory development plan, but have an important role to play in informing LDPs.

Spatial Strategy

Part 1 sets out our spatial strategy for Scotland to 2045, identifying:

  • 6 spatial principles which will influence all our plans and decisions:
    • Just transition
    • Conserving and recycling assets
    • Local living
    • Compact urban growth
    • Rebalanced development
    • Rural revitalisation
  • 3 themes, linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Scottish Government National Performance Framework:
    • Sustainable places where we reduce emissions, restore and better connect biodiversity
    • Liveable places where we can all live better, healthier lives
    • Productive places where we have a greener, fairer and more inclusive wellbeing economy

LDPs should take account of these principles and outcomes, and they should also be reflected within regional spatial strategies and local place plans.

National Developments

Eighteen national developments have been identified. These are significant developments of national importance that will help to deliver the spatial strategy. They are intentionally high level and focus on key elements, as the projects are at different stages.

National development status does not grant planning permission for the development and all relevant consents are required.

Their designation means that the principle of the development does not need to be agreed in later consenting processes, providing more certainty for communities, business and investors.

Their designation is not intended to describe in detail how the projects should be designed, matters to consider, or impact assessments and mitigation to be applied. In addition to the statement of need at Annex B, decision makers for applications for consent for national developments should take into account all relevant policies.

LDPs should take forward proposals for national developments where relevant and facilitate their delivery. This could be through supporting land allocations, policy intervention and LDP delivery programmes.

Regional Spatial Priorities

Regional spatial priorities set out how each part of the country can use their assets and opportunities to help deliver the overall strategy. The detail of these priorities should be further considered and consulted upon through the local development planning process, and where appropriate through regional spatial strategies and regional transport strategies.

The maps are indicative, and certain authorities may have a role to play in more than one regional area. The broad areas identified in NPF4 are intended to act as a flexible framework to guide the preparation of future Regional Spatial Strategies. It is open to planning authorities to decide for themselves, including by working in partnership with others, the most appropriate scale and extent of areas to be covered by Regional Spatial Strategies.

Statutory guidance will guide the preparation of Regional Spatial Strategies.

National Planning Policy

Part 2 sets out our policy framework by topic under the three themes.

Planning is complex and requires careful balancing of issues. The policy intent is provided to aid plan makers and decision makers to understand the intent of each policy and to help deliver policy aspirations.

The policy outcomes set out what we want to achieve and will help to influence future monitoring of the planning system.

The Local Development Plan section clarifies the expected role of LDPs for each topic. The focus for LDPs should be on land allocation through the spatial strategy and interpreting this national policy in a local context. There is no need for LDPs to replicate policies within NPF4, but authorities can add further detail including locally specific policies should they consider to be a need to do so, based on the area’s individual characteristics.

The policy sections are for use in the determination of planning applications. The policies should be read as a whole. Planning decisions must be made in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. It is for the decision maker to determine what weight to attach to policies on a case by case basis. Where a policy states that development will be supported, it is in principle, and it is for the decision maker to take into account all other relevant policies.

The policy impact section shows which spatial principles the policy will help to deliver.

The key policy connections help to show the key connections between policies, but are not intended to be comprehensive.



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