Annex C – Spatial Planning Priorities
This information is intended to guide the preparation of Regional Spatial Strategies and LDPs to help deliver Scotland’s national spatial strategy.
North and West Coast and Islands
This area broadly comprises the island communities of Shetland, Orkney, the Outer Hebrides, and parts of Highland and Argyll and Bute, and the north and west coastline of the Scottish mainland.
To deliver sustainable places, Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Plans should m aximise the benefits of renewable energy whilst enhancing blue and green infrastructure, decarbonising transport and building resilient connections.
This area’s natural and cultural assets will require careful planning and management so that their special qualities can continue to form a strong foundation for future development and investment. There are opportunities for local projects across this area to come together and create an enhanced nature network which benefits quality of life and contributes to biodiversity recovery and restoration as well as carbon sequestration.
Resilience and a growing green economy will depend on delivery of improved grid connections, including high voltage grid cables connecting the three island groups to the mainland. This will be complemented by the innovation in low and zero carbon fuels and the roll out of locally distributed energy systems to reduce emissions from buildings, address significant fuel poverty and secure longer term resilience.
Significant peatland restoration and woodland creation and restoration, along with blue carbon opportunities will secure wider biodiversity benefits and be a focus for investment to offset carbon and secure existing natural carbon stores. The Lewis Peatlands and the Flow Country are internationally recognised as accounting for a significant proportion of the world’s blanket bog habitat, and there are opportunities to protect and expand Scotland’s temperate rainforest, including some of the best remaining rainforest sites in Europe. Access to the outdoors, as well as active travel, can benefit from continued investment in long distance walking and cycling routes with a range of projects emerging at a regional scale.
Communities in this area will need resilient transport connectivity to maintain accessibility and lifeline links, and further innovation will be required to help modernise connections and decarbonise transport systems. A net zero islands air network and decarbonisation of ferry services will help to secure the viability and service stability of island and remote coastal communities. Communities are keen to explore long-term ambitions for fixed links for example across the Sound of Harris and Sound of Barra, and potentially to connect the Outer Hebrides to mainland Scotland. An Islands Connectivity Plan will consider the role of ferries, fixed links and low carbon aviation in securing lifeline links and marine access for both leisure and freight. In addition to the investment potential of the area’s ports and harbours, the strategic location of the Northern Isles as a hub for future shipping using long distance trade routes has significant potential for investment and growth over the longer term. There is also potential to consider decarbonisation of fishing fleets and the aquaculture industry in the future.
Electric vehicle ownership is already high in some parts of the area and continued expansion of charging networks will support further decarbonisation. Key routes and hubs are emerging – examples include the aspiration for an electric spinal route that extends across the Outer Hebrides. This should be viewed as one part of a wider system response to net zero that also strengthens active travel across the area.
Improved digital connectivity is a priority to sustain current businesses and create ‘smart’ communities. We are committed to investment in ultrafast broadband to ensure every property is connected and to improve mobile coverage. This will unlock opportunities for rural businesses and remote working, and make future community growth more feasible. Full benefits will be realised by actively tackling the digital divide by building skills, literacy and learning and addressing the financial barriers to internet access. Key projects include the Outer Hebrides Giga Fibre Network and the North Isles Fibre Project.
To deliver liveable places, Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Plans in this area should s upport coastal and island communities to become carbon neutral, thus contributing to net-zero commitments and reducing fuel poverty.
Future-proofing local liveability will benefit people as well as the planet. Island and coastal communities can apply the concept of local living, including 20 minute neighbourhoods, in a flexible way and find local solutions to low carbon living, for example by identifying service hubs in key locations with good public transport links. The aim is to build long-term resilience and self-reliance by minimising the need to travel whilst sustaining dispersed communities and rural patterns of development. Communities in this area will continue to rely to an extent on the private car, and low carbon solutions to the provision of services will need to be practical and affordable. Innovation including electric vehicle charging and digital connectivity will play an important role.
Increased coastal flooding and erosion arising from future climate change will need to be considered along with impacts on associated infrastructure such as bridges and transport networks. The majority of island populations live in coastal locations and there is a need for a pro-active and innovative approach that works with local communities to address this issue.
Regionally and locally driven plans and strategies will identify areas for future development that reflect these principles – for example planned population growth on the Western Seaboard of Argyll and in a growth corridor from Tobermory to Oban and on to Dalmally. Community hubs, where people can easily access a variety of services, will need to evolve and grow to support communities and sustain a range of functions. Ports and harbours can be a focal point for electric vehicle charging as well as employment. Sustainable and fair access to affordable healthier food will support future resilience and broader objectives including reduced child poverty and improved health outcomes. Innovative and equitable service provision, including digital solutions, will be needed to support dispersed communities in a low carbon way.
Communities will need greater choice and more flexible and affordable homes to support varying needs. This can be achieved to an extent by refurbishing the existing building stock to reduce the release of embedded carbon, as well as by delivering more affordable, energy efficient homes. The additional costs of island homebuilding and development generally, as well as in delivering net zero, is a challenge that needs to be factored into a planned approach.
There is a clear need for affordable housing provision across the region to improve choice and access to homes, to support local economies, and in some areas to help offset the impact of second home ownership and short term lets on the market. Local solutions may include key worker housing, temporary homes for workers in remote areas, and self-provided homes including self-build and custom-build. Continued innovation of holistic place-based solutions, such as the Rural and Islands Housing Fund, will be required to create homes that meet diverse community needs, including homes for an ageing population and to help young people to stay in or return to their communities. Greater efforts to ensure young people have more influence in decisions that affect their future places could support this, as well as helping more people access land and crofts and the reuse of abandoned sites where appropriate.
To reverse past depopulation and support existing settlements, planning can help to sustain communities in more peripheral and fragile areas in a way that is compatible with our low carbon agenda and resilient to climate change impacts. Further action should be taken where appropriate to encourage economically active people to previously inhabited areas. This will also need to reflect climate commitments and wider aspirations to create sustainable places that incorporate principles of 20 minute neighbourhoods and active travel networks. Coasts will continue to evolve, and development will be needed to sustain and grow communities in a sustainable way. Collaboration and strong alignment of terrestrial and marine planning, at all levels, will also be needed.
To deliver productive places, Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Plans in this area should s eize the opportunities to grow the blue and green economy, recognising the world-class environmental assets that require careful management and the opportunities to develop skills and diversify employment.
This area has significant opportunities for investment that capitalise on its natural assets and further strengthen the synergies between people, land and sea. This will require strong collaboration and alignment of terrestrial and marine planning, especially as further development of related blue economy activities in the terrestrial environment may increase competition for marine space and resources offshore. To significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, more onshore and offshore renewable energy generation will be needed, bringing unprecedented opportunities to strengthen local economies, build community wealth and secure long-term sustainability. The island authorities have set targets for creating green jobs and for rolling out clean and efficient energy systems to build local resilience. We expect to see continued innovation to unlock the infrastructure and business opportunities arising from a blue and green prosperity agenda.
As a result of its natural advantages, the area is growing its research excellence, and driving low-carbon is a core theme of the Islands Growth Deal. This will support the emergence of the planned joint Islands Centre for Net Zero, alongside island-specific initiatives. Orkney has been home to the European Marine Energy Centre since 2003 and the Orkney Research and Innovation Campus (ORIC) in Stromness provides a focus for Orkney’s renewable and low carbon industries and research facilities. There are plans to grow the role of Orkney’s ports and harbours to support net zero. The Outer Hebrides Energy Hub plans to establish the initial infrastructure necessary to support the production of low carbon hydrogen from renewable energy and conduct a ‘large village’ trial for Stornoway, and there may also be co-benefits to be gained for aquaculture in the area. Shetland aims to grow its net zero contribution including through a planned ultra-deep water port development, which would support servicing the energy sector, oil and gas decommissioning and large-scale offshore renewables. In addition, Oban is developing as a university town, and the European Marine Science Park is a key opportunity to build the local economy and provide education locally.
Sea ports are a focus for investment in the blue economy and further diversification of activities could generate additional employment across the area. Potential for business development ranges from long distance freight to supporting the cruise and marine leisure sectors and decommissioning opportunities. There may also be opportunity for ports in the islands to establish themselves as near-Arctic marine transport and logistics hubs, including for transhipment operations.
There is an aspiration for the servicing of ultra large container ships with associated facilities within Scapa Flow. The potential for such development to adversely affect European site(s) has been identified through the HRA of NPF4. Therefore, this would need to be considered carefully at project level, including through the Habitats Regulations Appraisal process, to ascertain that there will be no adverse effects on the integrity of European sites, or if this is not the case, whether there are imperative reasons of over-riding public interest and relevant statutory tests can be met.
New infrastructure and repurposing of land will help to shift industrial activity towards supporting the offshore renewables sector. Key strategic sites for industrial investment and associated port infrastructure and facilities include plans for: Dales Voe and Scapa Flow as part of the Islands Growth Deal; Cullivoe; Arnish in Stornoway; Wick; Scrabster; Gills Bay; Kishorn; Oban; Port Askaig; and Hatston, Kirkwall. Other key nodes on the ferries network, including Ullapool, Uig and Mallaig, will continue to act as important hubs to support communities, investors and visitors.
Proposed space ports, which make use of the area’s relatively remote location and free airspace, could support our national ambitions to grow this sector. This includes plans for an Outer Hebrides Spaceport 1 in Scolpaig, North Uist and an emphasis on space research and skills development in Shetland as part of the Islands Growth Deal, a space port at Machrihanish and ancillary buildings at Benbecula. Planning permission has been granted for a space port at Melness in Sutherland, making use of its location away from populated areas to provide a vertical launch facility that could link with wider opportunities for manufacturing, research and development across Scotland.
Food and drink is a key sector, with aquaculture, distilleries, commercial fishing, and seaweed farming providing a crucial and growing source of employment for many local communities. This sector is of national significance, with whisky generating an estimated £5 billion to the UK economy and salmon accounting for more than 40% of total food exports. By improving the resilience of existing infrastructure we will ensure continued access to international markets. There are significant opportunities to build on experience and expertise through associated research and development. A development hub at Machrihanish to support aquaculture research in association with Stirling University could open up wider opportunities to expand onshore aquaculture at sites across Scotland. Within Orkney, farming is still the main industry providing products for local consumption and for Scotland’s food and drink sector.
Targeted investment in tourism infrastructure will ensure the coast and islands can capitalise on their rich natural assets, heritage and culture to support better quality and more stable jobs in the sector whilst providing a positive experience for visitors and residents. This sector has been significantly impacted by the pandemic and a short term focus on recovery can be underpinned by efforts to secure longer term sustainability. Planning can help to ensure that the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund is targeted to places where the pressure is most significant. Priorities include visitor management of the area’s World Heritage Sites. Through the Islands Growth Deal, plans are in place for the Orkney World Heritage Site Gateway that will manage and disperse visitors to the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site; and the Outer Hebrides Destination Development Project will support the strategic development of tourism infrastructure, bringing together key assets including St Kilda World Heritage Site, the Iolaire Centre, the Hebridean Way, Food and Drinks trail and the Callanish standing stones. Other ongoing projects, including long distance routes such as the Kintyre Way and the Argyll Sea Kayak Trail and Crinan Canal can help to expand a high quality offer of exceptional marine tourism across the area as a whole.
Regionally and locally there is a need for smaller scale investment across the area to put in place low maintenance, carefully designed facilities which better support and manage the impact of informal tourism including camping, campervans and day trips. This should reflect the scale and nature of operators including community trusts, which can have broad impact and influence. Efforts to provide access to education and build skills locally will also support this, with key projects including plans for the redevelopment of the Shetland Campus. Additionally, the lessons we have learned from the pandemic about remote working could also help to grow communities by extending the range of high quality jobs available locally.
This area broadly includes parts of Highland with parts of Argyll and Bute, Moray, Cairngorms National Park, as well as the north of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, Stirling and Perth and Kinross, with links west and north to coastal and island communities.
To deliver sustainable places, Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Plans in this area should p rotect environmental assets and stimulate investment in natural and engineered solutions to climate change and nature restoration, whilst decarbonising transport and building resilient connections.
The area’s natural capital will play a vital role in locking in carbon and building our resilience by providing valuable ecosystem services. This includes sustainable flood risk management, biodiversity, access and education.
Land and sea assets will play an internationally significant role in renewable energy generation and carbon sequestration. The area can act as a strategic carbon and ecological ‘mitigation bank’ that can make a major contribution to our national climate change commitments. A programme of investment in forestry, woodland creation, native woodlands and peatland restoration will play a key role in reducing our national emissions, providing investment opportunities, supporting ecosystems and biodiversity and benefiting current and future generations. There are also opportunities to explore the decarbonisation of the forestry sector, processing and the transport of timber, and to build community wealth through new businesses, such as a nationally important tree nursery in Moray.
Wider but closely related priorities include continuing conservation at a landscape-scale, to develop resilient nature networks, deer and moorland management, visitor management and recreation, rural housing, community empowerment and economic development. This will provide good quality local employment, strengthen and diversify local economies and help to secure a sustainable future for local people. The area’s rivers are also strategic assets that will continue to benefit from aligned land use, climate adaptation and biodiversity enhancement.
The Cairngorms National Park is bringing together conservation, the visitor experience and rural development to provide benefits that extend well beyond the park boundary. Landscape-scale solutions to build resilience to climate change, to manage sustainable tourism and outdoor access, and a commitment to reversing biodiversity decline and increasing woodland expansion and peatland restoration, are all key priorities. Demand for development, including in pressured areas, will require a planned response to minimise the impact of second homes on local communities and ensure new homes are affordable and meet local needs.
This area also makes an important contribution to our climate change targets by supporting renewable energy generation. Repowering and extending existing wind farms will optimise their productivity and capitalise on the area’s significant natural energy resources, and there is potential to increase offshore wind energy capacity. A carefully planned approach can reduce environmental and other impacts and retain more benefits locally. Community ownership of renewable energy projects at all scales could play a key role in improving resilience, empowering local people to take control of their own assets and helping tackle fuel poverty. Pumped hydro storage at Cruachan and other sites such as Coire Glas can support the energy network, as well as providing tourism and recreation opportunities, and we expect to see a growth in solar power. As technologies continue to develop, storage and other forms of generation will grow. The electricity distribution and transmission network will require upgrading to support the large increase in onshore and offshore electricity generation required to achieve net zero, as well as to meet new demand from heat and transport. There will also be a need for more community-scale energy generation to serve the needs of local communities directly and build resilience.
The transport system as a whole will need to be planned to support a shift to more sustainable transport whilst maintaining access to markets and facilities. In line with the transport sustainable investment hierarchy, development should first be focused in locations which make the best use of existing infrastructure and services before building new infrastructure or providing new services.
Improvements to the Highland Main Line through electrification and delivery of new stations including at Inverness Airport, will help to create a sustainable commuter network for Inverness and open up more rural areas to lower carbon development. Our rolling programme of efficient electrification is also a key enabler for growth in rail freight, creating improved connectivity and providing additional capacity with faster journey times, better use of track capacity and lower unit costs. A continued modal shift to rail for both passengers and freight will bring significant environmental benefits over time.
Roads will continue to be arteries upon which local communities and businesses depend. There will be a need to adapt key routes due to the impacts of climate change alongside creating a strong network of charging points, including improvements to the A96 to improve safety and to the A9 to maintain a resilient road link from Thurso and Inverness to the central belt. Remote and rural areas including islands are dependent on reliable accessibility by road including connecting to ferries and ports, facilitating reliable public transport by road, access to essential services and transporting of goods. There is an urgent need for improvements to the A83 to ensure the resilience of the economy and communities of wider Argyll, as well as resilience challenges for other key routes such as the A82.
Continued investment in the national long distance walking and cycling network provides an opportunity to assist in decarbonising tourism and recreation across the area, whilst also providing, and acting as a spine for, sustainable active travel connections for everyday travel in the vicinity of towns and villages.
Inverness and Oban airports are hubs for air connections to dispersed communities and Wick John O’Groats Airport and Broadford Airstrip on Skye are key connections. Oban Airport is also an opportunity for investment in compliance operations and future drone technology. The Highlands and Islands are aiming to become the world’s first net zero aviation region by 2040 by pioneering new approaches including electric aircraft. Investment in technology and facilities will be required to achieve this. The proposed Moray Aerospace Advanced Technology and Innovation Campus (MAATIC) at Lossiemouth intends to create a skilled workforce for the Moray region through focusing on aviation sector and supply chain.
To deliver liveable places, Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Plans in this area should maintain and help to grow the population by taking a positive approach to rural development that strengthens networks of communities.
We will do all we can to help reverse depopulation across rural Scotland. Here, as with other more rural areas of Scotland, 20 minute neighbourhoods can be tailored to work with both larger towns and more dispersed settlement patterns.
Inverness plays a vital role as a regional centre for services, health, justice, employment, education, sport, culture and tourism and has seen significant expansion in recent years. Key sites for its growth are located primarily to the east along the Moray coast. A sustainable and adaptive growth strategy will continue to be supported by planned investment in education and health and social care services, as well as employment uses. The new railway station serving Inverness Airport will help to connect local communities with growing employment opportunities in the wider area. Inverness Castle, as part of the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal, will be redeveloped and opened up to the public, attracting national and international tourists and encouraging visits to the wider Highlands and Islands.
Fort William, Dingwall, Grantown-on-Spey and Aviemore are key settlements, and the area has strong relationships with adjacent, more coastal settlements such as Mallaig, Oban, Wick and Thurso. Moray also has a strong network of towns including Forres, Elgin and Nairn. In more remote communities there is a need to reverse population decline. A place-based approach (as demonstrated by Fort William 2040), including work to improve town centres and reuse redundant buildings, will support recovery in a way which responds to the strong character and identity of each of the area’s towns and villages. Such an approach is evident in Growth Deal projects such as Moray’s Cultural Quarter proposal.
A positive approach to rural development could support the development of a network of hubs, and future service provision will require imaginative solutions so that places can be resilient and self-supporting. Investment in strategic health, justice and education facilities is already planned. In the longer term, digital solutions, including mobile and remote health services and virtual education, as well as continued investment in improved connectivity, will play an increasingly important role.
As with other parts of Scotland, more homes will be needed to retain people and attract new residents of all ages. Many communities have taken ownership of their land and this could form the foundations for future development by unlocking further development sites. Refurbishment of existing rural buildings and halting the loss of crofts could help to sustain the area, and new homes should align with infrastructure and service provision. They should also be located and designed to minimise emissions and to complement the distinctive character of existing settlements and wider landscapes. As climate change continues to have an impact, water supplies and drainage will need to be secured and maintained. Flood risk management and changing ecosystems will need to be factored into future plans to ensure nature-based adaptation solutions complement local living. Addressing fuel poverty will require greater energy efficiency and affordable, low carbon, distributed heat and electricity networks, with a model for increased local generation, having potential to bring benefits. Maintaining connectivity will be essential, particularly through public transport that includes rail access and other active travel networks.
We will continue to support further investment in digital connectivity but will need to go further to adapt to climate change and make use of emerging technologies. Priorities include satellite and mobile solutions to address ‘not spots’, and to support local living by reducing the need to travel unsustainably. To complement existing physical connections, smart solutions, local hubs, demand responsive transport, and active travel networks will help people to access services and employment and make low carbon local living a more viable option.
To deliver productive places, Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Plans in this area should support local economic development by making sustainable use of the area’s world-class environmental assets to innovate and lead greener growth.
Natural assets and environmental quality underpin the area’s main economic sectors and must therefore be protected, restored and used sustainably. Planning will help to attract investment, grow and diversify businesses and enable local entrepreneurship, micro enterprises, self-employment and social enterprises to flourish. Remote working can be capitalised on to build economically active local communities. This will require the continued roll out of high quality digital infrastructure and maintenance and decarbonisation of transport routes to wider markets. Food miles can be reduced over time with the help of local community-led food growing networks, by supporting locally driven public procurement and, from a land use perspective, protecting higher quality agricultural land.
Ideas are emerging for the area to secure a low carbon future for tourism. Assets such as the North Coast 500 and, more recently, the Kintyre 66 in the adjacent coastal area, as well as the area’s high quality environment and associated food and drink products, attract visitors. However, they also require investment in improvements to infrastructure to support local communities and visitors. This will maintain the quality of the experience and the environment, facilitate lower carbon transport, promote ‘leave no footprint’ and encourage longer stays. This could involve extending the availability of transport services. There are also many regionally significant opportunities to create jobs by growing support services for outdoor activities such as mountain biking, climbing, walking and angling and in support of the country’s winter sport and recreation sector that is primarily focussed in this area.
Investment in research and development, business opportunities and local centres of expertise will help to retain benefits locally and broaden the range of skilled jobs. There will also be opportunities to build on and repurpose existing assets to create greener jobs, such as the former nuclear installation at Dounreay and development at Fort William associated with the Lochaber Smelter.
The area’s coastline contributes to the beauty and experience of the area and is also a hub for economic activity including fishing, the cruise and marine leisure sectors, and the offshore renewable energy sector. Key ports include the Cromarty Firth (including Port of Cromarty, Nigg and Highland Deephaven), Corpach, Ardersier, Gills Bay, Inverness, Kishorn and Buckie. Through Opportunity Cromarty Firth and other projects, new facilities and infrastructure will help ports to adapt, unlocking their potential to support the transition from fossil fuels through oil and gas decommissioning, renewable energy (including the significant opportunities for marine energy arising from Scotwind) and low carbon hydrogen production and storage, and the expansion of supply chain and services. This will in turn benefit communities by providing employment and income for local businesses.
This area focuses on Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire with cross-boundary links to Moray, and south towards Angus and the Tay estuary.
To deliver sustainable places, Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Plans in this area should plan infrastructure and investment to support the transition from oil and gas to net zero, whilst protecting and enhancing blue and green infrastructure and decarbonising connectivity.
Action is required to tackle industrial emissions and transition towards a greener future that benefits existing communities and attracts further investment.
Greener energy choices, including hydrogen and on and offshore renewables, have a natural home here and will be at the heart of the area’s future wellbeing economy. Investment opportunities focus on the green and blue economy and energy innovation. Significant infrastructure will be required to deliver a hydrogen network for Scotland, including repurposing of existing facilities and the creation of new capacity. £62 million in the Energy Transition Fund is supporting four projects to protect existing jobs and create new jobs in the North East, and across Scotland, by opening up opportunities through energy transition and harnessing private sector funding. This funding aligns with the Aberdeen City Region Deal and continuing support for retraining and skills development. Ports and harbours throughout the area are key assets in the blue economy. As offshore renewables are an important part of Scotland’s energy transition, there will be a need to align terrestrial and marine development so as to maximise the potential of this sector.
The area’s growth strategy includes a commitment to building with nature by creating multi-functional blue and green networks and improving green spaces in and around settlements, connecting with the national long distance cycling and walking network and facilitating active travel. Community-led climate action will help to provide locally-driven solutions. A new water supply and waste-water systems will play an important role in building long-term resilience.
Aberdeen is a key transport hub providing vital connections internationally, as well as lifeline services to Orkney and Shetland. Congestion will be reduced as a result of the construction of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, and the A92/A96 Haudagain Improvement project. In the city, work is ongoing to lock in the benefits and prioritise sustainable transport, including Aberdeen Rapid Transit. More widely the Aberdeen to Central Belt Rail Improvements will bring benefits to both passengers and freight.
The area can lead the way in promoting low emissions vehicles, active travel and public transport connectivity as part of its contribution to net zero. Links south to the Central Belt and west towards Inverness remain vital. Work is progressing on the £200m investment being made to improve journey times and capacity between Aberdeen and the Central Belt for passengers and freight. Continuing improvements to digital connectivity and active travel will reduce the need to travel by unsustainable modes and facilitate further remote, home or hub based working.
To deliver liveable places, Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Plans in this area should f ocus on continued regeneration and encourage more 20 minute neighbourhoods to sustain the skilled workforce and improve local liveability.
A new focus on local living could help to address the high levels of car ownership and respond to the area’s dispersed settlement pattern. Growth corridors extending from Aberdeen to Peterhead, Huntly and Laurencekirk will be a focus for future development, and strategic sites include new communities at Chapelton, Grandhome and Countesswells. There is significant potential to promote more compact growth by making better use of brownfield sites and increasing density.
There will be benefits for people of all ages arising from an increase in local living and a shift towards 20 minute neighbourhoods and the creation of connected, walkable, liveable and thriving places, in both urban and rural contexts. The aim is to encourage sustainable travel options, provide communities with local access to the wider range of facilities, services and amenities to support healthier and flourishing communities. In rural places, social and community infrastructure can be designed with different settlements working in clusters as a ‘network of places’, providing services and amenities that best meet the needs of local rural communities.
The area’s towns contribute to its sense of place and further town centre regeneration will help communities to adapt to current challenges and future change. Service provision also needs to reflect the area’s character. Several new or extended primary and secondary schools and community facilities are planned and the area will support wider rural communities by hosting a new centre of excellence for rural and remote medicine and social care. Access to good quality open space and opportunities for local food growing, including allotments and community orchards, can benefit health and wellbeing and tackle inequalities as an integral part of placemaking.
The area benefits from a productive coastline that will be a focus for future economic activity and investment associated with offshore renewable energy and the blue economy. The coast is home to communities who will benefit from continued regeneration and a move towards 20 minute neighbourhoods that reduces the need to travel. Key regional priorities include the regeneration of Banff, Macduff, Fraserburgh and Peterhead. Future coastal vulnerability to erosion, sea level rise and flood risk will need to be factored into development strategies. The fishing industry will continue to contribute to the area’s strong sense of place and shared heritage, communities and economy, with some ports and harbours also having opportunities in the cruise and marine leisure sectors.
To deliver productive places, Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Plans in this area should s upport continued economic diversification and innovation.
The relocation of some activity at Aberdeen Harbour to the south harbour has been an important element in planning for the future. Further investment will help to realise its full potential as a low carbon hub and gateway, and there may be opportunities for development at the South Harbour to support the carbon capture and storage and hydrogen innovation work at St Fergus and Peterhead in Northern Aberdeenshire. This is also a significant opportunity to improve urban liveability by unlocking waterfront sites for mixed use development close to the city centre. Local people will need to be involved in deciding how potentially significant industrial and business activity can be accommodated, alongside regenerating a vibrant, redesigned city centre in the coming years.
It is essential that environmental impacts arising from relocation of the harbour and any onward reorganisation of the land uses around it are carefully managed in a way that recognises the location’s natural assets and sensitivities. We expect the LDPs and consenting processes to be informed by the required impact assessments, to play a crucial role in guiding future development and addressing environmental sensitivities.
This area broadly covers central Scotland from the Glasgow city region and the Ayrshires in the west to Edinburgh city region in the east, including the Tay cities, the Forth Valley and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.
To deliver sustainable places, Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Plans in this area should support n et zero energy solutions including extended heat networks and improved energy efficiency, together with urban greening and improved low carbon transport.
Blue and green infrastructure
The greening of the built environment, including former industrial areas, is a long held ambition that we now need to expedite to significantly reduce emissions, adapt to the future impacts of climate change and tackle biodiversity loss. Investment in green infrastructure will support urban sustainability, help to restore biodiversity, contribute to our overall targets for reducing emissions and improve health and wellbeing.
There is much that we have already learned from past work, for example initiatives to naturalise former mining features, reclaiming canals as a cultural heritage and natural asset, and extensive woodland creation. Wider woodland expansion across more urban areas could make a significant contribution to improving air quality and quality of life by reducing pollution, managing water and cooling urban environments. Blue and green networks can help to deliver compact and liveable cities.
Many initiatives will come together to achieve urban greening:
- The Central Scotland Green Network will continue to bring together environmental enhancement projects. Initiatives such as the John Muir Pollinator Way demonstrate how nature networks can help restore and better connect biodiversity and enhance green infrastructure at a landscape scale.
- The Glasgow City Region Green Network, a long-term transformational programme of environmental action, can achieve a step change in the quality and benefits of green places across west central Scotland and bring enhanced biodiversity closer to communities. As part of this, the Clyde Climate Forest is proposing natural solutions at scale across the Glasgow city region.
- The Inner Forth Futures Partnership is tackling the effects of climate change and providing recreation benefits through projects such as peatland restoration and woodland expansion, and supporting the creation of habitat networks.
- The River Leven Project in Fife is a holistic place-based approach to development. Blue and green infrastructure will support investment and provide environmental, health and wellbeing benefits for communities.
- The Tayside strategic green and active travel network also aims to create regionally significant assets that contribute to the quality of the area.
- Perthshire Nature Connections Partnership (PNCP) encompasses a long-term, nature-based vision for Perth and Kinross that aims to create a distinct connection between the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Parks.
- There is a particular opportunity to build on the successful regeneration of our canals to provide an invaluable strategic greenspace that connects communities across the area as a whole, contributes to its strong post-industrial heritage and provides wider functions such as water management to support future resilience to climate change. The potential of a canal asset should be recognised as a shared priority.
There is a continuing need to invest in renewing and improving the capacity of flooding, water and drainage infrastructure to build the resilience of communities. A catchment-scale approach, using nature-based solutions, can also provide benefits for the health and quality of life of Scotland’s urban communities, particularly where solutions seek to deliver multiple benefits, including biodiversity gain and active travel routes. This approach can also be more cost-effective than hard engineering solutions and create lasting jobs. For example, the Glasgow city region recognises the challenges for future adaptation and is identifying sustainable solutions to sea level rise, urban overheating, and water management.
Engineered solutions to adapt our water and drainage infrastructure will be required in some circumstances, but should support more natural benefits as far as possible. There is scope to continue, and extend, the lessons from the Metropolitan Glasgow Strategic Drainage Partnership to future proof infrastructure in support of the long-term growth and development of Edinburgh. The Lothian Drainage Partnership is taking this forward with projects emerging within Edinburgh and at the ClimatEvolution Zone in East Lothian.
At a local scale there is significant potential to expand raingardens and sustainable urban drainage systems to help manage surface water as part of blue and green infrastructure for our future cities and towns.
Whilst predominantly urban, this part of Scotland benefits from a rich and diverse rural area and there are many areas where town meets countryside. These green areas and natural spaces are key assets, sustaining communities that could become better places to live if we can achieve this in a way that is compatible with our wider aims for climate change, nature restoration and 20 minute neighbourhoods. The pandemic has demonstrated that many people are looking for more space at home and in their communities. It will be important to plan positively and imaginatively to make sustainable use of the countryside around our cities and towns.
These areas have important functions – productive agricultural land, providing vital ecosystem services and spaces for local food growing, outdoor access and recreation. They support carbon sequestration, including through peatland restoration, woodland creation and conserving natural habitats, and there is scope for innovation in key sectors including sustainable food production.
Planning has the potential to address the impact of climate change on communities whilst also generating renewable heat and facilitating urban cooling from our rivers. Mine water, solar and onshore support for offshore renewables, including development that makes use of existing infrastructure at strategic hubs, all provide opportunities for decarbonisation.
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park has landscape-scale opportunities to restore and enhance nature and respond to climate change, including through woodland creation and peatland restoration, as well as natural flood risk management. The National Park will continue to support the quality of life and health of the urban population and its future priorities include new infrastructure provision to provide a quality visitor experience and support people to connect with nature, as well as a greener tourism sector supported by innovative low carbon transport solutions. Long distance active travel and rail routes have untapped potential to provide sustainable tourism solutions. The area’s communities can adapt to support more localised living and working opportunities, with improved digital connectivity and affordable housing. More integrated planning and land management offers opportunities to support land use change and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The approach also links with and relates to the action area to the north.
A focus on community wealth building, together with growing opportunities for longer term remote working, could address the high levels of transport movement by private car and challenges of congestion and air pollution across the area. Local living, including 20 minute neighbourhoods, will help to minimise future commuting and ensure jobs and income can be spread more evenly across the area. Accessibility and transport affordability can support more resilience which benefits communities who are less connected.
By putting in place mass/rapid transit systems for Edinburgh through plans to extend the tram network, and for Glasgow including the Clyde Metro and multi-modal connectivity, we have an opportunity to substantially reduce levels of car-based commuting, congestion and emissions from transport at scale.
Connections to the rest of the UK will be strengthened in the longer term through high speed rail connectivity, with stations expected in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Decarbonisation of freight will require the construction of new hubs and associated facilities to support logistics. This will also support growing interest in express logistics from rail operators that would see passenger Electrical Multiple Units converted to carry small freight, targeting the UK parcel market. Ports on the Clyde, Forth and Tay coasts will also play a key role in this transition.
Digital connectivity will facilitate remote working, supporting the growth of towns and villages outwith the larger cities and potentially leading to a renaissance in more rural living. It will be crucial to address digital inequality, whether through cost, infrastructure or skills development, as virtual service provision continues to grow.
To deliver liveable places, Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Plans in this area should p ioneer low carbon, resilient urban living by rolling out networks of 20 minute neighbourhoods, future proofing city and town centres, accelerating urban greening, investing in net zero homes, and managing development on the edge of settlements.
20 minute neighbourhoods
The diversity of this area, from metropolitan districts to rural and dispersed settlements, will require concerted effort to develop networks of places that meet the principles of local living and 20 minute neighbourhoods, and with fair access to a range of services that support sustainable living. Planning should focus on revitalising cities and towns at scale, supporting a finer grained approach to placemaking, and a more intricate mix of land uses and density. This should incorporate networks of natural spaces and blue and green infrastructure, to create health and wellbeing benefits, increase resilience to climate change and support the growth of green job opportunities.
The car-based design of some of our places, including many suburban areas and new towns, mean that a significant shift to a more people centred approach will be required. Planning can help retrofit facilities and services into areas where they are scarce, such as predominantly residential areas, to enable better integrated, mixed-use areas. City, town and neighbourhood centres can be at the heart of this if they are planned to strengthen self-sufficiency and bring services and jobs closer to homes. The recommendations of the recent town centre review can be delivered by supporting a wider range of uses and making the most of their assets.
Accessibility will be a key part of the transition and will involve investment in infrastructure and services in line with the sustainable travel and investment hierarchies, to improve fair access and reduce carbon emissions. Active travel networks will need to expand to make walking, wheeling and cycling an attractive, convenient, safe, and sustainable choice for everyday travel. There are significant opportunities for investment in heat networks, energy storage and the circular economy to create more sustainable neighbourhoods.
Energy efficient, affordable homes
As well as building new homes to net zero standards, more will need to be done to meet the bigger challenge of upgrading the existing housing stock to reduce emissions and adapt to future climate impacts. Emissions from our homes need to be very substantially reduced – by 2030, they must fall by 68% from 2020 levels.
Improved energy efficiency will be needed, by providing zero emissions heating solutions and more sustainable water management practices for existing settlements and homes. Improving sustainable travel options and reliability will help to reduce transport based emissions associated with our homes.
There is a particular pressure for housing solutions, including provision of affordable homes that meet future needs, in the south east of Scotland. Edinburgh has committed to building affordable homes at scale, and will need to work with the region to accommodate wider need and demand in a strategic way. Seven strategic sites, supported through the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, could accommodate up to 45,000 homes and associated economic and employment benefits including: Blindwells, Calderwood, Dunfermline, Edinburgh Waterfront, Shawfair, Tweedbank and Winchburgh. The need for proposals to be supported by low carbon transport solutions, in line with the Infrastructure Investment Plan and National Transport Strategy investment hierarchies and infrastructure first approach, will be critical to their success. The Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Deal identifies infrastructure investment as part of this. These interventions and commitments, taken with the additional transport investment made through the Deal, will ensure the city region continues to grow and flourish. Regionally significant services, including healthcare and social care facilities and investment in the learning estate, is also planned to support future growth and sustain the wellbeing of existing, new and expanding communities.
The region’s coasts and firths define the area’s history and shape its sense of place. There is potential to unlock the strategic importance of coasts, estuary and river corridors for climate mitigation, resilience, and positive environmental change. Coastal change, driven by climate change, will need to be managed to build long-term resilience and future-proof our waterfronts, where this is feasible. Progress has been made to create long distance walking and cycling routes to open up access to waterfront spaces and reclaim them as a resource for people as well as industry. There will be a need to anticipate and mitigate risk from coastal erosion, flood risk and storm surges, with a focus on natural solutions which work with the unique biodiversity and landscape character of these important places.
These coasts are rich in cultural and natural heritage. Along the Inner Forth, various projects provide multiple benefits, including flood management, cultural landscape enhancement, habitat creation, access and tourism. Edinburgh’s waterfront regeneration is ongoing, with Granton benefiting from an ambitious masterplan, the tram extension to Leith progressing and potential development at Seafield helping to redefine the city’s relationship with its coastline. This is reusing existing assets and helping Edinburgh to become a more liveable city. A masterplanned approach to regenerating the Edinburgh Waterfront can take into account opportunities for the Port of Leith to service the offshore energy sector. More broadly, port facilities should continue to be capable of servicing freight traffic within the Firth of Forth given the importance of east coast freight links.
The successful regeneration of Dundee Waterfront has demonstrated the potential to make sustainable use of our urban coasts, and ongoing proposals include the creation of a marina at Victoria Dock and further development of central waterfront sites. Dundee port has an aspiration to expand its operational area into the Firth of Tay. The HRA of NPF4 has identified that such development would have a high probability of resulting in adverse effects on the integrity of European site(s). This would therefore need to be considered carefully at project level, including through the HRA process to ascertain that there will be no adverse effects on European sites, or if this is not the case, whether there are imperative reasons of over-riding public interest and relevant statutory tests are met.
Reuse of brownfield land
A more liveable Central Belt means that we will need to do more to reuse empty buildings and brownfield land, including vacant and derelict land, particularly spaces which have not been used for decades and can be accessed by sustainable modes. This will reduce further urban sprawl and improve local environments. Around 40% of Scotland’s vacant and derelict land is concentrated in the Glasgow city region and its reuse for a range of uses is a key priority. Edinburgh has committed to building a significant share of future housing development on brownfield sites and progress is being made in Dundee to repurpose disused sites, including the creation of a new innovation park on the former Michelin site.
A combination of incentives, investment and policy support for productively reusing brownfield land and buildings at risk will be required to steer development away from greenfield locations, whilst also acknowledging their biodiversity value and potential for urban greening. Public-sector led development can shape future markets and deliver development in places where change is needed the most and can deliver multiple benefits. Redevelopment should include, but not be limited to, housing development. By de-risking sites and taking an infrastructure first approach, this land can help to achieve a better distribution of new homes to meet our future needs. This will also reduce pressure in places where growth is no longer sustainable. Key projects include the Eden project on the sites of the former Dundee gasworks, and the redevelopment of Ravenscraig, a longstanding post-industrial site where new development, including improved transport connectivity, can bring new models of low carbon living at scale.
To deliver productive places, Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Plans in this area should t arget economic investment and build community wealth to overcome disadvantage and support a greener wellbeing economy.
This area has a diverse business base and is a key engine of growth for Scotland as a whole. There are many clusters of sites and businesses which form the basis of regional propositions for investment. In line with our aspirations to build a wellbeing economy, opportunities for investment and development should be designed to maximise economic, social and environmental wellbeing, rather than focusing on growth alone. A planned approach can help to target future development in areas of significant economic disadvantage so that new and better jobs are more fairly distributed to help address national, regional and more localised inequality.
City and town centres
The pandemic has brought obvious challenges for our city centres, but has also unlocked opportunities to take forward new models of working that could better support wellbeing and improve our places in the longer term. The continued growth of remote and local working and the creation of hubs within groups of settlements could significantly reduce the need to travel, whilst also helping to grow local businesses and communities.
This raises significant questions for the future of city centres. Existing offices have the potential to be repurposed to achieve higher density mixed use neighbourhoods with a lower carbon footprint and require careful planning to ensure future communities are properly supported by appropriate services.
Glasgow city centre, an exceptional asset and a primary location and cultural destination, has been significantly impacted by unprecedented changes in working patterns, service provision and the retail sector. Whilst these changes may not be sustained in the long-term, now is the time to accelerate work to diversify the city centre and invest in maintaining and re-using existing buildings so that it can evolve to be a more carbon conscious place. Existing connections mean the centre could sustain many more homes to meet a commitment to doubling the city centre population, revitalising places and creating a 24 hour city that is safe and open to everyone. Significant investment in schools, community services and greenspace will be needed to achieve this and more creative use of the public realm and a low emission zone will help to make this a safer and healthier environment for people of all ages. Innovative solutions, such as retrofitting energy efficiency measures to social housing across the city, could be extended to help improve the built fabric of the city centre’s commercial properties.
Edinburgh has similar challenges and opportunities for positive change. High interest in investment and associated demand for new homes means that planning will need to help deliver sustainable development that supports the quality of life of existing and future residents.
As a capital city with a World Heritage Site at its core, it will be crucial that future development takes into account the capacity of the city itself and its surrounding communities and makes the most of its exceptional heritage assets, places and cultural wealth. The City Centre Transformation Plan supports a move away from a car-based city centre to create a more liveable and attractive place to live, work and visit. The Forth Bridge is also an inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Site, and our rich industrial and cultural heritage remains apparent across the area.
Dundee is well on the way towards reinventing itself through regeneration of the waterfront, unlocking strategic sites for new homes and new opportunities for innovation and economic development arising, such as the Michelin Scotland Innovation Park and at the port. Continued regeneration in this area, building on the city’s rich culture, sense of place and appetite to innovate will also contribute to the overall aims for this part of Scotland. The V&A will continue to be a focal point for this, evolving to become a National Centre for Design within this UNESCO City of Design.
Town centres throughout this area will also play a critical role in driving a new economic future. The recent town centre review highlights opportunities to expand the range of services and facilities they offer, reuse redundant buildings and provide new homes for a wide range of people. This in turn will ensure their crucial role in defining our sense of place is protected and enhanced, future proofing a key asset for Scotland as a whole.
Many business and investment sites are located along key transport corridors and new approaches may be required as investment transitions away from locations that can only be reached by car towards more accessible areas that are connected by low carbon and active travel options.
The Clyde Mission will stimulate investment in sites along the Clyde to build a wellbeing economy and achieve a step-change in the quality of the environment for communities. This ambitious project will reuse extensive areas of vacant and derelict land in accessible locations and requires a sustainable approach to manage the future impact of climate change. Key sites extend from Greenock Ocean Terminal to Queens Quay, Tradeston, the Broomielaw and Glasgow City Centre, to Clyde Gateway – a longstanding regeneration project which has made exceptional progress in transforming communities and overcoming inequality. A national collaboration to support delivery of the project has significant potential to accelerate change, attract investment and achieve wider benefits for communities. The wider Clyde Coast, an iconic area rich in cultural heritage and natural assets, can be reimagined through collective efforts on regeneration in nearby coastal communities, such as Dunoon and Rothesay. The area’s accessibility by train and water means that it is an ideal location for low carbon tourism and leisure.
Aligning with the Clyde Mission, the Ayrshire Councils are working together through their Ayrshire Growth Deal and Community Wealth Building programme to build economic resilience and address unemployment, poverty and inequality across their area, with town centres at the heart of communities. This includes proposals for advanced manufacturing and aerospace engineering which will make use of the existing infrastructure and investment opportunities available at Glasgow and Prestwick airports. Glasgow is already a centre of expertise for manufacturing satellites and will benefit from the associated development of a network of spaceports across the country, whilst supporting wider industry and employment. The Ardeer peninsula is also a significant site for redevelopment of the wider Ayrshire area. Hunterston is a strategic asset with deepwater access, where there are plans for new economic development and employment uses. Development of the site will need to take account of future vulnerability to climate change. A planned marine centre at Ardrossan will provide further opportunities.
The Edinburgh City Region supports investment in significant clusters including the Bioquarter, Mid Fife, Dunfermline, Guardbridge St. Andrews, Galashiels, Cockenzie, Midlothian and the M8 corridor. A strategy for West Edinburgh is emerging which guides a wide range of uses to create a sustainable extension to the city, with added benefit from associated improvements to the quality of place of existing communities. Proposals focus on locating development on and around existing transport corridors and work is ongoing to improve accessibility including the Edinburgh tram extension. Further investment should take into account the impact of new development on potentially compounding existing capacity constraints and congestion, and prioritise sustainable choices.
As the highest single source of industrial emissions in Scotland, and a key part of our future resilience and manufacturing base, continued investment at Grangemouth, and the strategic sites it includes, will be required. Plans are emerging for innovative industry in the Falkirk/Grangemouth Investment Zone, building on the area’s strengths in chemicals and making the most of strategic assets including the port and rail connection. There is great potential, not only to reduce emissions at the Grangemouth complex, but also to grow the cluster into a hub of low carbon manufacturing that can help unlock wider decarbonisation across the country, with its strategic location, infrastructure, assets and skills base. Opportunities include renewable energy innovation, bioenergy hydrogen production with carbon capture and storage, and repurposing of existing strategic and critical infrastructure such as pipelines. The skills, knowledge and experience that is currently situated there for the petro-chemicals sector is a prime resource for the transition to net zero. This can form a focal point in a wider masterplan for Forth Valley that brings together opportunities for energy with the circular economy to support wider investment in green economic opportunities.
Coastal sites formerly used for baseload power generation – specifically Longannet and Cockenzie – benefit from existing assets and infrastructure that can be repurposed to form the basis of new proposals. At Cockenzie, work is ongoing to develop an opportunity for a Climate Evolution Zone to generate employment and provide essential infrastructure for net zero, linked with the potential to expand the new sustainable settlement at Blindwells, within the Greater Blindwells Development Area. There is scope to build on the strategic location and rail connectivity of Longannet to benefit local communities around this part of the Forth. There are further opportunities for a range of economic activities and investment in ports associated with a green economy at Montrose, Dundee, Rosyth, Burntisland, and Methil.
The Levenmouth rail link will reconnect Leven to the mainline rail network with new stations at Leven and Cameron Bridge by 2024 subject to consenting processes. This will enhance the communities it serves and contribute positively to the lives of people who live there by unlocking access to social, cultural, employment and educational opportunity.
The Tay Cities Region has a strong regional proposal for developing clusters of investment in research and innovation supporting a range of sectors in both urban and rural areas including life sciences, energy, digital, and food production. Perth is managing housing development in strategic development areas and transport infrastructure investment and the creation of a bus and rail interchange to support modal shift and establish a new gateway to the city. Work is underway to deliver local heat and energy networks, Perth West Regional Innovation Park and to make Perth the ‘Biodiversity Capital of Scotland’. Angus Council is progressing its Mercury Programme to support clean growth, low carbon transport and housing and agri tech which will contribute to future food security and reduce emissions. Key sites include Montrose Port, and the Angus Rural Mobility Hub in Brechin.
Stirling is bringing forward new opportunities for innovation and investment, building on the city’s strong heritage and supported by the area’s educational institutions. Within Forth Valley, a National Tartan Centre, the Canal corridor, the Frontiers of the Roman Empire: Antonine Wall World Heritage Site, Ochil Hills and Whisky Trail create a unique heritage offering which will support local employment and strengthen the area’s sense of place. Tourism is a key theme in the emerging regional economic strategy for the Forth Valley and both the Falkirk Growth Deal and Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal.
Key ports in this area can play a central role in supporting the expansion of renewable energy, in particular offshore wind energy. It will also be important to make use of the infrastructure to reduce road haulage and secure a more sustainable freight sector which directly links to international markets. There are opportunities for enhanced cruise facilities for the Forth, as well as the Clyde where Greenock Ocean Terminal, supported by the Glasgow City Region Deal, can build on its role as a key gateway. There may be opportunities to make use of harbour facilities to support the marine leisure industry.
Development of ports on the Firth of Forth will also need to take account of the potential for a substantial increase in freight and passenger traffic between Scotland and continental Europe, linked to the Scottish Government’s objective that Scotland should accede to the EU as an independent Member State at the earliest possible opportunity.
This area broadly includes Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders, South and East Ayrshires, South Lanarkshire in the west, with links to the Lothians towards the east.
To deliver sustainable places, Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Plans in this area should p rotect environmental assets and stimulate investment in natural and engineered solutions to climate change and nature restoration, whilst decarbonising transport and building resilient physical and digital connections.
This area’s forests and woodland are a nationally significant asset and its extensive peatland will need to support carbon storage and sequestration. The Borderlands Natural Capital Programme will develop trials and sector strategies to restore biodiversity, build resilience and make the most of the area’s natural assets to support climate change mitigation and adaptation. This will build on the successes of a range of nature restoration projects in the area, such as the Carrifran Wildwoods project.
The UNESCO Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere is a crucial environmental asset which can contribute to the area’s future sustainability, liveability and productivity. The South of Scotland Regional Land Use Pilot is providing significant opportunity to work with landowners, landed interests and others to look at the multi-benefits from land use and to maximise natural capital opportunities.
The South of Scotland is an important centre for renewable energy generation. Proposals for consolidating and extending existing wind farms and associated grid improvements and supply chain opportunities will require a carefully planned approach. The Solway Firth has significant potential for renewable energy generation in the future, but development will require careful planning given the sensitivity of the environment and its international importance for nature conservation.
The area’s low carbon future will depend on supporting modal shift and reducing car use, given current dependence on the car and need to improve access to services, education and employment. Low emissions vehicles will only go some of the way towards addressing future challenges. Enhancing public transport and improving connectivity between communities in the east and west will help to support thriving and distinct communities.
Public transport, including the bus network, will play an important role in decarbonisation and developing innovative solutions and linkages to the rail system. Active travel should be supported with wheeling, walking and cycling within and between towns and other communities linked to strategic routes for residents and visitors. This is important not only for local sustainability but also as a strategic attraction to take advantage of major outdoor recreation opportunities.
There is also a need to secure better digital links to unlock the potential of rural living and home or hub working. The Borderlands Digital Infrastructure Programme will play a key role in supporting connectivity and responding to future technology and innovation.
To deliver liveable places, Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Plans in this area should increase the population by improving local liveability, creating a low carbon network of towns and supporting sustainable rural development.
Quality of life for people living in the area will depend on the network of settlements in the future and existing communities should form the basis of a tailored response to the local living concept. Town centres can be strengthened as they recover from the pandemic. New measures to build resilience to climate change will be required including flood risk management in key settlements.
Housing provision will play a key role in supporting the area’s aspirations for economic development as well as in maintaining and growing a working age population. Decarbonisation of existing homes will be required, as well as a strategic approach to rolling out electric vehicle charging. Communities themselves will have a critical role to play in shaping their future development.
The area is already investing in regenerating and future proofing its towns and wider communities. The Stranraer Gateway Project is an opportunity to consolidate and bring new impetus to regenerate this strategically located settlement. Plans include expansion of the marina, supported by the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, and low carbon heating can be incorporated as part of the transformation of the wider town. Nearby Cairnryan is a crucial gateway to Scotland, with a need to make best use of existing connections.
Regeneration innovation extends across the area. The HALO Kilmarnock project focuses on the reuse of vacant industrial land to create a low carbon community urban village, acting as an exemplar for innovative transformation of future places. The Ayrshire Manufacturing Investment Corridor project supports the economic generation of Kilmarnock and the wider region, whilst the CoRE (Community Renewable Energy) project in Cumnock seeks to explore, develop and provide solutions to energy supply and storage challenges in urban and non-urban areas, and to help in the development of a new, more flexible energy grid to complement existing power systems.
To deliver productive places, Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Plans in this area should support local economic development whilst making sustainable use of the area’s world-class environmental assets to innovate and lead greener growth.
The future sustainability of the area will depend on the creation of high quality and green jobs for local people. The local economy will need to diversify from its focus on land based industries (agriculture and forestry), to sustain a wider range of businesses and jobs. An emphasis on community wealth building will help to reduce dependence on public sector employment and a relatively low wage economy associated with rural and primary sectors.
The current approach to investment focuses on strategic growth corridors linking economic hubs with transport routes. Whilst the strategic road network is an asset and contributes to the area’s connections north and south, a long-term strategy will require innovation and fresh thinking to ensure that future growth reflects our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing inequality.
The future growth of the east of the area aims to consolidate existing settlements, capitalise on the strong sense of place of its towns and ensure accessibility by locating new development close to the Borders Rail Line. The Borderlands Place Programme, Borderlands Natural Capital Project, future Regional Land Use Partnerships and other strategic initiatives can support an integrated approach to protecting and restoring the area’s natural assets, enhancing the built environment and achieving a greener, fairer and more inclusive wellbeing economy across the area.
Employment opportunities can support population growth, help to retain more young people and transition the area away from its current dependence on low wage sectors. New ways of working, including remote working could attract more people to live here, supporting the economy and sustaining local services and facilities. This will also benefit from continued support for local skills development and centres of further and higher education including the Galashiels campus of Heriot Watt University and Glasgow University at the Crichton Campus, Dumfries.
Significant investment sites include the former nuclear power station at Chapelcross which benefits from existing grid connections and is an opportunity to repurpose the land by establishing a green energy park that contributes to national ambitions and innovation. Low carbon accessibility will be a key challenge, as the site is remote from Annan and not served by public transport. Providing access to wider markets, the port at Cairnryan could create further strategic growth opportunities. The expansion of Tweedbank and an inclusive approach to economic development in the Central Borders and Tweeddale are also strategic opportunities.
The area has aspirations to become a prime outdoor recreation and green tourism destination. Key projects include the South West Coastal Path, and projects supported by the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal; the Mountain Biking Innovation Centre at Innerleithen, updating the cycling experience and facilities at some of the 7stanes sites, and Destination Tweed which will deliver a multi-user path and cycle route from Moffat to Berwick upon Tweed. More could be made of the area’s border location and attractions to ensure visitors make better use of local services and support the economy and communities.
The west of the area has a close relationship, and strategic connection to, Northern Ireland and Ireland via Cairnryan, as well as across the English border to Carlisle and onwards to European markets. The connection to Northern Ireland and Ireland is already a focus for freight movements as a result of EU Exit.
In the east, the Scottish Borders has a role to play as part of the Edinburgh City Region, with the Borders Railway opening up new sites for sustainable development towards the north, and the south sustaining rural industries. Work is ongoing to assess the feasibility of extending the Borders Railway from Tweedbank to Carlisle.
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