NPF4 call for ideas: analysis of responses

Independent analysis of responses to the call for ideas to inform the preparation of a new National Planning Framework (NPF), launched in January 2020.

Culture and the arts

Proposed key objective of NPF4: To recognise and support the contribution of cultural activities to individual, community and national wellbeing and prosperity, including the protection of existing culture and live music venues by ensuring that applications for new developments include sufficient measures to mitigate, minimise or mange any noise so that existing users do not have restrictions placed on them as a result of development permitted after they were established.

Respondents referred to the current social, civic and economic benefits of culture and the arts, with the Culture Strategy for Scotland[6] cited as a pointer to wider policy outcomes for culture and the arts. It was reported that it confirms the role culture and the arts can play in improving individual mental health, general wellbeing, self-confidence and resilience. With respect to planning policy, it was suggested that this can support cultural activities in less affluent areas, including creating opportunities for connection for people of all ages.

The current contribution to the economy of cultural activities was highlighted, as was the potential for further economic growth. The importance of the built environment and infrastructure was noted, especially as some venues are themselves heritage assets. It was also noted that spaces that facilitate high-quality cultural activities will be increasingly important for communities if remote working becomes more prevalent. It was suggested that NPF4 can offer support for local arts and culture that will also help sustain town centres as the retail market changes.

There was support for the Agent of Change principle and protection for venues from the threats posed by commercial development, including residential house building. One respondent commented that guidance and greater definition would be helpful. Another suggested that new venues do not need a stand-alone policy, as the issues covered by the principle are already addressed in current planning policy and taking into account the financial impact for culture and arts venues could make it difficult not to apply this to other developments. There was also a view that the current policy principles for the historic environment should be retained as these refer to cultural landscape and cultural identity.

In relation to issues for rural areas, arts and cultural activities were seen as creating an overall sense of place, in addition to attracting tourists. It was suggested that engagement in culture activity was especially useful in helping people combat loneliness and isolation in rural locations, for example through providing opportunities to volunteer. There was also an observation that in rural and remote communities there is a greater likelihood of culture/arts, health and other community facilities being co-located, supporting the wider needs of the population.

Specific proposals for NPF4 included:

  • NPF4 should include policy specifically supporting and promoting the arts and culture within planning policy and decision-making. This could include the Agent of Change principle and translate what is within the 2019 Act into policy; equally an Agent of Change policy could be discussed within wider design content.
  • Culture should be embedded within national and local planning policy, as it contributes to sustainable economies and the overall health and wellbeing of the community, but LDPs should have the flexibility to respond to local circumstances. Other views were that cultural provision should be a duty for councils in their LDPs or must at least be considered when drafting LDPs and other local planning policies covering housing and other infrastructure.
  • NPF4 and the vision and ambitions of the Scottish Government's Culture Strategy should be aligned, with culture seen as central to wider public policy outcomes and considered at the early planning stages of service provision.
  • The provision of cultural facilities should be a key driver of town and community planning policy and development, to support wellbeing, increase economic activity, repurpose vacant spaces and to strengthen town centres.
  • Planning policies on wellbeing should include cultural wellbeing, alongside physical and social wellbeing, especially when considering smaller towns and more rural communities.



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