Planning Advice Note 51: planning, environmental protection and regulation

Planning Advice Note (PAN) 51, (revised in 2006) supports the existing policy on the role of the planning system in relation to the environmental protection regimes.


Planning and Environmental Protection

5. Planning legislation provides for a co-ordinated approach to improving the quality of the built environment and safeguarding the natural environment, as set out in the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 and the related Statutory Instruments. The changes proposed in the Planning Bill are not expected to significantly alter the relationship between planning and environmental protection as set out in this PAN but some of the proposed measures have the potential to improve the interaction between the two systems in terms of efficiency and outcome in line with the recommendations of the ERM Research above. For environmental protection the important Acts and Regulations cover air pollution and integrated pollution control, activities liable to cause or pose a risk to the water environment, including abstraction of water, the impoundment of water in surface waters or wetlands, discharges to the water environment and river engineering works in or near to inland waters. The important provisions within this legislation and their main effects are set out below in paragraphs 14-31 under Scottish Environmental Protection Legislation, with the exception of the waste regulations which will be considered separately in SPP 10: Planning and Waste Management.

Sustainable Development

6. Since the 1980s, concern for environmental protection, health and economic development has increasingly been interpreted through the concept of sustainable development. The Government approach has been set out in various documents such as This Common Inheritance. Scotland's present position is set out in the Sustainable Development Strategy, Choosing our Future , December 2005, which establishes measures that will be taken to turn the UK framework for sustainable development into action. It sets the context for a number of the Executive's new and emerging strategies on climate change, ( Changing our Ways, Scotland's Climate Change Programme, March 2006), transport, renewable energy, energy efficiency, green jobs and biodiversity, all of which have land use implications. It affords particular priority to sustainable consumption and production; climate change and energy; natural resource protection and environmental enhancement; and sustainable communities. The basic principles are set out in the box below.

The UK Shared Framework: sets out the following principles for sustainable development:

  • Living within environmental limits;
  • Ensuring a strong, healthy and just society;
  • Achieving a sustainable economy including ensuring environmental and social costs fall on those who impose them, (The Polluter Pays);
  • Promoting good governance; and
  • Using sound science responsibly, including consideration of the Precautionary Principle.

Choosing Our Future: Scotland's Sustainable Development Strategy-2005

7. Choosing Our Future explains the application of the precautionary principle to manage risk where there is scientific uncertainty (paragraph 9.22). It says that reasonable measures to prevent a serious or irreversible threat to health or the environment should not be postponed solely because we lack full scientific certainty about the threat itself, and that measures should however be proportionate and cost effective. Within that context, its application in planning should include consideration of:

  • the potential benefits of the development;
  • the role of the planning system in the control of siting and design; and
  • the role of other legislation in the control of emissions or pollutants.

The principle applies particularly where there are good grounds for judging either that action taken promptly at comparatively low cost may avoid more costly damage later or that irreversible effects may follow if action is delayed.

8. SPP1 establishes the need for the planning system to encourage sustainable development and the commitment is reinforced in the Planning Bill. Additionally Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency ( SEPA) have been given guidance on the contribution that their environmental protection responsibilities should make to sustainable development.

Environmental Pollution

9. Pollution of the environment is generally "due to the release (into any environmental medium) from any process of substances which are capable of causing harm to man or to any other living organisms supported by the environment", (Environmental Protection Act 1990, Part I Section 1(3)). There are separate definitions of pollution relating to waste in Part 11 of the Act and water in Section 20 of the WEWS Act. Pollution may also occur naturally, for example, the release of radon, a gaseous element emitted from some rocks which, beyond a certain threshold concentration, can be classed as a pollutant.

10. Historically, pollution control authorities focused largely on tackling the problems of point source pollution such as that arising from outfalls or chimneys. More recently, and as many of the major point sources of pollution have been addressed, there has been a growing awareness of the effects of non-point source or 'diffuse' pollution such as that arising from rainwater run-off from roads, industrial and residential areas, or certain agricultural practices. Sustainable drainage systems ( SUDS) are a means of addressing this issue and further advice is given in PAN 61.



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