National Planning Framework 4 - improving air quality outcomes: research

Research findings on improving air quality outcomes that will help inform policy development for National Planning Framework 4.

5. Conclusions and Recommendations

Stage 1

5.1 Stage 1 mainly focused on the representation of air quality within Scottish LDPs and how this related to SPP and LAQM. Air quality specific policies present within the LDPs were analysed in detail to identify common language and statements and judge how well they integrated with other policy areas. In addition, the air quality SG published in Scotland were reviewed in relation to the recommendations of the CAFS review and the Planning (Scotland) Act provisions.

5.2 Conclusions from Stage 1 included the following:

  • Linkages between air quality and other related topic areas should be made within NPF4, where possible, to promote integration of topic areas at the national level and the local, LDP level; and
  • NPF4 has the opportunity to provide a sufficiently prescriptive air quality specific policy, removing the need for Local Planning Authorities to develop, within their respective LDP, detailed air quality specific policies unless necessary due to local factors.

Stage 2

5.3 Stage 2 investigated approaches to air quality within planning in the UK and Europe. Where applicable, comparisons were made with the approaches identified in Scotland as part of Stage 1.

5.4 Conclusions from Stage 2 include the following:

  • The linkages between LDP and LAQM could be further realised and established by NPF4, for example; mentioning AQMAs could help provide consistently in their management within policy across Scotland; 
  • NICE and PHE publication on air quality and planning reiterate the need for an integrated approach to spatial planning to improve the air quality outcomes of planning policy;
  • There is currently a number of European initiatives and resources to support integrated spatial planning for urban areas where air quality issues are the greatest. These are better considered at LDP level for urban Local Planning Authorities rather than incorporated within NPF4; and 
  • The use of Air Quality and Planning guidance could be formally recognised at LDP level. NPF4 is an overarching planning policy and reference to specific guidance documents is not suitable considering that these can be updated more regularly than NPF4. Reference to ‘approved guidance/tools published by the Scottish Government’ is considered more appropriate. This would support the Planning (Scotland) Act provisions to remove the need for SG and streamline the approach to best practice across Scotland.

Stage 3

5.5 Stage 3 aimed to further develop the conclusions of the research project by utilising the practical experience of air quality and planning in Scotland. A set of  potential survey questions which could be included in a survey for Environmental Health Officers and Planning Officers in Scotland were produced. The survey would be aimed at professionals who work in the fields of air quality and planning and deal with the interactions between the two, e.g. Environmental Health Officers and Planners in Scotland.

5.6 The survey questions are based on the set of conclusions and best practice examples identified in Stages 1 and 2, with the aim of interrogating, strengthening and evidencing them further. The overarching aim of the survey would be to gain an understanding from professionals about the interaction of air quality and planning in Scotland and inform the focus of NPF4 in terms of air quality and development planning.

Final Conclusions

5.7 The research project investigated ways to improve the air quality outcomes of the anticipated NPF4. It reviewed current approaches within planning in Scotland in regards to air quality, identified best practice examples from the UK as well as European examples. The review identified that the most effective policy measures to improve the air quality outcomes of the NPF4 involve a prescriptive air quality specific policy detailing the approach to assessments as well as integrated policy measures with other policy areas such as transport and placemaking. 



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