Scotland 2045: fourth National Planning Framework - draft: integrated impact assessment - environmental report

Environmental report setting out the findings of the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) undertaken to inform preparation of Scotland's draft National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4).

6.0 Strategic Cumulative Effects

6.1 Introduction

6.1.1 This section brings together the assessment of the draft NPF4 spatial strategy, proposed national developments and draft national planning policies. It considers each of the SEA topics, and identifies the likely significant cumulative effects arising for each.

6.2 Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

6.2.1 The draft NPF4 would establish climate change and nature recovery as primary guiding principles for all plans and decisions, and the emphasis on protecting and enhancing biodiversity is expected to lead to significant long term cumulative positive effects on biodiversity, flora and fauna, including through new universal policies on enhancing biodiversity.

6.2.2 Draft policies and proposals which support the creation of woodland and nature networks, and promote nature-based solutions and blue and green infrastructure are also likely to have long-term significant cumulative positive effects on biodiversity. Secondary benefits for climatic factors can also arise, for example policies supporting woodland expansion leading to increased carbon sequestration. Nature based solutions can also have secondary benefits where these support adaptation to climate change through improved resistance to flooding, and can help to buffer water courses against diffuse pollution.

6.2.3 The draft NPF4 also highlights the need to align onshore development with national and regional marine plans in order to protect and enhance coastal and marine environments, while unlocking the potential of coastal assets.

6.2.4 Where biodiversity is protected and enhanced, secondary benefits will arise on air quality, climatic factors, water, soils and, population and human health due to the interrelationships with these topics.

6.3 Climatic Factors

6.3.1 Cumulatively, the draft policies and proposals set out in the draft NPF4 are expected to have significant long term positive effects on climatic factors, contributing to reduced GHG emissions, and helping facilitate a transition to net zero. By embedding consideration of actions to increase community and infrastructure resilience to extreme weather events within decision making processes, the policies and proposals can also support adaptation to climate change.

6.3.2 The lifecycle GHG assessment of the proposed national developments found that overall, the greatest contributions to sectoral emission reductions are likely to be in terms of electricity and, to a lesser extent, transport. While the industrial, manufacture and construction processes sector is likely to experience the largest increase in direct emissions, this will enable direct and indirect emission reductions across other sectors.


6.3.3 The draft policies and proposals relevant to transport are expected to have significant positive cumulative effects for climatic factors through support for the decarbonisation of the transport sector, for example where new infrastructure supports low carbon travel options and policies encourage active travel and uptake of public transport. This will also lead to benefits for air quality, with associated benefits for biodiversity and human health.


6.3.4 Draft policies and proposals relevant to the electricity sector are expected to have cumulative significant positive effects in relation to climatic factors through support for the decarbonisation of electricity generation, including through new technologies such as hydrogen and electricity storage and by actively supporting the roll out of renewable energy developments. Greater uptake of a diverse mix of technologies will benefit material assets due to improved flexibility and security of supply.

6.3.5 The majority of relevant national development proposals are likely to result in a minor increase in demand for electricity with potential for minor negative effects at a project level. This is likely to be balanced by positive direct effects from a number of developments which support low carbon or renewable electricity production at varying scales, including projects with large scale or national impact over a long time period.

Buildings (heat)

6.3.6 Draft policies and proposals relevant to energy efficiency and infrastructure to support low carbon heat are expected to have positive cumulative impacts on emissions reduction.

Industrial, Manufacture and Construction Processes

6.3.7 Draft policies and proposals within the industrial sector are expected to have positive cumulative effects on emissions reduction through support for low-carbon industry which may reduce emissions at scale.

6.3.8 Direct effects on GHG emissions related to industrial, manufacture and construction processes are typically negative across the proposed national developments, reflecting the carbon intensity of materials required for the construction and maintenance of the proposed developments, and their scale.

6.3.9 Positive indirect effects are identified for those developments that enable the production of low carbon fuel for use in industrial, manufacture and construction processes.


6.3.10 Draft policies and proposals are expected to have significant long term positive effects in relation to waste as they reflect the waste hierarchy and facilitate the delivery of new infrastructure required to achieve this.

6.3.11 Direct negative effects on emissions from waste largely relate to the potential for increased waste generation from new developments, however this is likely to be minor in scale. Positive direct effects on emissions are identified from the circular economy materials management national development proposal.

Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)

6.3.12 The proposed national developments are likely to result in a net positive effect on emissions from this sector.

6.3.13 Draft policies and proposals which support peatland restoration and increased woodland and forestry, can increase carbon sequestration and contribute to meeting emission reduction targets.

Negative Emissions Technologies (NETs)

6.3.14 Draft policies and proposals which support Negative Emissions Technologies (NETS) are likely to achieve direct emission reductions and result in a net positive effect on emissions.

6.4 Air

6.4.1 Draft policies and proposals which reduce emissions overall are likely to have cumulative positive effects on air quality. In addition to effects on ecosystems, air pollution is a human health issue, which can impact on the more vulnerable members of society making air quality an important health inequalities issue. Measures to improve air quality can therefore have cumulative secondary benefits on biodiversity and population and human health. This could be of particular relevance in areas where air quality issues currently arise.

6.4.2 Negative impacts on noise and air quality, including dust and odour, may arise during construction of the national developments. These will be temporary and localised in nature, and will be managed at project level.

6.5 Water

6.5.1 The overall focus on climate change and climate change adaptation will have cumulative positive effects on water through increased focus on flood risk, water scarcity and coastal erosion. Secondary benefits to biodiversity may arise where nature based solutions to flood risk management are implemented. Secondary benefits on material assets may also arise where policies and proposals lead to improved water supply and waste-water systems.

6.5.2 Draft policies which aim to expand woodland cover and protect existing woodland and which support peatland restoration can lead to secondary benefits for water where woodland helps to intercept and filter pollutants and provides natural flood management measures.

6.5.3 Proposals for waterfront developments and new development at ports and harbours may negatively impact water during construction and operational phases, and will require managed at project level.

6.6 Soils

6.6.1 Several aspects of the draft NPF4 are likely to have positive cumulative benefits for soils, for example, where draft policies seek to protect peat and carbon-rich soils. Proposals relating to woodland expansion and green infrastructure can help improve soil stability and drainage, and can help to create a sense of place. Positive cumulative effects on soils are also expected from the emphasis on the reuse of derelict and vacant land, with secondary positive impacts on water quality.

6.6.2 There is potential for negative effects on soils arising from some of the proposed national developments, which will require management at plan and project consenting stages.

6.7 Cultural Heritage and Historic Environment

6.7.1 Significant positive cumulative effects on cultural heritage are expected, given the emphasis within the draft NPF4 on protecting and enhancing locally, regionally, nationally and internationally valued historic assets and places. Draft policies and proposals relating to woodland expansion and green infrastructure may act to improve the setting of historic assets. The emphasis within NPF4 on reusing vacant buildings may create opportunities to bring buildings at risk back into use.

6.7.2 There is potential for negative effects arising including from some national development proposals and, which will require managed at plan and project consenting stages.

6.8 Landscape and Geodiversity

6.8.1 There is potential for some of the proposed national developments and draft policies to result in negative effects on landscapes and careful consideration will be required at plan and project consenting stages.

6.8.2 Initiatives such as the Central Scotland Green Network and national walking and cycling routes provide opportunities to protect and enhance townscapes and landscapes and to increase experience and enjoyment of these. Draft policies which lead to increased woodland and forestry have potential to improve landscape character, depending on the scale and nature of change. Furthermore, support for peatland protection and restoration also has the potential to benefit some iconic and culturally significant landscapes.

6.9 Material assets

6.9.1 The focus on an infrastructure first approach within the draft NPF4 can ensure that places function effectively and development improves, rather than detracts from quality of life. Promoting greater coordination of infrastructure works and planning, at both the regional and local scales, can minimise the potential for negative indirect and cumulative effects, for example through reduced disturbance during construction stages, and through reduced fragmentation of green infrastructure and nature networks.

6.9.2 An increase in development, for example housing or renewable energy, could lead to increased pressures on existing land uses. However, the potential for such conflicts would remain key considerations in the planning system, particularly through development plans where key decisions on sites and delivery are made. The potential for environmental impacts will continue to be considered through SEA and HRA of development plans, as well as through the development management process at individual project level.

6.9.3 Infrastructure can play an important role in facilitating the delivery of multiple benefits. For example, benefits to human health and well-being may arise where the roll out of digital infrastructure supports greater digital connectivity, and the provision of well-designed green infrastructure can help to promote active travel, assist in flood management, and support biodiversity. Alignment of development and community planning, alongside streamlined development planning could help identify opportunities such as these and provide an indication of suitable locations for potential deployment; particularly if these changes result in a greater focus on spatial planning at the local level.

6.10 Population and Human Health

6.10.1 The draft policies and proposals have potential to give rise to significant benefits for population and human health.

6.10.2 Health and wellbeing benefits may arise where policies and certain proposed national developments lead to more people walking, wheeling and cycling. Increased physical activity, improved access to the outdoors, education, facilities and services, and quality local green spaces, are also likely to have long term significant positive effects on physical and mental health. Positive impacts could also arise from improved sense of place including societal benefits. Benefits can be maximised where a focus is given to areas experiencing current levels of disadvantage.

6.10.3 Wider benefits should arise through a focus on blue/green networks and on the role of natural infrastructure as a natural solution to flood management, including where this improves local landscape and sense of place. The reuse of existing assets and remediation of vacant and derelict land also has the potential to be beneficial by reducing adverse environmental and social impacts including on nearby communities.



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