Scotland 2045: fourth National Planning Framework - draft: partial business and regulatory impact assessment

This report considers the likely cost and benefits to businesses and the third sector of introducing the draft National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4).

Draft National Planning Framework 4

Spatial strategy

36. Draft NPF4 recognises that no single policy or development will achieve the changes that are needed on their own to deliver sustainable, liveable, productive and distinctive places. The spatial strategy aims to ensure that, as a nation, we make the right choices about where development should be located. To build a climate-conscious and nature-rich future for Scotland's people our strategy is based on six principles:

Compact growth. We will limit urban expansion where brownfield, vacant and derelict land and buildings can be used more efficiently. This will safeguard land to provide the services and resources we will need in the future, including carbon storage, flood risk management, green infrastructure and biodiversity. By increasing the density of settlements we will reduce the need to travel unsustainably and strengthen local living.

Local living. We will create networks of 20 minute neighbourhoods to support local liveability, reduce the need to travel unsustainably, promote and facilitate walking and cycling, improve access to services, decentralise energy networks and build local circular economies. As an integral part of this, cleaner, safer and greener places and improved open spaces will build resilience and provide wider benefits for people, health and biodiversity, in a balanced way. Virtual connectivity and active travel links will also be important.

Balanced development. We want to support development across Scotland so people have more choice about where they live, learn and work. This will create opportunities for communities in areas of decline, and manage development more sustainably in areas of high demand. In particular, we wish to enable more people to live and remain in rural and island areas, and to actively transform areas of past decline so that we can make best use of our assets.

Conserving and recycling assets. Scotland has many strengths and each place should be planned in a way that works with its distinctive character and identity. We will protect and enhance the assets of each of our places, leaving a positive legacy for future generations. Our focus is on making productive use of existing buildings, places, infrastructure and services, locking in embedded carbon and minimising waste, and supporting Scotland's transition to a circular economy. This includes nationally significant sites for investment which are well served by existing infrastructure and sustainable travel modes, and excellent propositions for redevelopment across urban and rural Scotland and the islands.

Urban and rural synergy. Scotland's urban and rural and island areas, and all of the places in between, can work together and share learning and innovation to achieve better places. Our strategy is for Scotland as whole, bringing together the contributions of our cities, towns, villages and countryside areas to achieve shared objectives. As part of this, we will improve green infrastructure to bring nature into our towns and cities, connecting people with nature, building resilience and helping our biodiversity to recover and flourish.

Just transition. Meeting our climate ambition will require a rapid transformation across all sectors of our economy and society. We must ensure that, as we reduce our emissions and respond to a changing climate, that journey is fair and creates a better future for everyone – regardless of where they live, what they do, and who they are. The pandemic has demonstrated the capacity of our communities to work together and find their own local solutions to shared challenges. Our strategy builds on this, to ensure local people are more able to shape their places and transition to net zero and environmentally sustainable ways of living.

37. The draft NPF4 acknowledges that each part of Scotland can make a unique contribution to building a better future. We have applied the above principles to shape and guide every part of Scotland's distinctive response to climate change, people, work and place in recognition that Scotland's regions, working together, will play a key role in taking forward this strategy. Throughout Scotland, places are coming together to develop Regional Economic Strategies underpinning city and regional growth deals, Regional Economic Partnerships, Regional Land Use Partnerships, and to provide regional input to the Strategic Transport Projects Review 2. Building on this, and by guiding future Regional Spatial Strategies, we will encourage:

  • North and west coastal innovation (broadly comprising Shetland, Orkney, the Western Isles, along with the north and north west mainland coastline of Highland and Argyll and Bute) – making sustainable use of our coasts and islands to sustain communities and pioneer investment in the blue economy.
  • Northern revitalisation (includes Highland Council with parts of Argyll, Moray and much of the national parks) – growing low carbon rural communities, capitalising on digital innovation and making the most of exceptional natural and cultural heritage.
  • North east transition – (including Aberdeen City and Shire and extending to Moray and south towards the Tay Cities Region) actively planning a just transition from oil and gas to a net zero future.
  • Central urban transformation – (including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth, Dundee and Stirling cities and their regions, as well as the Ayrshire Councils) transforming and pioneering a new era of low carbon urban living.; and
  • Southern sustainability – (focusing on Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders) creating connected, liveable places which benefit from further investment and innovation.

38. The spatial strategy set out in draft NPF4 builds on the output from the work we have undertaken with local authorities, identifying their regional priorities from work on indicative regional spatial strategies.

National developments

39. National Developments are identified in draft NPF4 to help deliver the long term spatial plan. Essentially they are nationally significant developments that Ministers consider to be needed in the future. Designation means that the principle of need for a development does not need to be debated in later consenting processes, providing a level of certainty for investors, businesses and communities. National developments can be single, large scale projects, or collections and networks of several smaller scale proposals.

40. During our 2020 Call for Ideas Engagement Programme, we invited suggestions for national developments. We received over 250 submissions from individuals, businesses and within the Scottish Government. Proposals were assessed against the following criteria:

  • Climate change – the development will help to reduce emissions, contributing to Scotland's target of net zero emissions by 2045, will be emission neutral, or emissions negative;
  • People – the development will support the health, wellbeing, sustainability, and quality of life of our current and future population;
  • Inclusive growth – the development will contribute to sustainable economic growth that helps to reduce poverty and inequality across Scotland; and
  • Place – the development will protect or enhance the quality of a place or improve biodiversity.

41. Consideration was also given to whether proposals included development requiring planning consent and their potential fit with the emerging policy objectives and spatial strategy in draft NPF4.

42. Eighteen national developments are proposed in the draft NPF4 to support the delivery of the spatial strategy. These national developments range from single large scale projects to collections and networks of several smaller scale proposals. They are also intended to act as exemplars of the place principle and placemaking approaches.

National planning policies

43. Draft NPF4 will include, for the first time, national planning policies that will form part of the development plan and will therefore have greater influence when determining planning applications. The policies build on the current Scottish Planning Policy 2014 (SPP) and local development plans, although there are a number of new policies/shifts to reflect current Scottish Government priorities. There are 6 universal policies that are cross-cutting and apply, where relevant and appropriate, to all development proposals. They will help to ensure that our future places and buildings are planned, designed and delivered in a sustainable way. There are also 25 "subject" policies that are intended to ensure the planning system delivers wider Scottish Government policy in specific areas that have a land use element.


44. The call for ideas and public consultation on the Position Statement attracted significant comments from both business representative bodies and individual companies. The Scottish Government has also engaged individually with a range of business interests as part of the policy development process. The comments received almost exclusively focussed on how policies could be developed so that the high level outcomes in the Position Statement could be achieved, including the contribution that specific business sectors could make.

45. Earlier consultations invited comments from respondents on the proposed IIA preparation process, including issues that should be included in this BRIA. There were no specific comments from industry about the likely costs and benefits on the preparation of draft NPF4. This may have been due to the early stage of policy development at the time of consultations, although it is generally indicative of past consultations where industry will prioritise commenting on specific policy issues rather than focussing on the specific costs and benefits that changes of policy will have on the sector.


Option 1: No change

46. The amended Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 requires the Scottish Ministers to review or revise the NPF by 23 June 2024. This approach would require the Scottish Ministers to publish an explanation of why they have decided not to revise the NPF. In practice, Scotland's third NPF and the existing SPP, which were published in June 2014, would remain in place.

Option 2: The Government's preferred strategy

47. NPF4 will be a long term plan looking to 2045. It will guide spatial development, set out our national planning policies, designate national developments and highlight regional spatial priorities. It will be part of the development plan, and so influence decisions on planning applications across Scotland.

48. The Scottish Government's Programme for Government highlights the role of NPF4 in accelerating emissions reduction and responding to COVID-19. This will be done as part of a cohesive plan to update existing strategies, policies and the national developments needed to ensure that the planning system effectively contributes to the delivery of wider policies around issues such as climate change; biodiversity; infrastructure; population change; health and wellbeing; good quality homes and the green economic recovery.

Option 3: Non-regulatory options

49. The preparation of NPF4 is a statutory requirement. Recent changes to planning legislation will give it an enhanced status as part of the statutory development plan which informs planning decision making in each planning authority area. Any alternative strategy used to deliver national policies would not have the same status and influence that the NPF4 seeks to exert and would likely need to be brought forward in a piecemeal way as the Scottish Government seeks to ensure that the planning system is changed to deliver wider policy priorities.



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