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).

Costs and Benefits

Option 1: No change

59. The benefits to businesses of this option is that they would continue to work to existing arrangements. There would be no direct additional costs, although national planning policies would become outdated and not reflect current national priorities around e.g. climate change and biodiversity, leading to possible uncertainty and delays around the preparation of development plans and making decisions on planning applications. Such uncertainties would likely have significant impacts on businesses and could lead to incurring greater costs associated with bringing forward proposals in such an uncertain climate. There is likely to be continuing complexity and resource requirements arising from some existing policies, including the approach to housing in SPP (2014) which has generated extensive debate and litigation.

Option 2: The Government's preferred strategy

60. At the highest level, NPF4 will provide certainty to developers on the issues that they will need to address when developing their planning proposals. The national planning policies will apply across Scotland and are intended to replace the different policies that are put in place by individual planning authorities. This will provide greater certainty for businesses, and other stakeholders, on the issues that must be addressed by specific proposals regardless of where they are located. This should result in cost savings arising as a result of not having to engage with different local authorities on different policies and also free up resources for local authorities to bring forward development plans that primarily focus on the spatial issues within their areas.

61. Draft NPF4 includes six universal policies that should be applied, where relevant, to all planning decisions. These policies relate to:

  • a plan-led approach to sustainable development;
  • the climate emergency;
  • nature crisis;
  • human rights and equality;
  • community wealth building; and
  • design, quality and place.

62. The principles behind some of these policies are carried forward from existing SPP although they have been adapted to ensure that they better reflect updated policy priorities. They introduce a number of new requirements that are likely to have cost implications for businesses. This includes enhanced requirements for reducing carbon emissions, conserving and enhancing biodiversity and contributing to community wealth building. In the interest of proportionality, it is likely that many of these requirements can be aligned with existing assessment requirements.

63. There are an additional 25 "subject" policies that set out the issues that should be addressed by development proposals. Again, the policy areas generally reflect the national policy position set out in SPP and are intended to ensure that proposals take into account wider Scottish Government policy objectives and satisfactorily address impacts on local communities and the environment. The policies have been drafted in a way that can be better applied to development management decision making and, in doing so, have been updated to ensure that they fully reflect national policy priorities.

64. There are significant changes proposed throughout the development management policies in the draft NPF4. These are intended to ensure that future development contributes to the Scottish Government's objectives of creating sustainable, liveable, productive and distinctive places.

65. A fuller analysis of the likely benefits and costs of specific policies is provided in the table at Appendix B.

66. The Scottish Government is keen to ensure that careful consideration is given to the impacts that the draft NPF4 will have on businesses so that the Framework can be finalised with a sound understanding of what these impacts are. It has therefore been decided that a tailored approach to inviting views on the preparation of the BRIA is needed. A questionnaire will be sent to the representative bodies of those industries most directly affected by the proposals in the draft NPF4 for onward transmission to their member organisations. The questionnaire will also be sent to key agencies, local authorities and third sector bodies. It will ask for information on the current costs of engaging with the planning system and views on the possible impacts of the proposals (both individually and cumulatively) in draft NPF4 on those costs. Responses to the questionnaire will be reflected in the final BRIA.

67. The questionnaire will be issued shortly after the publication of draft NPF4. Stakeholders wishing to ensure that they receive a copy of the questionnaire directly should confirm the necessary contact details by e-mailing

68. Comments can also be made by completing Question 70 of the consultation on the draft NPF4 and these will also be taken into account when preparing the final BRIA.

69. The developments which Scottish Ministers propose to designate as national developments are considered to be essential to the delivery of the spatial strategy which will be set out in NPF4. Whilst national developments will still require to secure planning permission and other relevant consents, Scottish Ministers may intervene at any stage of the process to ensure that decisions are made expeditiously.

70. Designation in the draft NPF4 is the mechanism for establishing the need for these developments. Any subsequent examination will therefore be concerned with matters such as siting, design and the mitigation of environmental impacts, not the principle of the development.

71. National development status has a statutory implication for those developments required to be consented under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, the Transport and Works (Scotland) Act 2007, the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 as amended, and the Harbours Act 1964 as amended. Developments consented under the Transport and Works Act, the Roads Act, or the Harbours Act, which are also designated national developments, require to be considered by the Scottish Parliament. Promotion of road schemes is through the Roads Act rather than the planning system.

72. Where a national development is not consented under the Planning, Transport and Works, Roads, or Harbours Acts, the designation will be a significant, rather than statutory, consideration for the consenting body. This includes decisions made under the Electricity Act for power generation and electricity transmission cables.

73. Prospective applicants should also benefit from constructive, better informed communities engaging with proposals at an early stage. Applications would be more considered, taking into account community views, thereby leading to faster decisions and better outcomes. Communities will have the opportunity to interact with prospective applicants, to assist them in understanding views and objections, to refine proposals and to mitigate negative impacts.

74. The draft NPF4 subjects national developments to a number of additional requirements relating to greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity enhancement, community wealth building and health impacts. These requirements are also applied to major developments and those requiring an environmental impact assessment so it is likely that national developments would be subjected to these requirements regardless of designation.

75. Other additional costs associated with national developments are likely to relate to enhanced scrutiny requirements, namely pre-application consultation and pre-determination hearing requirements, where the development is subject to consenting under the land use planning system. Again, as the national developments specified would otherwise be categorised as major development, these requirements would largely apply anyway (requirements for pre-determination hearings apply to all national developments, but only certain major developments).

76. There will be some costs to planning authorities in checking that the appropriate documentation has been received and in holding the pre-determination hearing, where this would not otherwise be required. For communities and community groups, there will be marginal costs in preparing for, accessing and contributing the enhanced scrutiny events.

Option 3: Non-regulatory options

77. This option would likely result in a need for the Scottish Government to bring forward changes to specific planning policies as and when the need arises. This will result in piecemeal consultation that is likely to lead to an increase in the costs associated with engaging on specific planning policy issues individually rather than considering all policies together via Option 2.



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