Biodiversity duty report 2018 to 2020

Report detailing how the Scottish Government furthered the conservation of biodiversity when exercising its functions, during the period 2018 to 2020 inclusive.

8. Planning And Architecture

Planning and Architecture Division (PAD) operates Scotland's planning system and are responsible for the development and implementation of national policy on planning, architecture and place.

8.1 Actions To Protect Biodiversity And Connect People With Nature


Planning authorities and all public bodies have a duty to further the conservation of biodiversity under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004. The Scottish Government also expects public bodies to apply the Principles for Sustainable Land Use, as set out in the Land Use Strategy, when taking significant decisions affecting the use of land.

Planning plays an important role in protecting, enhancing and promoting access to our key environmental resources whilst supporting their sustainable use. Scottish Planning Policy (SPP), which is a statement of Scottish Government policy on how nationally important land use planning matters should be addressed across the country, sets out that the planning system should seek benefits for biodiversity from new development where possible, including the restoration of degraded habitats and the avoidance of further fragmentation or isolation of habitats. National Planning Framework 3 (NPF3), the spatial expression of the Government's economic strategy at the time this report was drafted, recognises that biodiversity in Scotland is rich and varied, in both our rural and urban areas.

During the reporting period, the Scottish Government worked on preparing the fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4), the long-term spatial strategy for Scotland to 2050. This will take account of new requirements introduced by the Planning Scotland Act 2019 for the National Planning framework to; 'secure positive effects for biodiversity, and have regard to the desirability of protecting peatland. We commissioned NatureScot to prepare draft options for securing positive effects for biodiversity through NPF4 and welcome the resulting report.[1] Since then we have published our NPF4 Position Statement[2] setting out current thinking, in which we confirmed our intention to develop ambitious new proposals which deliver positive outcomes for biodiversity from development without the need for overly complex metrics, and to consider how they can support wider approaches to natural infrastructure. The NatureScot report will help to inform our ongoing policy development, and we are also convening a working group to explore the options and emerging themes with wider stakeholders.

The Planning Scotland Act 2019 also establishes new statutory duties on planning authorities to prepare Open Space Strategies that set out a strategic framework of the planning authority's policies and proposals as to the development, maintenance and use of green infrastructure in their area; and Forestry and Woodland Strategies.

In the 'Call for Ideas' for NPF4 we sought suggestions on national developments. As part of that, biodiversity was highlighted within one of the criteria. We are considering which national developments will be included in the draft NPF4.

Planning for places

We committed in Programme for Government 2020-2021 to work with local government to take forward our ambitions for 20 minute neighbourhoods – as well as access to shops, leisure activities, schools, doctors surgeries and workplaces – we recognise this also means having greenspace on your doorstep and a local environment that encourages active travel to promote health and well-being.

Scottish Government is committed to supporting place-based working and adopted the Place Principle – developed in partnership with COSLA - in March 2019. The Place Principle provides a shared understanding of place, it helps overcome organisational and sectoral boundaries, encourages better collaboration and community involvement, and improves the impact of combined energy, resources and investment. It therefore provides a focus to support inclusive and sustainable economic recovery that helps improve lives and creates more successful and sustainable places.


Looking ahead, we have asked people across Scotland to help us set out a vision for how we want our homes and communities to look in 2040 and what we need to do to get there. We will use this to set out a 20‑year plan to deliver good quality, energy efficient, zero carbon housing with access to outdoor space, transport links, digital connectivity and community services.

Housing is much more than just bricks and mortar – it is somewhere that should enhance people's sense of wellbeing and promote better physical and mental health. Now, our homes will also be somewhere many of us work from. We will improve the quality of all Scottish Government grant funded homes, with a specific focus on social homes, by increasing the conditionality of public investment. We will develop guidance to target three issues of quality:

  • Carbon: Greater use of offsite construction for new social housing. This has the potential to speed up delivery of affordable homes, reduce waste and achieve the quality of construction needed to support zero emissions homes, and it offers opportunities to improve productivity and attract a more diverse workforce.
  • COVID‑19 response: Ensure all new social housing offers private or communal outdoor space with room for people to sit outside and space for home working or study.
  • Connected: Drive forward work to make all new social housing digitally‑enabled. We will work with the social housing sector to explore the options for providing ready‑to‑go internet connections in new social housing.

8.2 Mainstreaming Biodiversity

Currently, Scottish Planning Policy sets outs that the planning system should seek benefits for biodiversity for new development where possible, including the restoration of degraded habitats and the avoidance of further fragmentation or isolation of habitats. All planning authorities already have a statutory duty under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 to further the conservation of biodiversity and this must be reflected in development plans and development management decisions.

With a view to aligning local development plans with Scottish Planning Policy, the Scottish Government consider proposed plans during the statutory consultation process and, where necessary, submit representations to planning authorities on that basis.

8.3 Nature Based Solutions, Climate Change And Biodiversity

The Central Scotland Green Network

The Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) is a national development in NPF3. It aims to deliver an integrated habitat network across the CSGN with wildlife corridors joining up important sites and habitats, and make sure that every settlement in Central Scotland sits within good-quality landscape. The project supports a wide range of environmental enhancement measures across a range of delivery partners, including activities and initiatives that do not require development consent.

The Social Housing and Green Infrastructure Programme

The Social Housing and Green Infrastructure Programme was funded by Scottish Government and NatureScot, with advice and support also provided by Architecture and Design Scotland and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations. The programme demonstrates how blue green infrastructure can be incorporated in the designs of housing developments as part of a nature based solutions and place making approach.

The programme supported three pilot projects, working with Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) and local authorities in Edinburgh and Glasgow to look at procurement and ways to encouraging higher standards of design in relation to green infrastructure.

To address identified wider concerns about costs, the programme also aimed to provide robust comparative information, for example the Meadowbank Green Roofs Feasibility study includes comparative capital and maintenance costs between green roofs and more traditional grey infrastructure.

The pilots have provided real life examples to share learning and understanding of green infrastructure, helping increase knowledge and capacity amongst the social housing sector. Scottish Federation of Housing Association's Development Conference (Sept 2020) was opened by Kevin Stewart, then Minister for Housing, Local Government and Planning, and showcased the pilots to housing associations and their designers, showing what can be done.

8.4 Public Engagement And Workforce Development

Place Standard tool and place-based approaches

The award-winning Scottish Place Standard is a simple tool to evaluate the physical, economic and social aspects of places, considering 14 themes (including 'natural space') with a particular emphasis on reducing health inequalities.

Based on learning from the success and widespread uptake of the Place Standard tool (PST) across Scotland and internationally since its launch in 2015, the recent PST Improvement Programme led by the Scottish PST implementation partners has involved engagement with stakeholders and communities including those with a particular interest in climate change adaptation and mitigation and environment. By integrating enhanced prompts relating to place-based climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity and sustainability within the relevant tool themes, the contribution of the Place Standard tool towards engagement to inform action around these issues will be strengthened. This will build on the existing strengths of the tool to deliver co-benefits around health and wellbeing, environment and tackling inequality. This independently pre-tested and enhanced new version of the Place Standard tool will be launched on a new Place website along with revised guidance and further information to support place-based approaches, delivery of the Place Principle, and engagement with communities in early 2021.

Work building on an early pilot will also continue in partnership with SNIFFER, Sustainable Scotland Network, Adaptation Scotland, and local authority, community and other partners. The "Place Standard tool with a climate lens" toolkit will be designed to support projects with a specific climate-action and environmental focus to take a place-based, collaborative, and community-led approach to addressing climate change, sustainability and biodiversity issues in a holistic way, co-delivering health, wellbeing and other place-benefits alongside environmental action..

We will also be launching a Design version of the Place Standard tool in early 2021 – this is specifically intended to support the design process – e.g. commissioners and architects designing and delivering a new development, or spatial planners working on a new Masterplan. Again, climate change adaptation and mitigation, sustainability and biodiversity will be integrated where ever appropriate.

There are also new versions of the Place Standard tool being developed, aimed specifically at supporting conversations with children and young people.

8.5 Research And Monitoring

To support the development of the fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4), Scottish Government commissioned independent research on the adoption of Scottish Planning Policy in Local Development Plans. The research found that policies on valuing the natural environment work well for plan making, and provide clear and articulate direction for appropriate reasons to refuse a proposal. The research further found that the policy could provide more detail on the treatment of biodiversity and ecosystem services and a review of the National Planning Framework (including Scottish Planning Policy) is currently underway.



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