Biodiversity: draft planning guidance

Sets out expectations for implementing and delivering National Planning Framework (NPF) 4 policies which support the cross-cutting NPF4 outcome 'improving biodiversity'.

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A Plan-led system

Regional Spatial Strategies

2.1. The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 establishes a duty requiring the preparation of Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS). The new duty to produce RSS will be enacted with the publication of statutory guidance, expected in 2024. A planning authority, or authorities acting jointly will prepare these long-term spatial strategies for the strategic development of an area, which identify:

  • The need for strategic development;
  • The outcomes to which strategic development will contribute;
  • Priorities for the delivery of strategic development; and
  • Proposed locations, shown in the form of a map or diagram

2.2. RSS are not part of the statutory development plan, but can in the future play an important role in informing Local Development Plans. They will allow planning authorities to develop a tailored approach to strategic planning for their area that best reflects their local and regional circumstances. In terms of nature recovery, RSS can address cross-boundary issues and set out a strategic view on delivering enhancements for biodiversity. They may identify suitable regional opportunities for off-site enhancement including to support nature networks.

Local Development Plans (LDPs)

2.3. Development planning is required to manage the development and use of land in the long-term public interest. LDPs set out how places will change in the future, including where development should and shouldn’t happen. Where relevant, LDPs should also set out the details of any required developer contributions.

2.4. As set out in the Local Development Planning Guidance, LDPs should encourage, promote and facilitate development that addresses the global climate emergency and nature crisis, in order to reflect the significant weight that this carries within NPF4.

Local Development Plans: “LDPs must address the global climate emergency and nature crisis by ensuring the spatial strategy will reduce emissions and adapt to current and future risks of climate change by promoting nature recovery and restoration in the area” [NPF4 page 36]

2.5. Opportunities to promote nature recovery and nature restoration could include by facilitating the creation of nature networks (see paragraphs 1.12-1.15 above); restoring degraded habitats or creating new habitats; and by incorporating measures to increase biodiversity, including populations and priority species.

2.6. The Evidence Report stage of the LDP preparation process is an opportunity to identify priority species and habitats within the plan area. Local areas of importance for biodiversity may also be identified, Further information, including on evidence sources, is available in our LDP Guidance.

2.7. Most local authorities work in partnership with both national environmental agencies and local biodiversity organisations to deliver Local Biodiversity Action Plans (LBAPs). LBAPs are one way in which the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy can be implemented at the local level. LBAPs offer an ideal opportunity to link LDP spatial strategies to agreed local priorities for protecting and enhancing local ecosystems, habitats and species. Wherever possible LBAPs should be maintained and kept up to date so they may be used to inform both the LDP and development proposals.

Local Development Plans: “LDPs should protect, conserve, restore and enhance biodiversity in line with the mitigation hierarchy. They should also promote nature recovery and nature restoration across the development plan area, including by: facilitating the creation of nature networks and strengthening connections between them to support improved ecological connectivity; restoring degraded habitats or creating new habitats; and incorporating measures to increase biodiversity, including populations of priority species.” [NPF4 page 38]

2.8. Whether or not an up to date LBAP is in place, the LDP preparation process offers an opportunity to take a more strategic, place-based and cross-sectoral approach to nature. In this approach wildlife sites, corridors, and stepping stones, landscape features, watercourses, and green and blue spaces are identified and come together to form integrated nature networks, supporting ecological connectivity. The spatial strategy can help to prevent fragmentation or isolation of habitats and identify opportunities to restore and enhance links which have been broken, including as part of wider green networks and active travel routes.

Local Development Plans: Local Development Plans: LDPs will identify and protect locally, regionally, nationally and internationally important natural assets, on land and along coasts. The spatial strategy should safeguard them and take into account the objectives and level of their protected status in allocating land for development. Spatial strategies should also better connect nature rich areas by establishing and growing nature networks to help protect and restore the biodiversity, ecosystems and natural processes in their area.” [NPF4 page 40]

Strategic Environmental Assessment

2.9. The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 requires those preparing qualifying plans, including LDPs, to undertake an assessment of the likely significant effects of the plan, both positive and negative, on the environment. SEA can significantly benefit the preparation of an LDP, supporting better understanding of its environmental context and helping to identify steps to avoid, mitigate or reduce significant adverse effects, and enhance positive effects, including for biodiversity. The benefits of embedding SEA into the LDP preparation process are therefore particularly relevant in addressing the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.

2.10. To minimise duplication and ensure the SEA adds value to the plan preparation process, the LDP Evidence Report should be aligned with work undertaken to prepare the SEA scoping report. In this way, SEA can help to improve an LDP’s environmental performance from an early stage, including by identifying reasonable alternatives and assessing the impact these may have for biodiversity.

2.11. Further detail on how Local Development Plans can actively promote nature recovery and nature restoration across the development plan area, as well as on the important role SEA should play in the implementation and delivery of NPF4 Policies through LDPs is set out in the Scottish Government’s Local Development Planning Guidance.

Case Study: Partnership working in Perth & Kinross

Perth and Kinross Council developed local planning guidance aligned to priorities and actions set out in the Local Biodiversity Action Plan.

“We have a close working relationship between planning policy, our biodiversity officer and the Tayside Biodiversity Co-ordinator. NatureScot, CIEEM and existing Tayside Biodiversity Partnership guidance played a big role but this was supplemented with local knowledge by utilising the expertise within the Tayside Biodiversity Partnership”. – Perth and Kinross Council, May 2023



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