Scottish planning policy

Policy statement on how nationally important land use planning matters should be addressed across the country.


The Planning System

1. The planning system has a vital role to play in delivering high-quality places for Scotland. Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) focuses plan making, planning decisions and development design on the Scottish Government's Purpose of creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.

2. Planning should take a positive approach to enabling high-quality development and making efficient use of land to deliver long-term benefits for the public while protecting and enhancing natural and cultural resources.

3. Further information and guidance on planning in Scotland is available at[6]. An explanation of the planning system can be found in A Guide to the Planning System in Scotland[7].

Core Values of the Planning Service

4. Scottish Ministers expect the planning service to perform to a high standard and to pursue continuous improvement. The service should:

  • focus on outcomes, maximising benefits and balancing competing interests;
  • play a key role in facilitating sustainable economic growth, particularly the creation of new jobs and the strengthening of economic capacity and resilience within communities;
  • be plan-led, with plans being up-to-date and relevant;
  • make decisions in a timely, transparent and fair way to provide a supportive business environment and engender public confidence in the system;
  • be inclusive, engaging all interests as early and effectively as possible;
  • be proportionate, only imposing conditions and obligations where necessary; and
  • uphold the law and enforce the terms of decisions made.

People Make the System Work

5. The primary responsibility for the operation of the planning system lies with strategic development planning authorities, and local and national park authorities. However, all those involved with the system have a responsibility to engage and work together constructively and proportionately to achieve quality places for Scotland. This includes the Scottish Government and its agencies, public bodies, statutory consultees, elected members, communities, the general public, developers, applicants, agents, interest groups and representative organisations.

6. Throughout the planning system, opportunities are available for everyone to engage in the development decisions which affect them. Such engagement between stakeholders should be early, meaningful and proportionate. Innovative approaches, tailored to the unique circumstances are encouraged, for example charrettes or mediation initiatives. Support or concern expressed on matters material to planning should be given careful consideration in developing plans and proposals and in determining planning applications. Effective engagement can lead to better plans, better decisions and more satisfactory outcomes and can help to avoid delays in the planning process.

7. Planning authorities and developers should ensure that appropriate and proportionate steps are taken to engage with communities during the preparation of development plans, when development proposals are being formed and when applications for planning permission are made. Individuals and community groups should ensure that they focus on planning issues and use available opportunities for engaging constructively with developers and planning authorities.

8. Further information can be found in the following:

Outcomes: How Planning Makes a Difference

9. The Scottish Government's Purpose of creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth is set out in the Government Economic Strategy. The aim is to ensure that the entire public sector is fully aligned to deliver the Purpose. The relationship of planning to the Purpose is shown on page 8.

10. The Scottish Government's 16 national outcomes[14] articulate in more detail how the Purpose is to be achieved. Planning is broad in scope and cross cutting in nature and therefore contributes to the achievement of all of the national outcomes. The pursuit of these outcomes provides the impetus for other national plans, policies and strategies and many of the principles and policies set out in them are reflected in both the SPP and NPF3.

11. NPF3 and this SPP share a single vision for the planning system in Scotland:

We live in a Scotland with a growing, low-carbon economy with progressively narrowing disparities in well-being and opportunity. It is growth that can be achieved whilst reducing emissions and which respects the quality of environment, place and life which makes our country so special. It is growth which increases solidarity - reducing inequalities between our regions. We live in sustainable, well-designed places and homes which meet our needs. We enjoy excellent transport and digital connections, internally and with the rest of the world.

12. At the strategic and local level, planning can make a very important contribution to the delivery of Single Outcome Agreements[15], through their shared focus on 'place'. Effective integration between land use planning and community planning is crucial and development plans should reflect close working with Community Planning Partnerships[16].

13. The following four planning outcomes explain how planning should support the vision. The outcomes are consistent across the NPF and SPP and focus on creating a successful sustainable place, a low carbon place, a natural, resilient place and a more connected place. For planning to make a positive difference, development plans and new development need to contribute to achieving these outcomes.

Outcome 1: A successful, sustainable place - supporting sustainable economic growth and regeneration, and the creation of well-designed, sustainable places.

14. NPF3 aims to strengthen the role of our city regions and towns, create more vibrant rural places, and realise the opportunities for sustainable growth and innovation in our coastal and island areas.

15. The SPP sets out how this should be delivered on the ground. By locating the right development in the right place, planning can provide opportunities for people to make sustainable choices and improve their quality of life. Well-planned places promote well-being, a sense of identity and pride, and greater opportunities for social interaction. Planning therefore has an important role in promoting strong, resilient and inclusive communities. Delivering high-quality buildings, infrastructure and spaces in the right locations helps provide choice over where to live and style of home, choice as to how to access amenities and services and choice to live more active, engaged, independent and healthy lifestyles.

16. Good planning creates opportunities for people to contribute to a growing, adaptable and productive economy. By allocating sites and creating places that are attractive to growing economic sectors, and enabling the delivery of necessary infrastructure, planning can help provide the confidence required to secure private sector investment, thus supporting innovation, creating employment and benefiting related businesses.

Outcome 2: A low carbon place - reducing our carbon emissions and adapting to climate change.

17. NPF3 will facilitate the transition to a low carbon economy, particularly by supporting diversification of the energy sector. The spatial strategy as a whole aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and facilitate adaptation to climate change.

18. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 sets a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050, with an interim target of reducing emissions by at least 42% by 2020. Annual greenhouse gas emission targets are set in secondary legislation. Section 44 of the Act places a duty on every public body to act:

  • in the way best calculated to contribute to the delivery of emissions targets in the Act;
  • in the way best calculated to help deliver the Scottish Government's climate change adaptation programme; and
  • in a way that it considers is most sustainable.

19. The SPP sets out how this should be delivered on the ground. By seizing opportunities to encourage mitigation and adaptation measures, planning can support the transformational change required to meet emission reduction targets and influence climate change. Planning can also influence people's choices to reduce the environmental impacts of consumption and production, particularly through energy efficiency and the reduction of waste.

Outcome 3: A natural, resilient place - helping to protect and enhance our natural and cultural assets, and facilitating their sustainable use.

20. NPF3 emphasises the importance of our environment as part of our cultural identity, an essential contributor to well-being and an economic opportunity. Our spatial strategy aims to build resilience and promotes protection and sustainable use of our world-class environmental assets.

21. The SPP sets out how this should be delivered on the ground. By protecting and making efficient use of Scotland's existing resources and environmental assets, planning can help us to live within our environmental limits and to pass on healthy ecosystems to future generations. Planning can help to manage and improve the condition of our assets, supporting communities in realising their aspirations for their environment and facilitating their access to enjoyment of it. By enhancing our surroundings, planning can help make Scotland a uniquely attractive place to work, visit and invest and therefore support the generation of jobs, income and wider economic benefits.

Outcome 4: A more connected place - supporting better transport and digital connectivity.

22. NPF3 reflects our continuing investment in infrastructure, to strengthen transport links within Scotland and to the rest of the world. Improved digital connections will also play a key role in helping to deliver our spatial strategy for sustainable growth.

23. The SPP sets out how this should be delivered on the ground. By aligning development more closely with transport and digital infrastructure, planning can improve sustainability and connectivity. Improved connections facilitate accessibility within and between places - within Scotland and beyond - and support economic growth and an inclusive society.

National Planning Framework 3



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