Scottish planning policy

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

Subject Policies

A Successful, Sustainable Place

Promoting Town Centres

NPF and wider context

58. NPF3 reflects the importance of town centres as a key element of the economic and social fabric of Scotland. Much of Scotland's population lives and works in towns, within city regions, in our rural areas and on our coasts and islands. Town centres are at the heart of their communities and can be hubs for a range of activities. It is important that planning supports the role of town centres to thrive and meet the needs of their residents, businesses and visitors for the 21st century.

59. The town centre first principle, stemming from the Town Centre Action Plan, promotes an approach to wider decision-making that considers the health and vibrancy of town centres.

Policy Principles

60. Planning for town centres should be flexible and proactive, enabling a wide range of uses which bring people into town centres. The planning system should:

  • apply a town centre first policy[33] when planning for uses which attract significant numbers of people, including retail and commercial leisure, offices, community and cultural facilities;
  • encourage a mix of uses in town centres to support their vibrancy, vitality and viability throughout the day and into the evening;
  • ensure development plans, decision-making and monitoring support successful town centres; and
  • consider opportunities for promoting residential use within town centres where this fits with local need and demand.

Key Documents

Development Plans

61. Plans should identify a network of centres and explain how they can complement each other. The network is likely to include city centres, town centres, local centres and commercial centres and may be organised as a hierarchy. Emerging or new centres designated within key new developments or land releases should also be shown within the network of centres. In remoter rural and island areas, it may not be necessary to identify a network.

62. Plans should identify as town centres those centres which display:

  • a diverse mix of uses, including shopping;
  • a high level of accessibility;
  • qualities of character and identity which create a sense of place and further the well-being of communities;
  • wider economic and social activity during the day and in the evening; and
  • integration with residential areas.

63. Plans should identify as commercial centres those centres which have a more specific focus on retailing and/or leisure uses, such as shopping centres, commercial leisure developments, mixed retail and leisure developments, retail parks and factory outlet centres. Where necessary to protect the role of town centres, plans should specify the function of commercial centres, for example where retail activity may be restricted to the sale of bulky goods.

64. Local authorities, working with community planning partners, businesses and community groups as appropriate, should prepare a town centre health check. Annex A sets out a range of indicators which may be relevant. The purpose of a health check is to assess a town centre's strengths, vitality and viability, weaknesses and resilience. It will be used to inform development plans and decisions on planning applications. Health checks should be regularly updated, to monitor town centre performance, preferably every two years.

65. Local authorities, working with partners, should use the findings of the health check to develop a strategy to deliver improvements to the town centre. Annex A contains guidance on key elements in their preparation.

66. The spatial elements of town centre strategies should be included in the development plan or supplementary guidance. Plans should address any significant changes in the roles and functions of centres over time, where change is supported by the results of a health check. Plans should assess how centres can accommodate development and identify opportunities.

67. There are concerns about the number and clustering of some non-retail uses, such as betting offices and high interest money lending premises, in some town and local centres. Plans should include policies to support an appropriate mix of uses in town centres, local centres and high streets. Where a town centre strategy indicates that further provision of particular activities would undermine the character and amenity of centres or the well-being of communities, plans should include policies to prevent such over-provision and clustering.

68. Development plans should adopt a sequential town centre first approach when planning for uses which generate significant footfall, including retail and commercial leisure uses, offices, community and cultural facilities and, where appropriate, other public buildings such as libraries, and education and healthcare facilities. This requires that locations are considered in the following order of preference:

  • town centres (including city centres and local centres);
  • edge of town centre;
  • other commercial centres identified in the development plan; and
  • out-of-centre locations that are, or can be, made easily accessible by a choice of transport modes.

69. Planning authorities, developers, owners and occupiers should be flexible and realistic in applying the sequential approach, to ensure that different uses are developed in the most appropriate locations. It is important that community, education and healthcare facilities are located where they are easily accessible to the communities that they are intended to serve.

Development Management

70. Decisions on development proposals should have regard to the context provided by the network of centres identified in the development plan and the sequential approach outlined above. New development in a town centre should contribute to providing a range of uses and should be of a scale which is appropriate to that centre. The impact of new development on the character and amenity of town centres, local centres and high streets will be a material consideration in decision-making. The aim is to recognise and prioritise the importance of town centres and encourage a mix of developments which support their vibrancy, vitality and viability. This aim should also be taken into account in decisions concerning proposals to expand or change the use of existing development.

71. Where development proposals in edge of town centre, commercial centre or out-of-town locations are contrary to the development plan, it is for applicants to demonstrate that more central options have been thoroughly assessed and that the impact on existing town centres is acceptable. Where a new public building or office with a gross floorspace over 2,500m2 is proposed outwith a town centre, and is contrary to the development plan, an assessment of the impact on the town centre should be carried out. Where a retail and leisure development with a gross floorspace over 2,500m2 is proposed outwith a town centre, contrary to the development plan, a retail impact analysis should be undertaken. For smaller retail and leisure proposals which may have a significant impact on vitality and viability, planning authorities should advise when retail impact analysis is necessary.

72. This analysis should consider the relationship of the proposed development with the network of centres identified in the development plan. Where possible, authorities and developers should agree the data required and present information on areas of dispute in a succinct and comparable form. Planning authorities should consider the potential economic impact of development and take into account any possible displacement effect.

73. Out-of-centre locations should only be considered for uses which generate significant footfall[39] where:

  • all town centre, edge of town centre and other commercial centre options have been assessed and discounted as unsuitable or unavailable;
  • the scale of development proposed is appropriate, and it has been shown that the proposal cannot reasonably be altered or reduced in scale to allow it to be accommodated at a sequentially preferable location;
  • the proposal will help to meet qualitative or quantitative deficiencies; and
  • there will be no significant adverse effect on the vitality and viability of existing town centres.

Promoting Rural Development

NPF Context

74. NPF3 sets out a vision for vibrant rural, coastal and island areas, with growing, sustainable communities supported by new opportunities for employment and education. The character of rural and island areas and the challenges they face vary greatly across the country, from pressurised areas of countryside around towns and cities to more remote and sparsely populated areas. Between these extremes are extensive intermediate areas under varying degrees of pressure and with different kinds of environmental assets meriting protection. Scotland's long coastline is an important resource both for development and for its particular environmental quality, especially in the areas of the three island councils.

Policy Principles

75. The planning system should:

  • in all rural and island areas promote a pattern of development that is appropriate to the character of the particular rural area and the challenges it faces;
  • encourage rural development that supports prosperous and sustainable communities and businesses whilst protecting and enhancing environmental quality; and
  • support an integrated approach to coastal planning.

Key documents


76. In the pressurised areas easily accessible from Scotland's cities and main towns, where ongoing development pressures are likely to continue, it is important to protect against an unsustainable growth in car-based commuting and the suburbanisation of the countryside, particularly where there are environmental assets such as sensitive landscapes or good quality agricultural land. Plans should make provision for most new urban development to take place within, or in planned extensions to, existing settlements.

77. In remote and fragile areas and island areas outwith defined small towns, the emphasis should be on maintaining and growing communities by encouraging development that provides suitable sustainable economic activity, while preserving important environmental assets such as landscape and wildlife habitats that underpin continuing tourism visits and quality of place.

78. In the areas of intermediate accessibility and pressure for development, plans should be tailored to local circumstances, seeking to provide a sustainable network of settlements and a range of policies that provide for additional housing requirements, economic development, and the varying proposals that may come forward, while taking account of the overarching objectives and other elements of the plan.

79. Plans should set out a spatial strategy which:

  • reflects the development pressures, environmental assets, and economic needs of the area, reflecting the overarching aim of supporting diversification and growth of the rural economy;
  • promotes economic activity and diversification, including, where appropriate, sustainable development linked to tourism and leisure, forestry, farm and croft diversification and aquaculture, nature conservation, and renewable energy developments, while ensuring that the distinctive character of the area, the service function of small towns and natural and cultural heritage are protected and enhanced;
  • makes provision for housing in rural areas in accordance with the spatial strategy, taking account of the different development needs of local communities;
  • where appropriate, sets out policies and proposals for leisure accommodation, such as holiday units, caravans, and huts;
  • addresses the resource implications of the proposed pattern of development, including facilitating access to local community services and support for public transport; and
  • considers the services provided by the natural environment, safeguarding land which is highly suitable for particular uses such as food production or flood management.

80. Where it is necessary to use good quality land for development, the layout and design should minimise the amount of such land that is required. Development on prime agricultural land, or land of lesser quality that is locally important should not be permitted except where it is essential:

  • as a component of the settlement strategy or necessary to meet an established need, for example for essential infrastructure, where no other suitable site is available; or
  • for small-scale development directly linked to a rural business; or
  • for the generation of energy from a renewable source or the extraction of minerals where this accords with other policy objectives and there is secure provision for restoration to return the land to its former status.

81. In accessible or pressured rural areas, where there is a danger of unsustainable growth in long-distance car-based commuting or suburbanisation of the countryside, a more restrictive approach to new housing development is appropriate, and plans and decision-making should generally:

  • guide most new development to locations within or adjacent to settlements; and
  • set out the circumstances in which new housing outwith settlements may be appropriate, avoiding use of occupancy restrictions.

82. In some most pressured areas, the designation of green belts may be appropriate.

83. In remote rural areas, where new development can often help to sustain fragile communities, plans and decision-making should generally:

  • encourage sustainable development that will provide employment;
  • support and sustain fragile and dispersed communities through provision for appropriate development, especially housing and community-owned energy;
  • include provision for small-scale housing41 and other development which supports sustainable economic growth in a range of locations, taking account of environmental protection policies and addressing issues of location, access, siting, design and environmental impact;
  • where appropriate, allow the construction of single houses outwith settlements provided they are well sited and designed to fit with local landscape character, taking account of landscape protection and other plan policies;
  • not impose occupancy restrictions on housing.

National Parks

84. National Parks are designated under the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 because they are areas of national importance for their natural and cultural heritage. The four aims of national parks are to:

  • conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the area;
  • promote sustainable use of the natural resources of the area;
  • promote understanding and enjoyment (including enjoyment in the form of recreation) of the special qualities of the area by the public; and
  • promote sustainable economic and social development of the area's communities.

85. These aims are to be pursued collectively. However if there is a conflict between the first aim and any of the others then greater weight must be given to the first aim. Planning decisions should reflect this weighting. Paragraph 213 also applies to development outwith a National Park that affects the Park.

86. Development plans for National Parks are expected to be consistent with the National Park Plan, which sets out the management strategy for the Park. The authority preparing a development plan for a National Park, or which affects a National Park, is required to pay special attention to the desirability of consistency with the National Park Plan, having regard to the contents.

Coastal Planning

87. The planning system should support an integrated approach to coastal planning to ensure that development plans and regional marine plans are complementary. Terrestrial planning by planning authorities overlaps with marine planning in the intertidal zone. On the terrestrial side, mainland planning authorities should work closely with neighbouring authorities, taking account of the needs of port authorities and aquaculture, where appropriate. On the marine side, planning authorities will need to ensure integration with policies and activities arising from the National Marine Plan, Marine Planning Partnerships, Regional Marine Plans, and Integrated Coastal Zone Management, as well as aquaculture.

Development Plans

88. Plans should recognise that rising sea levels and more extreme weather events resulting from climate change will potentially have a significant impact on coastal and island areas, and that a precautionary approach to flood risk should be taken. They should confirm that new development requiring new defences against coastal erosion or coastal flooding will not be supported except where there is a clear justification for a departure from the general policy to avoid development in areas at risk. Where appropriate, development plans should identify areas at risk and areas where a managed realignment of the coast would be beneficial.

89. Plans should identify areas of largely developed coast that are a major focus of economic or recreational activity that are likely to be suitable for further development; areas subject to significant constraints; and largely unspoiled areas of the coast that are generally unsuitable for development. It should be explained that this broad division does not exclude important local variations, for example where there are areas of environmental importance within developed estuaries, or necessary developments within the largely unspoiled coast where there is a specific locational need, for example for defence purposes, tourism developments of special significance, or essential onshore developments connected with offshore energy projects or (where appropriate) aquaculture.

90. Plans should promote the developed coast as the focus of developments requiring a coastal location or which contribute to the economic regeneration or well-being of communities whose livelihood is dependent on marine or coastal activities. They should provide for the development requirements of uses requiring a coastal location, including ports and harbours, tourism and recreation, fish farming, land-based development associated with offshore energy projects and specific defence establishments.

91. Plans should safeguard unspoiled sections of coast which possess special environmental or cultural qualities, such as wild land. The economic value of these areas should be considered and maximised, provided that environmental impact issues can be satisfactorily addressed.

Supporting Business and Employment

NPF Context

92. NPF3 supports the many and varied opportunities for planning to support business and employment. These range from a focus on the role of cities as key drivers of our economy, to the continuing need for diversification of our rural economy to strengthen communities and retain young people in remote areas. Planning should address the development requirements of businesses and enable key opportunities for investment to be realised. It can support sustainable economic growth by providing a positive policy context for development that delivers economic benefits.

Policy Principles

93. The planning system should:

  • promote business and industrial development that increases economic activity while safeguarding and enhancing the natural and built environments as national assets;
  • allocate sites that meet the diverse needs of the different sectors and sizes of business which are important to the plan area in a way which is flexible enough to accommodate changing circumstances and allow the realisation of new opportunities; and
  • give due weight to net economic benefit of proposed development.

Key Documents


Development Planning

94. Plans should align with relevant local economic strategies. These will help planning authorities to meet the needs and opportunities of indigenous firms and inward investors, recognising the potential of key sectors for Scotland with particular opportunities for growth, including:

  • energy;
  • life sciences, universities and the creative industries;
  • tourism and the food and drink sector;
  • financial and business services.

95. Plans should encourage opportunities for home-working, live-work units, micro-businesses and community hubs.

96. Development plans should support opportunities for integrating efficient energy and waste innovations within business environments. Industry stakeholders should engage with planning authorities to help facilitate co-location, as set out in paragraph 179.

97. Strategic development plan policies should reflect a robust evidence base in relation to the existing principal economic characteristics of their areas, and any anticipated change in these.

98. Strategic development plans should identify an appropriate range of locations for significant business clusters. This could include sites identified in the National Renewables Infrastructure Plan[45], Enterprise Areas[46], business parks, science parks, large and medium-sized industrial sites and high amenity sites.

99. Strategic development plans and local development plans outwith SDP areas should identify any nationally important clusters of industries handling hazardous substances within their areas and safeguard them from development which, either on its own or in combination with other development, would compromise their continued operation or growth potential. This is in the context of the wider statutory requirements in the Town and Country Planning (Development Planning) (Scotland) Regulations 2009[47] to have regard to the need to maintain appropriate distances between sites with hazardous substances and areas where the public are likely to be present and areas of particular natural sensitivity or interest.

100. Development plans should be informed by the Tourism Development Framework for Scotland in order to maximise the sustainable growth of regional and local visitor economies. Strategic development plans should identify and safeguard any nationally or regionally important locations for tourism or recreation development within their areas.

101. Local development plans should allocate a range of sites for business, taking account of current market demand; location, size, quality and infrastructure requirements; whether sites are serviced or serviceable within five years; the potential for a mix of uses; their accessibility to transport networks by walking, cycling and public transport and their integration with and access to existing transport networks. The allocation of such sites should be informed by relevant economic strategies and business land audits in respect of land use classes 4, 5 and 6.

102. Business land audits should be undertaken regularly by local authorities to inform reviews of development plans, and updated more frequently if relevant. Business land audits should monitor the location, size, planning status, existing use, neighbouring land uses and any significant land use issues (e.g. underused, vacant, derelict) of sites within the existing business land supply.

103. New sites should be identified where existing sites no longer meet current needs and market expectations. Where existing business sites are underused, for example where there has been an increase in vacancy rates, reallocation to enable a wider range of viable business or alternative uses should be considered, taking careful account of the potential impacts on existing businesses on the site.

104. Local development plans should locate development which generates significant freight movements, such as manufacturing, processing, distribution and warehousing, on sites accessible to suitable railheads or harbours or the strategic road network. Through appraisal, care should be taken in locating such development to minimise any impact on congested, inner urban and residential areas.

105. Planning authorities should consider the potential to promote opportunities for tourism and recreation facilities in their development plans. This may include new developments or the enhancement of existing facilities.

Development Management

106. Efficient handling of planning applications should be a key priority, particularly where jobs and investment are involved. To assist with this, pre-application discussions are strongly encouraged to determine the information that should be submitted to support applications. Such information should be proportionate and relevant to the development and sufficient for the planning authority requirements on matters such as the number of jobs to be created, hours of working, transport requirements, environmental effects, noise levels and the layout and design of buildings. Decisions should be guided by the principles set out in paragraphs 28 to 35.

107. Proposals for development in the vicinity of major-accident hazard sites should take into account the potential impacts on the proposal and the major-accident hazard site of being located in proximity to one another. Decisions should be informed by the Health and Safety Executive's advice, based on the PADHI tool. Similar considerations apply in respect of development proposals near licensed explosive sites (including military explosive storage sites).

108. Proposals for business, industrial and service uses should take into account surrounding sensitive uses, areas of particular natural sensitivity or interest and local amenity, and make a positive contribution towards placemaking.

Enabling Delivery of New Homes

NPF Context

109. NPF3 aims to facilitate new housing development, particularly in areas within our cities network where there is continuing pressure for growth, and through innovative approaches to rural housing provision. House building makes an important contribution to the economy. Planning can help to address the challenges facing the housing sector by providing a positive and flexible approach to development. In particular, provision for new homes should be made in areas where economic investment is planned or there is a need for regeneration or to support population retention in rural and island areas.

Policy Principles

110. The planning system should:

  • identify a generous supply of land for each housing market area within the plan area to support the achievement of the housing land requirement across all tenures, maintaining at least a 5-year supply of effective housing land at all times;
  • enable provision of a range of attractive, well-designed, energy efficient, good quality housing, contributing to the creation of successful and sustainable places; and
  • have a sharp focus on the delivery of allocated sites embedded in action programmes, informed by strong engagement with stakeholders.

Key Documents


111. Local authorities should identify functional housing market areas, i.e. geographical areas where the demand for housing is relatively self-contained. These areas may significantly overlap and will rarely coincide with local authority boundaries. They can be dynamic and complex, and can contain different tiers of sub-market area, overlain by mobile demand, particularly in city regions.

112. Planning for housing should be undertaken through joint working by housing market partnerships, involving both housing and planning officials within local authorities, and cooperation between authorities where strategic planning responsibilities and/or housing market areas are shared, including national park authorities. Registered social landlords, developers, other specialist interests, and local communities should also be encouraged to engage with housing market partnerships. In rural or island areas where there is no functional housing market area, the development plan should set out the most appropriate approach for the area.

Development Planning

113. Plans should be informed by a robust housing need and demand assessment (HNDA), prepared in line with the Scottish Government's HNDA Guidance[50]. This assessment provides part of the evidence base to inform both local housing strategies and development plans (including the main issues report). It should produce results both at the level of the functional housing market area and at local authority level, and cover all tenures. Where the Scottish Government is satisfied that the HNDA is robust and credible, the approach used will not normally be considered further at a development plan examination.

114. The HNDA, development plan, and local housing strategy processes should be closely aligned, with joint working between housing and planning teams. Local authorities may wish to wait until the strategic development plan is approved in city regions, and the local development plan adopted elsewhere, before finalising the local housing strategy, to ensure that any modifications to the plans can be reflected in local housing strategies, and in local development plans in the city regions.

115. Plans should address the supply of land for all housing. They should set out the housing supply target (separated into affordable and market sector) for each functional housing market area, based on evidence from the HNDA. The housing supply target is a policy view of the number of homes the authority has agreed will be delivered in each housing market area over the periods of the development plan and local housing strategy, taking into account wider economic, social and environmental factors, issues of capacity, resource and deliverability, and other important requirements such as the aims of National Parks. The target should be reasonable, should properly reflect the HNDA estimate of housing demand in the market sector, and should be supported by compelling evidence. The authority's housing supply target should also be reflected in the local housing strategy.

116. Within the overall housing supply target[51], plans should indicate the number of new homes to be built over the plan period. This figure should be increased by a margin of 10 to 20% to establish the housing land requirement, in order to ensure that a generous supply of land for housing is provided. The exact extent of the margin will depend on local circumstances, but a robust explanation for it should be provided in the plan.

117. The housing land requirement can be met from a number of sources, most notably sites from the established supply which are effective or expected to become effective in the plan period, sites with planning permission, proposed new land allocations, and in some cases a proportion of windfall development. Any assessment of the expected contribution to the housing land requirement from windfall sites must be realistic and based on clear evidence of past completions and sound assumptions about likely future trends. In urban areas this should be informed by an urban capacity study.

118. Strategic development plans should set out the housing supply target and the housing land requirement for the plan area, each local authority area, and each functional housing market area. They should also state the amount and broad locations of land which should be allocated in local development plans to meet the housing land requirement up to year 12 from the expected year of plan approval, making sure that the requirement for each housing market area is met in full. Beyond year 12 and up to year 20, the strategic development plan should provide an indication of the possible scale and location of housing land, including by local development plan area.

119. Local development plans in city regions should allocate a range of sites which are effective or expected to become effective in the plan period to meet the housing land requirement of the strategic development plan up to year 10 from the expected year of adoption. They should provide for a minimum of 5 years effective land supply at all times. In allocating sites, planning authorities should be confident that land can be brought forward for development within the plan period and that the range of sites allocated will enable the housing supply target to be met.

120. Outwith city regions, local development plans should set out the housing supply target (separated into affordable and market sector) and the housing land requirement for each housing market area in the plan area up to year 10 from the expected year of adoption. They should allocate a range of sites which are effective or expected to become effective in the plan period to meet the housing land requirement in full. They should provide a minimum of 5 years effective land supply at all times. Beyond year 10 and up to year 20, the local development plan should provide an indication of the possible scale and location of the housing land requirement.

121. In the National Parks, local development plans should draw on the evidence provided by the HNDAs of the constituent housing authorities. National Park authorities should aim to meet the housing land requirement in full in their area. However, they are not required to do so, and they should liaise closely with neighbouring planning authorities to ensure that any remaining part of the housing land requirement for the National Parks is met in immediately adjoining housing market areas, and that a 5-year supply of effective land is maintained.

122. Local development plans should allocate appropriate sites to support the creation of sustainable mixed communities and successful places and help to ensure the continued delivery of new housing.

Diagram 1: Housing Land, Development Planning and the Local Housing Strategy

Diagram 1: Housing Land, Development Planning and the Local Housing Strategy

Maintaining a 5-year Effective Land Supply

123. Planning authorities should actively manage the housing land supply. They should work with housing and infrastructure providers to prepare an annual housing land audit as a tool to critically review and monitor the availability of effective housing land, the progress of sites through the planning process, and housing completions, to ensure a generous supply of land for house building is maintained and there is always enough effective land for at least five years. A site is only considered effective where it can be demonstrated that within five years it will be free of constraints[52] and can be developed for housing. In remoter rural areas and island communities, where the housing land requirement and market activity are of a more limited scale, the housing land audit process may be adapted to suit local circumstances.

124. The development plan action programme, prepared in tandem with the plan, should set out the key actions necessary to bring each site forward for housing development and identify the lead partner. It is a key tool, and should be used alongside the housing land audit to help planning authorities manage the land supply.

125. Planning authorities, developers, service providers and other partners in housing provision should work together to ensure a continuing supply of effective land and to deliver housing, taking a flexible and realistic approach. Where a shortfall in the 5-year effective housing land supply emerges, development plan policies for the supply of housing land will not be considered up-to-date, and paragraphs 32-35 will be relevant.

Affordable Housing

126. Affordable housing is defined broadly as housing of a reasonable quality that is affordable to people on modest incomes. Affordable housing may be provided in the form of social rented accommodation, mid-market rented accommodation, shared ownership housing, shared equity housing, housing sold at a discount (including plots for self-build), and low cost housing without subsidy.

127. Where the housing supply target requires provision for affordable housing, strategic development plans should state how much of the total housing land requirement this represents.

128. Local development plans should clearly set out the scale and distribution of the affordable housing requirement for their area. Where the HNDA and local housing strategy process identify a shortage of affordable housing, the plan should set out the role that planning will take in addressing this. Planning authorities should consider whether it is appropriate to allocate some small sites specifically for affordable housing. Advice on the range of possible options for provision of affordable housing is set out in PAN 2/2010.

129. Plans should identify any expected developer contributions towards delivery of affordable housing. Where a contribution is required, this should generally be for a specified proportion of the serviced land within a development site to be made available for affordable housing. Planning authorities should consider the level of affordable housing contribution which is likely to be deliverable in the current economic climate, as part of a viable housing development. The level of affordable housing required as a contribution within a market site should generally be no more than 25% of the total number of houses. Consideration should also be given to the nature of the affordable housing required and the extent to which this can be met by proposals capable of development with little or no public subsidy. Where permission is sought for specialist housing, as described in paragraphs 132-134, a contribution to affordable housing may not always be required.

130. Plans should consider how affordable housing requirements will be met over the period of the plan. Planning and housing officials should work together closely to ensure that the phasing of land allocations and the operation of affordable housing policies combine to deliver housing across the range of tenures. In rural areas, where significant unmet local need for affordable housing has been shown, it may be appropriate to introduce a 'rural exceptions' policy which allows planning permission to be granted for affordable housing on small sites that would not normally be used for housing, for example because they lie outwith the adjacent built-up area and are subject to policies of restraint.

131. Any detailed policies on how the affordable housing requirement is expected to be delivered, including any differences in approach for urban and rural areas, should be set out in supplementary guidance. Where it is considered that housing built to meet an identified need for affordable housing should remain available to meet such needs in perpetuity, supplementary guidance should set out the measures to achieve this. Any specific requirements on design may also be addressed in supplementary guidance.

Specialist Housing Provision and Other Specific Needs

132. As part of the HNDA, local authorities are required to consider the need for specialist provision that covers accessible and adapted housing, wheelchair housing and supported accommodation, including care homes and sheltered housing. This supports independent living for elderly people and those with a disability. Where a need is identified, planning authorities should prepare policies to support the delivery of appropriate housing and consider allocating specific sites.

133. HNDAs will also evidence need for sites for Gypsy/Travellers and Travelling Showpeople. Development plans and local housing strategies should address any need identified, taking into account their mobile lifestyles. In city regions, the strategic development plan should have a role in addressing cross-boundary considerations. If there is a need, local development plans should identify suitable sites for these communities. They should also consider whether policies are required for small privately-owned sites for Gypsy/Travellers, and for handling applications for permanent sites for Travelling Showpeople (where account should be taken of the need for storage and maintenance of equipment as well as accommodation). These communities should be appropriately involved in identifying sites for their use.

134. Local development plans should address any need for houses in multiple occupation (HMO). More information is provided in Circular 2/2012 Houses in Multiple Occupation[53]. Planning authorities should also consider the housing requirements of service personnel and sites for people seeking self-build plots. Where authorities believe it appropriate to allocate suitable sites for self-build plots, the sites may contribute to meeting the housing land requirement.

Valuing the Historic Environment

NPF and wider policy context

135. NPF3 recognises the contribution made by our cultural heritage to our economy, cultural identity and quality of life. Planning has an important role to play in maintaining and enhancing the distinctive and high-quality, irreplaceable historic places which enrich our lives, contribute to our sense of identity and are an important resource for our tourism and leisure industry.

136. The historic environment is a key cultural and economic asset and a source of inspiration that should be seen as integral to creating successful places. Culture-led regeneration can have a profound impact on the well-being of a community in terms of the physical look and feel of a place and can also attract visitors, which in turn can bolster the local economy and sense of pride or ownership.

Policy Principles

137. The planning system should:

  • promote the care and protection of the designated and non-designated historic environment (including individual assets, related settings and the wider cultural landscape) and its contribution to sense of place, cultural identity, social well-being, economic growth, civic participation and lifelong learning; and
  • enable positive change in the historic environment which is informed by a clear understanding of the importance of the heritage assets affected and ensure their future use. Change should be sensitively managed to avoid or minimise adverse impacts on the fabric and setting of the asset, and ensure that its special characteristics are protected, conserved or enhanced.

Key Documents


Development Planning

138. Strategic development plans should protect and promote their significant historic environment assets. They should take account of the capacity of settlements and surrounding areas to accommodate development without damage to their historic significance.

139. Local development plans and supplementary guidance should provide a framework for protecting and, where appropriate, enhancing all elements of the historic environment. Local planning authorities should designate and review existing and potential conservation areas and identify existing and proposed Article 4 Directions. This should be supported by Conservation Area Appraisals and Management Plans.

Development Management

140. The siting and design of development should take account of all aspects of the historic environment. In support of this, planning authorities should have access to a Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) and/or a Historic Environment Record (HER) that contains necessary information about known historic environment features and finds in their area.

Listed Buildings

141. Change to a listed building should be managed to protect its special interest while enabling it to remain in active use. Where planning permission and listed building consent are sought for development to, or affecting, a listed building, special regard must be given to the importance of preserving and enhancing the building, its setting and any features of special architectural or historic interest. The layout, design, materials, scale, siting and use of any development which will affect a listed building or its setting should be appropriate to the character and appearance of the building and setting. Listed buildings should be protected from demolition or other work that would adversely affect it or its setting.

142. Enabling development may be acceptable where it can be clearly shown to be the only means of preventing the loss of the asset and securing its long-term future. Any development should be the minimum necessary to achieve these aims. The resultant development should be designed and sited carefully to preserve or enhance the character and setting of the historic asset.

Conservation Areas

143. Proposals for development within conservation areas and proposals outwith which will impact on its appearance, character or setting, should preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the conservation area. Proposals that do not harm the character or appearance of the conservation area should be treated as preserving its character or appearance. Where the demolition of an unlisted building is proposed through Conservation Area Consent, consideration should be given to the contribution the building makes to the character and appearance of the conservation area. Where a building makes a positive contribution the presumption should be to retain it.

144. Proposed works to trees in conservation areas require prior notice to the planning authority and statutory Tree Preservation Orders[60] can increase the protection given to such trees. Conservation Area Appraisals should inform development management decisions.

Scheduled Monuments

145. Where there is potential for a proposed development to have an adverse effect on a scheduled monument or on the integrity of its setting, permission should only be granted where there are exceptional circumstances. Where a proposal would have a direct impact on a scheduled monument, the written consent of Scottish Ministers via a separate process is required in addition to any other consents required for the development.

Historic Marine Protected Areas

146. Where planning control extends offshore, planning authorities should ensure that development will not significantly hinder the preservation objectives of Historic Marine Protected Areas.

World Heritage Sites

147. World Heritage Sites are of international importance. Where a development proposal has the potential to affect a World Heritage Site, or its setting, the planning authority must protect and preserve its Outstanding Universal Value.

Gardens and Designed Landscapes

148. Planning authorities should protect and, where appropriate, seek to enhance gardens and designed landscapes included in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes and designed landscapes of regional and local importance.


149. Planning authorities should seek to protect, conserve and, where appropriate, enhance the key landscape characteristics and special qualities of sites in the Inventory of Historic Battlefields.

Archaeology and Other Historic Environment Assets

150. Planning authorities should protect archaeological sites and monuments as an important, finite and non-renewable resource and preserve them in situ wherever possible. Where in situ preservation is not possible, planning authorities should, through the use of conditions or a legal obligation, ensure that developers undertake appropriate excavation, recording, analysis, publication and archiving before and/or during development. If archaeological discoveries are made, they should be reported to the planning authority to enable discussion on appropriate measures, such as inspection and recording.

151. There is also a range of non-designated historic assets and areas of historical interest, including historic landscapes, other gardens and designed landscapes, woodlands and routes such as drove roads which do not have statutory protection. These resources are, however, an important part of Scotland's heritage and planning authorities should protect and preserve significant resources as far as possible, in situ wherever feasible.



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