Scottish planning policy

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

A Low Carbon Place

Delivering Heat and Electricity

NPF Context

152. NPF3 is clear that planning must facilitate the transition to a low carbon economy, and help to deliver the aims of the Scottish Government's Report on Proposals and Policies[61]. Our spatial strategy facilitates the development of generation technologies that will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector. Scotland has significant renewable energy resources, both onshore and offshore. Spatial priorities range from extending heat networks in our cities and towns to realising the potential for renewable energy generation in our coastal and island areas.

153. Terrestrial and marine planning facilitate development of renewable energy technologies, link generation with consumers and guide new infrastructure to appropriate locations. Efficient supply of low carbon and low cost heat and generation of heat and electricity from renewable energy sources are vital to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and can create significant opportunities for communities. Renewable energy also presents a significant opportunity for associated development, investment and growth of the supply chain, particularly for ports and harbours identified in the National Renewables Infrastructure Plan[62]. Communities can also gain new opportunities from increased local ownership and associated benefits.

Policy Principles

154. The planning system should:

  • support the transformational change to a low carbon economy, consistent with national objectives and targets[63], including deriving:
    • 30% of overall energy demand from renewable sources by 2020;
    • 11% of heat demand from renewable sources by 2020; and
    • the equivalent of 100% of electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020;
  • support the development of a diverse range of electricity generation from renewable energy technologies - including the expansion of renewable energy generation capacity - and the development of heat networks;
  • guide development to appropriate locations and advise on the issues that will be taken into account when specific proposals are being assessed;
  • help to reduce emissions and energy use in new buildings and from new infrastructure by enabling development at appropriate locations that contributes to:
    • Energy efficiency;
    • Heat recovery;
    • Efficient energy supply and storage;
    • Electricity and heat from renewable sources; and
    • Electricity and heat from non-renewable sources where greenhouse gas emissions can be significantly reduced.

Key Documents


Development Planning

155. Development plans should seek to ensure an area's full potential for electricity and heat from renewable sources is achieved, in line with national climate change targets, giving due regard to relevant environmental, community and cumulative impact considerations.

156. Strategic development plans should support national priorities for the construction or improvement of strategic energy infrastructure, including generation, storage, transmission and distribution networks. They should address cross-boundary issues, promoting an approach to electricity and heat that supports the transition to a low carbon economy.

157. Local development plans should support new build developments, infrastructure or retrofit projects which deliver energy efficiency and the recovery of energy that would otherwise be wasted both in the specific development and surrounding area. They should set out the factors to be taken into account in considering proposals for energy developments. These will depend on the scale of the proposal and its relationship to the surrounding area and are likely to include the considerations set out at paragraph 169.


158. Local development plans should use heat mapping to identify the potential for co-locating developments with a high heat demand with sources of heat supply. Heat supply sources include harvestable woodlands, sawmills producing biomass, biogas production sites and developments producing unused excess heat, as well as geothermal systems, heat recoverable from mine waters, aquifers, other bodies of water and heat storage systems. Heat demand sites for particular consideration include high density developments, communities off the gas grid, fuel poor areas and anchor developments such as hospitals, schools, leisure centres and heat intensive industry.

159. Local development plans should support the development of heat networks in as many locations as possible, even where they are initially reliant on carbon-based fuels if there is potential to convert them to run on renewable or low carbon sources of heat in the future. Local development plans should identify where heat networks, heat storage and energy centres exist or would be appropriate and include policies to support their implementation. Policies should support safeguarding of piperuns within developments for later connection and pipework to the curtilage of development. Policies should also give consideration to the provision of energy centres within new development. Where a district network exists, or is planned, or in areas identified as appropriate for district heating, policies may include a requirement for new development to include infrastructure for connection, providing the option to use heat from the network.

160. Where heat networks are not viable, microgeneration and heat recovery technologies associated with individual properties should be encouraged.

Onshore Wind

161. Planning authorities should set out in the development plan a spatial framework identifying those areas that are likely to be most appropriate for onshore wind farms as a guide for developers and communities, following the approach set out below in Table 1. Development plans should indicate the minimum scale[68] of onshore wind development that their spatial framework is intended to apply to. Development plans should also set out the criteria that will be considered in deciding all applications for wind farms of different scales - including extensions and re-powering - taking account of the considerations set out at paragraph 169.

162. Both strategic and local development planning authorities, working together where required, should identify where there is strategic capacity for wind farms, and areas with the greatest potential for wind development, considering cross-boundary constraints and opportunities. Strategic development planning authorities are expected to take the lead in dealing with cross-boundary constraints and opportunities and will coordinate activity with constituent planning authorities.

163. The approach to spatial framework preparation set out in the SPP should be followed in order to deliver consistency nationally and additional constraints should not be applied at this stage. The spatial framework is complemented by a more detailed and exacting development management process where the merits of an individual proposal will be carefully considered against the full range of environmental, community, and cumulative impacts (see paragraph 169).

164. Individual properties and those settlements not identified within the development plan will be protected by the safeguards set out in the local development plan policy criteria for determining wind farms and the development management considerations accounted for when determining individual applications.

165. Grid capacity should not be used as a reason to constrain the areas identified for wind farm development or decisions on individual applications for wind farms. It is for wind farm developers to discuss connections to the grid with the relevant transmission network operator. Consideration should be given to underground grid connections where possible.

166. Proposals for onshore wind turbine developments should continue to be determined while spatial frameworks and local policies are being prepared and updated. Moratoria on onshore wind development are not appropriate.

Table 1: Spatial Frameworks

Group 1: Areas where wind farms will not be acceptable:

National Parks and National Scenic Areas.

Group 2: Areas of significant protection:

Recognising the need for significant protection, in these areas wind farms may be appropriate in some circumstances. Further consideration will be required to demonstrate that any significant effects on the qualities of these areas can be substantially overcome by siting, design or other mitigation.

National and international designations:

  • World Heritage Sites;
  • Natura 2000 and Ramsar sites;
  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest;
  • National Nature Reserves;
  • Sites identified in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes;
  • Sites identified in the Inventory of Historic Battlefields.

Other nationally important mapped environmental interests:

  • areas of wild land as shown on the 2014 SNH map of wild land areas;
  • carbon rich soils, deep peat and priority peatland habitat.

Community separation for consideration of visual impact:

  • an area not exceeding 2km around cities, towns and villages identified on the local development plan with an identified settlement envelope or edge. The extent of the area will be determined by the planning authority based on landform and other features which restrict views out from the settlement.

Group 3: Areas with potential for wind farm development:

Beyond groups 1 and 2, wind farms are likely to be acceptable, subject to detailed consideration against identified policy criteria.

Other Renewable Electricity Generating Technologies and Storage

167. Development plans should identify areas capable of accommodating renewable electricity projects in addition to wind generation, including hydro-electricity generation related to river or tidal flows or energy storage projects of a range of scales.

168. Development plans should identify areas which are weakly connected or unconnected to the national electricity network and facilitate development of decentralised and mobile energy storage installations. Energy storage schemes help to support development of renewable energy and maintain stability of the electricity network in areas where reinforcement is needed to manage congestion. Strategic development planning authorities are expected to take the lead in dealing with cross-boundary constraints and opportunities and will coordinate activity between constituent planning authorities.

Development Management

169. Proposals for energy infrastructure developments should always take account of spatial frameworks for wind farms and heat maps where these are relevant. Considerations will vary relative to the scale of the proposal and area characteristics but are likely to include:

  • net economic impact, including local and community socio-economic benefits such as employment, associated business and supply chain opportunities;
  • the scale of contribution to renewable energy generation targets;
  • effect on greenhouse gas emissions;
  • cumulative impacts - planning authorities should be clear about likely cumulative impacts arising from all of the considerations below, recognising that in some areas the cumulative impact of existing and consented energy development may limit the capacity for further development;
  • impacts on communities and individual dwellings, including visual impact, residential amenity, noise and shadow flicker;
  • landscape and visual impacts, including effects on wild land;
  • effects on the natural heritage, including birds;
  • impacts on carbon rich soils, using the carbon calculator;
  • public access, including impact on long distance walking and cycling routes and scenic routes identified in the NPF;
  • impacts on the historic environment, including scheduled monuments, listed buildings and their settings;
  • impacts on tourism and recreation;
  • impacts on aviation and defence interests and seismological recording;
  • impacts on telecommunications and broadcasting installations, particularly ensuring that transmission links are not compromised;
  • impacts on road traffic;
  • impacts on adjacent trunk roads;
  • effects on hydrology, the water environment and flood risk;
  • the need for conditions relating to the decommissioning of developments, including ancillary infrastructure, and site restoration;
  • opportunities for energy storage; and
  • the need for a robust planning obligation to ensure that operators achieve site restoration.

170. Areas identified for wind farms should be suitable for use in perpetuity. Consents may be time-limited but wind farms should nevertheless be sited and designed to ensure impacts are minimised and to protect an acceptable level of amenity for adjacent communities.

171. Proposals for energy generation from non-renewable sources may be acceptable where carbon capture and storage or other emissions reduction infrastructure is either already in place or committed within the development's lifetime and proposals must ensure protection of good environmental standards.

172. Where new energy generation or storage proposals are being considered, the potential to connect those projects to off-grid areas should be considered.

Community Benefit

173. Where a proposal is acceptable in land use terms, and consent is being granted, local authorities may wish to engage in negotiations to secure community benefit in line with the Scottish Government Good Practice Principles for Community Benefits from Onshore Renewable Energy Developments[69].

Existing Wind Farm Sites

174.Proposals to repower existing wind farms which are already in suitable sites where environmental and other impacts have been shown to be capable of mitigation can help to maintain or enhance installed capacity, underpinning renewable energy generation targets. The current use of the site as a wind farm will be a material consideration in any such proposals.

Planning for Zero Waste

NPF and Wider Context

175. NPF3 recognises that waste is a resource and an opportunity, rather than a burden. Scotland has a Zero Waste Policy, which means wasting as little as possible and recognising that every item and material we use, either natural or manufactured, is a resource which has value for our economy. Planning plays a vital role in supporting the provision of facilities and infrastructure for future business development, investment and employment.

Policy Principles

176. The planning system should:

  • promote developments that minimise the unnecessary use of primary materials and promote efficient use of secondary materials;
  • support the emergence of a diverse range of new technologies and investment opportunities to secure economic value from secondary resources, including reuse, refurbishment, remanufacturing and reprocessing;
  • support achievement of Scotland's zero waste targets: recycling 70% of household waste and sending no more than 5% of Scotland's annual waste arisings to landfill by 2025; and
  • help deliver infrastructure at appropriate locations, prioritising development in line with the waste hierarchy: waste prevention, reuse, recycling, energy recovery and waste disposal.

Key Documents


177. Planning authorities and SEPA should work collaboratively to achieve zero waste objectives, having regard to the Zero Waste Plan, through development plans and development management. A revised version of PAN 63: Planning and Waste Management will be published in due course.

Development Planning

178. Plans should give effect to the aims of the Zero Waste Plan and promote the waste hierarchy.

179. For new developments, including industrial, commercial, and residential, plans should promote resource efficiency and the minimisation of waste during construction and operation.

180. Plans should enable investment opportunities in a range of technologies and industries to maximise the value of secondary resources and waste to the economy, including composting facilities, transfer stations, materials recycling facilities, anaerobic digestion, mechanical, biological and thermal treatment plants. In line with the waste hierarchy, particular attention should be given to encouraging opportunities for reuse, refurbishment, remanufacturing and reprocessing of high value materials and products. Industry and business should engage with planning authorities to help identify sites which would enable co-location with end users of outputs where appropriate.

181. Planning authorities should have regard to the annual update of required capacity for source segregated and unsorted waste, mindful of the need to achieve the all-Scotland operational capacity. However, this should not be regarded as a cap and planning authorities should generally facilitate growth in sustainable resource management.

182. The planning system should support the provision of a network of infrastructure to allow Scotland's waste and secondary resources to be managed in one of the nearest appropriate installations, by means of the most appropriate methods and technologies, in order to protect the environment and public health. While a significant shortfall of waste management infrastructure exists, emphasis should be placed on need over proximity. The achievement of a sustainable strategy may involve waste crossing planning boundaries. However, as the national network of installations becomes more fully developed, there will be scope for giving greater weight to proximity in identifying suitable locations for new waste facilities.

183. Any sites identified specifically for energy from waste facilities should enable links to be made to potential users of renewable heat and energy. Such schemes are particularly suitable in locations where there are premises nearby with a long-term demand for heat. Paragraphs 158 to 160 set out policy on heat networks and mapping.

184. Plans should safeguard existing waste management installations and ensure that the allocation of land on adjacent sites does not compromise waste handling operations, which may operate 24 hours a day and partly outside buildings.

185. Strategic development plans and local development plans outwith city regions should set out spatial strategies which make provision for new infrastructure, indicating clearly that it can generally be accommodated on land designated for employment, industrial or storage and distribution uses.

186. Local development plans should identify appropriate locations for new infrastructure, allocating specific sites where possible, and should provide a policy framework which facilitates delivery. Suitable sites will include those which have been identified for employment, industry or storage and distribution. Updated Scottish Government planning advice on identifying sites and assessing their suitability will be provided in due course.

187. Local development plans should identify where masterplans or development briefs will be required to guide the development of waste installations for major sites.

Development Management

188. In determining applications for new installations, authorities should take full account of the policy set out at paragraph 176. Planning authorities should determine whether proposed developments would constitute appropriate uses of the land, leaving the regulation of permitted installations to SEPA.

189. SEPA's Thermal Treatment of Waste Guidelines 2013 and addendum sets out policy on thermal treatment plants.

190. All new development including residential, commercial and industrial properties should include provision for waste separation and collection to meet the requirements of the Waste (Scotland) Regulations.

191. Planning authorities should consider the need for buffer zones between dwellings or other sensitive receptors and some waste management facilities. As a guide, appropriate buffer distances may be:

  • 100m between sensitive receptors and recycling facilities, small-scale thermal treatment or leachate treatment plant;
  • 250m between sensitive receptors and operations such as outdoor composting, anaerobic digestion, mixed waste processing, thermal treatment or landfill gas plant; and
  • greater between sensitive receptors and landfill sites.

192. Planning authorities should:

  • consider requiring the preparation of site waste management plans for construction sites;
  • secure decommissioning or restoration (including landfill) to agreed standards as a condition of planning permission for waste management facilities; and
  • ensure that landfill consents are subject to an appropriate financial bond unless the operator can demonstrate that their programme of restoration, including the necessary financing, phasing and aftercare of sites, is sufficient.



Back to top