Scottish planning policy

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

A Natural, Resilient Place

Valuing the Natural Environment

NPF Context

193. The natural environment forms the foundation of the spatial strategy set out in NPF3. The environment is a valued national asset offering a wide range of opportunities for enjoyment, recreation and sustainable economic activity. Planning plays an important role in protecting, enhancing and promoting access to our key environmental resources, whilst supporting their sustainable use.

Policy Principles

194. The planning system should:

  • facilitate positive change while maintaining and enhancing distinctive landscape character;
  • conserve and enhance protected sites and species, taking account of the need to maintain healthy ecosystems and work with the natural processes which provide important services to communities;
  • promote protection and improvement of the water environment, including rivers, lochs, estuaries, wetlands, coastal waters and groundwater, in a sustainable and co-ordinated way;
  • seek to protect soils from damage such as erosion or compaction;
  • protect and enhance ancient semi-natural woodland as an important and irreplaceable resource, together with other native or long-established woods, hedgerows and individual trees with high nature conservation or landscape value;
  • 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; and
  • support opportunities for enjoying and learning about the natural environment.

Key Documents


195. Planning authorities, and all public bodies, have a duty under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 to further the conservation of biodiversity. This duty must be reflected in development plans and development management decisions. They also have a duty under the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003 to protect and improve Scotland's water environment. The Scottish Government 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.

Development Plans

196. International, national and locally designated areas and sites should be identified and afforded the appropriate level of protection in development plans. Reasons for local designation should be clearly explained and their function and continuing relevance considered when preparing plans. Buffer zones should not be established around areas designated for their natural heritage importance. Plans should set out the factors which will be taken into account in development management. The level of protection given to local designations should not be as high as that given to international or national designations.

197. Planning authorities are encouraged to limit non-statutory local designations to areas designated for their local landscape or nature conservation value:

  • the purpose of areas of local landscape value should be to:
    • safeguard and enhance the character and quality of a landscape which is important or particularly valued locally or regionally; or
    • promote understanding and awareness of the distinctive character and special qualities of local landscapes; or
    • safeguard and promote important local settings for outdoor recreation and tourism.
  • local nature conservation sites should seek to accommodate the following factors:
    • species diversity, species or habitat rarity, naturalness and extent of habitat;
    • contribution to national and local biodiversity objectives;
    • potential contribution to the protection or enhancement of connectivity between habitats or the development of green networks; and
    • potential to facilitate enjoyment and understanding of natural heritage.

198. Local nature conservation sites designated for their geodiversity should be selected for their value for scientific study and education, their historical significance and cultural and aesthetic value, and for their potential to promote public awareness and enjoyment.

199. Plans should address the potential effects of development on the natural environment, including proposals for major-accident hazard sites and the cumulative effects of incremental changes. They should consider the natural and cultural components together, and promote opportunities for the enhancement of degraded landscapes, particularly where this helps to restore or strengthen the natural processes which underpin the well-being and resilience of communities.

200. Wild land character is displayed in some of Scotland's remoter upland, mountain and coastal areas, which are very sensitive to any form of intrusive human activity and have little or no capacity to accept new development. Plans should identify and safeguard the character of areas of wild land as identified on the 2014 SNH map of wild land areas.

201. Plans should identify woodlands of high nature conservation value and include policies for protecting them and enhancing their condition and resilience to climate change. Forestry Commission Scotland's Native Woodland Survey of Scotland[89] provides information and guidance. Planning authorities should consider preparing forestry and woodland strategies as supplementary guidance to inform the development of forestry and woodland in their area, including the expansion of woodland of a range of types to provide multiple benefits. Scottish Government advice on planning for forestry and woodlands is set out in The Right Tree in the Right Place[90].

Development Management

202. The siting and design of development should take account of local landscape character. Development management decisions should take account of potential effects on landscapes and the natural and water environment, including cumulative effects. Developers should seek to minimise adverse impacts through careful planning and design, considering the services that the natural environment is providing and maximising the potential for enhancement.

203. Planning permission should be refused where the nature or scale of proposed development would have an unacceptable impact on the natural environment. Direct or indirect effects on statutorily protected sites will be an important consideration, but designation does not impose an automatic prohibition on development.

204. Planning authorities should apply the precautionary principle where the impacts of a proposed development on nationally or internationally significant landscape or natural heritage resources are uncertain but there is sound evidence indicating that significant irreversible damage could occur. The precautionary principle should not be used to impede development without justification. If there is any likelihood that significant irreversible damage could occur, modifications to the proposal to eliminate the risk of such damage should be considered. If there is uncertainty, the potential for research, surveys or assessments to remove or reduce uncertainty should be considered.

205. Where peat and other carbon rich soils are present, applicants should assess the likely effects of development on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Where peatland is drained or otherwise disturbed, there is liable to be a release of CO2 to the atmosphere. Developments should aim to minimise this release.

206. Where non-native species are present on site, or where planting is planned as part of a development, developers should take into account the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 relating to non-native species.

International Designations

Natura 2000 Sites

207. Sites designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) make up the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. Any development plan or proposal likely to have a significant effect on these sites which is not directly connected with or necessary to their conservation management must be subject to an "appropriate assessment" of the implications for the conservation objectives. Such plans or proposals may only be approved if the competent authority has ascertained by means of an "appropriate assessment" that there will be no adverse effect on the integrity of the site.

208. A derogation is available for authorities to approve plans or projects which could adversely affect the integrity of a Natura site if:

  • there are no alternative solutions;
  • there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including those of a social or economic nature; and
  • compensatory measures are provided to ensure that the overall coherence of the Natura network is protected.

209. If an authority wishes to use this derogation, Scottish Ministers must be notified. For sites hosting a priority habitat or species (as defined in Article 1 of the Habitats Directive), prior consultation with the European Commission via Scottish Ministers is required unless either the proposal is necessary for public health or safety reasons or it will have beneficial consequences of primary importance to the environment.

210. Authorities should afford the same level of protection to proposed SACs and SPAs (i.e. sites which have been approved by Scottish Ministers for formal consultation but which have not yet been designated) as they do to sites which have been designated.

Ramsar Sites

211. All Ramsar sites are also Natura 2000 sites and/or Sites of Special Scientific Interest and are protected under the relevant statutory regimes.

National Designations

212. Development that affects a National Park, National Scenic Area, Site of Special Scientific Interest or a National Nature Reserve should only be permitted where:

  • the objectives of designation and the overall integrity of the area will not be compromised; or
  • any significant adverse effects on the qualities for which the area has been designated are clearly outweighed by social, environmental or economic benefits of national importance.

213. Planning decisions for development within National Parks must be consistent with paragraphs 84-85.

Protected Species

214. The presence (or potential presence) of a legally protected species is an important consideration in decisions on planning applications. If there is evidence to suggest that a protected species is present on site or may be affected by a proposed development, steps must be taken to establish their presence. The level of protection afforded by legislation must be factored into the planning and design of the development and any impacts must be fully considered prior to the determination of the application. Certain activities - for example those involving European Protected Species as specified in the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 and wild birds, protected animals and plants under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 - may only be undertaken under licence. Following the introduction of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011, Scottish Natural Heritage is now responsible for the majority of wildlife licensing in Scotland.

Areas of Wild Land

215. In areas of wild land (see paragraph 200), development 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.


216. Ancient semi-natural woodland is an irreplaceable resource and, along with other woodlands, hedgerows and individual trees, especially veteran trees of high nature conservation and landscape value, should be protected from adverse impacts resulting from development. Tree Preservation Orders[91] can be used to protect individual trees and groups of trees considered important for amenity or their cultural or historic interest.

217. Where appropriate, planning authorities should seek opportunities to create new woodland and plant native trees in association with development. If a development would result in the severing or impairment of connectivity between important woodland habitats, workable mitigation measures should be identified and implemented, preferably linked to a wider green network (see also the section on green infrastructure).

218. The Scottish Government's Control of Woodland Removal Policy[92] includes a presumption in favour of protecting woodland. Removal should only be permitted where it would achieve significant and clearly defined additional public benefits. Where woodland is removed in association with development, developers will generally be expected to provide compensatory planting. The criteria for determining the acceptability of woodland removal and further information on the implementation of the policy is explained in the Control of Woodland Removal Policy, and this should be taken into account when preparing development plans and determining planning applications.

Maximising the Benefits of Green Infrastructure

NPF Context

219. NPF3 aims to significantly enhance green infrastructure networks, particularly in and around our cities and towns. Green infrastructure and improved access to open space can help to build stronger, healthier communities. It is an essential part of our long-term environmental performance and climate resilience. Improving the quality of our places and spaces through integrated green infrastructure networks can also encourage investment and development.

Policy Principles

220. Planning should protect, enhance and promote green infrastructure, including open space and green networks, as an integral component of successful placemaking.

221. The planning system should:

  • consider green infrastructure as an integral element of places from the outset of the planning process;
  • assess current and future needs and opportunities for green infrastructure to provide multiple benefits;
  • facilitate the provision and long-term, integrated management of green infrastructure and prevent fragmentation; and
  • provide for easy and safe access to and within green infrastructure, including core paths and other important routes, within the context of statutory access rights under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.

Key Documents


Development Planning

222. Development plans should be based on a holistic, integrated and cross-sectoral approach to green infrastructure. They should be informed by relevant, up-to-date audits, strategies and action plans covering green infrastructure's multiple functions, for example open space, playing fields, pitches, outdoor access, core paths, active travel strategies, the historic environment, biodiversity, forestry and woodland, river basins, flood management, coastal zones and the marine environment. Plans should promote consistency with these and reflect their priorities and spatial implications.

223. Strategic development plans should safeguard existing strategic or regionally important assets and identify strategic priorities for green infrastructure addressing cross-boundary needs and opportunities.

224. Local development plans should identify and protect open space identified in the open space audit and strategy as valued and functional or capable of being brought into use to meet local needs.

225. Local development plans should seek to enhance existing and promote the creation of new green infrastructure, which may include retrofitting. They should do this through a design-led approach, applying standards which facilitate appropriate provision, addressing deficits or surpluses within the local context. The standards delivered through a design-led approach should result in a proposal that is appropriate to place, including connections to other green infrastructure assets. Supplementary guidance or master plans may be used to achieve this.

226. Local development plans should identify sites for new indoor or outdoor sports, recreation or play facilities where a need has been identified in a local facility strategy, playing field strategy or similar document. They should provide for good quality, accessible facilities in sufficient quantity to satisfy current and likely future community demand. Outdoor sports facilities should be safeguarded from development except where:

  • the proposed development is ancillary to the principal use of the site as an outdoor sports facility;
  • the proposed development involves only a minor part of the outdoor sports facility and would not affect its use and potential for sport and training;
  • the outdoor sports facility which would be lost would be replaced either by a new facility of comparable or greater benefit for sport in a location that is convenient for users, or by the upgrading of an existing outdoor sports facility to provide a facility of better quality on the same site or at another location that is convenient for users and maintains or improves the overall playing capacity in the area; or
  • the relevant strategy (see paragraph 224) and consultation with sportscotland show that there is a clear excess of provision to meet current and anticipated demand in the area, and that the site would be developed without detriment to the overall quality of provision.

227. Local development plans should safeguard existing and potential allotment sites to ensure that local authorities meet their statutory duty to provide allotments where there is proven demand. Plans should also encourage opportunities for a range of community growing spaces.

228. Local development plans should safeguard access rights and core paths, and encourage new and enhanced opportunities for access linked to wider networks.

229. Local development plans should encourage the temporary use of unused or underused land as green infrastructure while making clear that this will not prevent any future development potential which has been identified from being realised. This type of greening may provide the advance structure planting to create the landscape framework for any future development.

Development Management

230. Development of land allocated as green infrastructure for an unrelated purpose should have a strong justification. This should be based on evidence from relevant audits and strategies that the proposal will not result in a deficit of that type of provision within the local area and that alternative sites have been considered. Poor maintenance and neglect should not be used as a justification for development for other purposes.

231. Development proposals that would result in or exacerbate a deficit of green infrastructure should include provision to remedy that deficit with accessible infrastructure of an appropriate type, quantity and quality.

232. In the design of green infrastructure, consideration should be given to the qualities of successful places. Green infrastructure should be treated as an integral element in how the proposal responds to local circumstances, including being well-integrated into the overall design layout and multi-functional. Arrangements for the long-term management and maintenance of green infrastructure, and associated water features, including common facilities, should be incorporated into any planning permission.

233. Proposals that affect regional and country parks must have regard to their statutory purpose of providing recreational access to the countryside close to centres of population, and should take account of their wider objectives as set out in their management plans and strategies.

Promoting Responsible Extraction of Resources

NPF Context

234. Minerals make an important contribution to the economy, providing materials for construction, energy supply and other uses, and supporting employment. NPF3 notes that minerals will be required as construction materials to support our ambition for diversification of the energy mix. Planning should safeguard mineral resources and facilitate their responsible use. Our spatial strategy underlines the need to address restoration of past minerals extraction sites in and around the Central Belt.

Policy Principles

235. The planning system should:

  • recognise the national benefit of indigenous coal, oil and gas production in maintaining a diverse energy mix and improving energy security;
  • safeguard workable resources and ensure that an adequate and steady supply is available to meet the needs of the construction, energy and other sectors;
  • minimise the impacts of extraction on local communities, the environment and the built and natural heritage; and
  • secure the sustainable restoration of sites to beneficial afteruse after working has ceased.

Key Documents


Development Planning

236. Strategic development plans should ensure that adequate supplies of construction aggregates can be made available from within the plan area to meet the likely development needs of the city region over the plan period.

237. Local development plans should safeguard all workable mineral resources which are of economic or conservation value and ensure that these are not sterilised by other development. Plans should set out the factors that specific proposals will need to address, including:

  • disturbance, disruption and noise, blasting and vibration, and potential pollution of land, air and water;
  • impacts on local communities, individual houses, sensitive receptors and economic sectors important to the local economy;
  • benefits to the local and national economy;
  • cumulative impact with other mineral and landfill sites in the area;
  • effects on natural heritage, habitats and the historic environment;
  • landscape and visual impacts, including cumulative effects;
  • transport impacts; and
  • restoration and aftercare (including any benefits in terms of the remediation of existing areas of dereliction or instability).

238. Plans should support the maintenance of a landbank of permitted reserves for construction aggregates of at least 10 years at all times in all market areas through the identification of areas of search. Such areas can be promoted by developers or landowners as part of the plan preparation process or by planning authorities where they wish to guide development to particular areas. As an alternative, a criteria-based approach may be taken, particularly where a sufficient landbank already exists or substantial unconstrained deposits are available.

239. Local development plans should identify areas of search where surface coal extraction is most likely to be acceptable during the plan period and set out the preferred programme for the development of other safeguarded areas beyond the plan period, with particular emphasis on protecting local communities from significant cumulative impacts. Where possible, plans should secure extraction prior to permanent development above workable coal reserves.

240. For areas covered by a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL), local development plans should also:

  • identify licence areas;
  • encourage operators to be as clear as possible about the minimum and maximum extent of operations (e.g. number of wells and duration) at the exploration phase whilst recognising that the factors to be addressed by applications should be relevant and proportionate to the appropriate exploration, appraisal and production phases of operations;
  • confirm that applicants should engage with local communities, residents and other stakeholders at each stage of operations, beginning in advance of any application for planning permission and in advance of any operations;
  • ensure that when developing proposals, applicants should consider, where possible, transport of the end product by pipeline, rail or water rather than road; and
  • provide a consistent approach to extraction where licences extend across local authority boundaries.

241. Policies should protect areas of peatland and only permit commercial extraction in areas suffering historic, significant damage through human activity and where the conservation value is low and restoration is impossible.

Development Management

242. Operators should provide sufficient information to enable a full assessment to be made of the likely effects of development together with appropriate control, mitigation and monitoring measures. This should include the provision of an adequate buffer zone between sites and settlements, taking account of the specific circumstances of individual proposals, including size, duration, location, method of working, topography, the characteristics of the various environmental effects likely to arise and the mitigation that can be provided.

243. Borrow pits should only be permitted if there are significant environmental or economic benefits compared to obtaining material from local quarries; they are time-limited; tied to a particular project and appropriate reclamation measures are in place.

244. Consent should only be granted for surface coal extraction proposals which are either environmentally acceptable (or can be made so by planning conditions) or provide local or community benefits which clearly outweigh the likely impacts of extraction. Site boundaries within 500 metres of the edge of settlements will only be environmentally acceptable where local circumstances, such as the removal of dereliction, small-scale prior extraction or the stabilisation of mining legacy, justify a lesser distance. Non-engineering works and mitigation measures within 500 metres may be acceptable.

245. To assist planning authorities with their consideration of impacts on local communities, neighbouring uses and the environment, applicants should undertake a risk assessment for all proposals for shale gas and coal bed methane extraction. The assessment can, where appropriate, be undertaken as part of any environmental impact assessment and should also be developed in consultation with statutory consultees and local communities so that it informs the design of the proposal. The assessment should clearly identify those onsite activities (i.e. emission of pollutants, the creation and disposal of waste) that pose a potential risk using a source-pathway-receptor model and explain how measures, including those under environmental and other legislation, will be used to monitor, manage and mitigate any identified risks to health, amenity and the environment. The evidence from, and outcome of, the assessment should lead to buffer zones being proposed in the application which will protect all sensitive receptors from unacceptable risks. When considering applications, planning authorities and statutory consultees must assess the distances proposed by the applicant. Where proposed distances are considered inadequate the Scottish Government expects planning permission to be refused.

246. Conditions should be drafted in a way which ensures that hydraulic fracturing does not take place where permission for such operations is not sought and that any subsequent application to do so is subject to appropriate consultation. If such operations are subsequently proposed, they should, as a matter of planning policy, be regarded as a substantial change in the description of the development for which planning permission is sought or a material variation to the existing planning permission. Where PEDL and Underground Coal licences are granted for the same or overlapping areas, consideration should be given to the most efficient sequencing of extraction.

247. The Scottish Government is currently exploring a range of options relating to the effective regulation of surface coal mining. This is likely to result in further guidance on effective restoration measures in due course. In the meantime, planning authorities should, through planning conditions and legal agreements, continue to ensure that a high standard of restoration and aftercare is managed effectively and that such work is undertaken at the earliest opportunity. A range of financial guarantee options is currently available and planning authorities should consider the most effective solution on a site-by-site basis. All solutions should provide assurance and clarity over the amount and period of the guarantee and in particular, where it is a bond, the risks covered (including operator failure) and the triggers for calling in a bond, including payment terms. In the aggregates sector, an operator may be able to demonstrate adequate provision under an industry-funded guarantee scheme.

248. Planning authorities should ensure that rigorous procedures are in place to monitor consents, including restoration arrangements, at appropriate intervals, and ensure that appropriate action is taken when necessary. The review of mineral permissions every 15 years should be used to apply up-to-date operating and environmental standards although requests from operators to postpone reviews should be considered favourably if existing conditions are already achieving acceptable standards. Conditions should not impose undue restrictions on consents at quarries for building or roofing stone to reflect the likely intermittent or low rate of working at such sites.

Supporting Aquaculture

NPF Context

249. Aquaculture makes a significant contribution to the Scottish economy, particularly for coastal and island communities. Planning can help facilitate sustainable aquaculture whilst protecting and maintaining the ecosystem upon which it depends. Planning can play a role in supporting the sectoral growth targets to grow marine finfish (including farmed Atlantic salmon) production sustainably to 210,000 tonnes; and shellfish, particularly mussels, sustainably to 13,000 tonnes with due regard to the marine environment by 2020.

Policy Principles

250. The planning system should:

  • play a supporting role in the sustainable growth of the finfish and shellfish sectors to ensure that the aquaculture industry is diverse, competitive and economically viable;
  • guide development to coastal locations that best suit industry needs with due regard to the marine environment;
  • maintain a presumption against further marine finfish farm developments on the north and east coasts to safeguard migratory fish species.

Key Documents

  • National Marine Plan


Development Planning

251. Local development plans should make positive provision for aquaculture developments. Plans, or supplementary guidance, should take account of Marine Scotland's locational policies when identifying areas potentially suitable for new development and sensitive areas which are unlikely to be appropriate for such development. They should also set out the issues that will be considered when assessing specific proposals, which could include:

  • impacts on, and benefits for, local communities;
  • economic benefits of the sustainable development of the aquaculture industry;
  • landscape, seascape and visual impact;
  • biological carrying capacity;
  • effects on coastal and marine species (including wild salmonids) and habitats;
  • impacts on the historic environment and the sea or loch bed;
  • interaction with other users of the marine environment (including commercial fisheries, Ministry of Defence, navigational routes, ports and harbours, anchorages, tourism, recreational and leisure activities); and
  • cumulative effects on all of the above factors.

Development Management

252. Applications should be supported, where necessary, by sufficient information to demonstrate:

  • operational arrangements (including noise, light, access, waste and odour) are satisfactory and sufficient mitigation plans are in place; and
  • the siting and design of cages, lines and associated facilities are appropriate for the location. This should be done through the provision of information on the extent of the site; the type, number and physical scale of structures; the distribution of the structures across the planning area; on-shore facilities; and ancillary equipment.

253. Any land-based facilities required for the proposal should, where possible, be considered at the same time. The planning system should not duplicate other control regimes such as controlled activities regulation licences from SEPA or fish health, sea lice and containment regulation by Marine Scotland.

Managing Flood Risk and Drainage

NPF Context

254. NPF3 supports a catchment-scale approach to sustainable flood risk management. The spatial strategy aims to build the resilience of our cities and towns, encourage sustainable land management in our rural areas, and to address the long-term vulnerability of parts of our coasts and islands. Flooding can impact on people and businesses. Climate change will increase the risk of flooding in some parts of the country. Planning can play an important part in reducing the vulnerability of existing and future development to flooding.

Policy Principles

255. The planning system should promote:

  • a precautionary approach to flood risk from all sources, including coastal, water course (fluvial), surface water (pluvial), groundwater, reservoirs and drainage systems (sewers and culverts), taking account of the predicted effects of climate change;
  • flood avoidance: by safeguarding flood storage and conveying capacity, and locating development away from functional flood plains and medium to high risk areas;
  • flood reduction: assessing flood risk and, where appropriate, undertaking natural and structural flood management measures, including flood protection, restoring natural features and characteristics, enhancing flood storage capacity, avoiding the construction of new culverts and opening existing culverts where possible; and
  • avoidance of increased surface water flooding through requirements for Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) and minimising the area of impermeable surface.

256. To achieve this the planning system should prevent development which would have a significant probability of being affected by flooding or would increase the probability of flooding elsewhere. Piecemeal reduction of the functional floodplain should be avoided given the cumulative effects of reducing storage capacity.

257. Alterations and small-scale extensions to existing buildings are outwith the scope of this policy, provided that they would not have a significant effect on the storage capacity of the functional floodplain or local flooding problems.

Key Documents


258. Planning authorities should have regard to the probability of flooding from all sources and take flood risk into account when preparing development plans and determining planning applications. The calculated probability of flooding should be regarded as a best estimate and not a precise forecast. Authorities should avoid giving any indication that a grant of planning permission implies the absence of flood risk.

259. Developers should take into account flood risk and the ability of future occupiers to insure development before committing themselves to a site or project, as applicants and occupiers have ultimate responsibility for safeguarding their property.

Development Planning

260. Plans should use strategic flood risk assessment (SFRA) to inform choices about the location of development and policies for flood risk management. They should have regard to the flood maps prepared by Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), and take account of finalised and approved Flood Risk Management Strategies and Plans and River Basin Management Plans.

261. Strategic and local development plans should address any significant cross boundary flooding issues. This may include identifying major areas of the flood plain and storage capacity which should be protected from inappropriate development, major flood protection scheme requirements or proposals, and relevant drainage capacity issues.

262. Local development plans should protect land with the potential to contribute to managing flood risk, for instance through natural flood management, managed coastal realignment, washland or green infrastructure creation, or as part of a scheme to manage flood risk.

263. Local development plans should use the following flood risk framework to guide development. This sets out three categories of coastal and watercourse flood risk, together with guidance on surface water flooding, and the appropriate planning approach for each (the annual probabilities referred to in the framework relate to the land at the time a plan is being prepared or a planning application is made):

  • Little or No Risk - annual probability of coastal or watercourse flooding is less than 0.1% (1:1000 years)
    • No constraints due to coastal or watercourse flooding.
  • Low to Medium Risk - annual probability of coastal or watercourse flooding is between 0.1% and 0.5% (1:1000 to 1:200 years)
    • Suitable for most development. A flood risk assessment may be required at the upper end of the probability range (i.e. close to 0.5%), and for essential infrastructure and the most vulnerable uses. Water resistant materials and construction may be required.
    • Generally not suitable for civil infrastructure. Where civil infrastructure must be located in these areas or is being substantially extended, it should be designed to be capable of remaining operational and accessible during extreme flood events.
  • Medium to High Risk - annual probability of coastal or watercourse flooding is greater than 0.5% (1:200 years)
    • May be suitable for:
    • residential, institutional, commercial and industrial development within built-up areas provided flood protection measures to the appropriate standard already exist and are maintained, are under construction, or are a planned measure in a current flood risk management plan;
    • essential infrastructure within built-up areas, designed and constructed to remain operational during floods and not impede water flow;
    • some recreational, sport, amenity and nature conservation uses, provided appropriate evacuation procedures are in place; and
    • job-related accommodation, e.g. for caretakers or operational staff.
    • Generally not suitable for:
    • civil infrastructure and the most vulnerable uses;
    • additional development in undeveloped and sparsely developed areas, unless a location is essential for operational reasons, e.g. for navigation and water-based recreation, agriculture, transport or utilities infrastructure (which should be designed and constructed to be operational during floods and not impede water flow), and an alternative, lower risk location is not available; and
    • new caravan and camping sites.
    • Where built development is permitted, measures to protect against or manage flood risk will be required and any loss of flood storage capacity mitigated to achieve a neutral or better outcome.
    • Water-resistant materials and construction should be used where appropriate. Elevated buildings on structures such as stilts are unlikely to be acceptable.

Surface Water Flooding

- Infrastructure and buildings should generally be designed to be free from surface water flooding in rainfall events where the annual probability of occurrence is greater than 0.5% (1:200 years).
- Surface water drainage measures should have a neutral or better effect on the risk of flooding both on and off the site, taking account of rain falling on the site and run-off from adjacent areas.

Development Management

264. It is not possible to plan for development solely according to the calculated probability of flooding. In applying the risk framework to proposed development, the following should therefore be taken into account:

  • the characteristics of the site;
  • the design and use of the proposed development;
  • the size of the area likely to flood;
  • depth of flood water, likely flow rate and path, and rate of rise and duration;
  • the vulnerability and risk of wave action for coastal sites;
  • committed and existing flood protection methods: extent, standard and maintenance regime;
  • the effects of climate change, including an allowance for freeboard;
  • surface water run-off from adjoining land;
  • culverted watercourses, drains and field drainage;
  • cumulative effects, especially the loss of storage capacity;
  • cross-boundary effects and the need for consultation with adjacent authorities;
  • effects of flood on access including by emergency services; and
  • effects of flood on proposed open spaces including gardens.

265. Land raising should only be considered in exceptional circumstances, where it is shown to have a neutral or better impact on flood risk outside the raised area. Compensatory storage may be required.

266. The flood risk framework set out above should be applied to development management decisions. Flood Risk Assessments (FRA) should be required for development in the medium to high category of flood risk, and may be required in the low to medium category in the circumstances described in the framework above, or where other factors indicate heightened risk. FRA will generally be required for applications within areas identified at high or medium likelihood of flooding/flood risk in SEPA's flood maps.

267. Drainage Assessments, proportionate to the development proposal and covering both surface and foul water, will be required for areas where drainage is already constrained or otherwise problematic, or if there would be off-site effects.

268. Proposed arrangements for SuDS should be adequate for the development and appropriate long-term maintenance arrangements should be put in place.



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