Ten Principles for the Third National Planning Framework

Craig McLaren, National Director of RTPI Scotland, discusses possible new approaches to NPF3

RTPI Scotland recently submitted some thinking to Scottish Government on the way forward for the 3rd National Planning Framework (NPF3).  We wanted to keep this high level and constructive and so developed 10 principles we think need to be applied to document.  These are wide ranging but hopefully helpful in taking forward discussion on what the document should be doing, how it should be organised and how it fits with other strategies.

Firstly we said that it should be ambitious. A statement of the obvious perhaps, but it is based on the notion that NPF3 and the planning system in general can do more for Scotland.   NPF3 needs to set out a framework that provides predictability for making often difficult decisions where there will be winners and losers.

We also said that NPF3 should prioritise.  The current economic climate means that now, more than ever, there is a need to prioritise investment and the levers that can encourage investment, such as infrastructure.  Given this we feel that there is a need to ensure that NPF3 incorporates and articulates realistic options for growth, no growth, and negative growth across Scotland.  It should be borne in mind that this will not always require new development.  It is often about making the best use of the assets that are already in place.

Thirdly, we said that NPF3 should be integrative through bringing together and reconciling the objectives of various other strategies and objectives published by Scottish Government and its agencies.

We also said that NPF3 should be influential and lead, rather than follow.  It should be seen as the key spatial plan for Scottish Government.   It must influence the priorities and resource allocation of Government’s Key Agencies, of utility companies and of private sector developers and investors who often hold the resources needed to deliver developments.  This means that NPF3 needs to promote a collaborative approach between these organisations and sectors where risk and rewards are shared.

Our fifth principle was that NPF3 should be clear and holistic.  There is a need to ensure clarity on NPF3’s vision, aim, objectives and priorities.  This will require precise wording and expression in the document and clarity on areas the appropriateness of development or protection. There may also be merit in looking to ensure that graphics and maps are better used to demonstrate this in the document.

Principle six was that NPF3 should focus on delivery.  We feel that it is worth exploring the idea of NPF3 working towards a number of specific national targets, framed within a number of national outcomes, which are set out in a revised Scottish Planning Policy (SPP).  These targets could be derived from existing national targets and could cover, for example, housing numbers, energy, renewables developments, waste and derelict land.  NPF3’s role would be to set out the spatial implications of these targets across Scotland and to establish how best they are delivered.  We need to ensure that NPF3 is seen as an implementation tool as much as a policy statement.  Key to this is ensuring that NPF3 promotes a clear relationship between infrastructure provision and development opportunities so that we can make the most of development opportunities in a sustainable way.

RTPI Scotland also suggested that NPF3 could be based around outcomes.   This could help to demonstrate how the planning system contributes to key priorities and provide a more holistic basis upon which to plan Scotland.  If this is to be taken forward, work needs to be done to ensure that it will still allow the NPF3 and SPP to be useful to their audiences.

Our eighth principle was that NPF3 needs to be directly linked to the revised Scottish Planning Policy (SPP).   Both documents should have the same outcomes and targets with the SPP dealing with the ‘how’ and NPF3 the ‘where’.  This will allow for NPF3 to outline the specific policy implications for specific geographies such as Scotland as a whole; the coast and marine areas; rural areas; towns and villages; cities and city regions.

We also outlined the need for clarity on where NPF3 links with other policy, guidance, advice and good practice including the revised SPP, Designing Streets, Designing Places, the forthcoming Architecture and Placemaking Policy; the Marine Plan, the Land Use Strategy and Circulars.

And finally we have said that NPF3 needs to be based on sound evidence and needs to be monitored to ensure it continues to be fit for purpose.  A sound and transparent evidence base must be in place to demonstrate why policy directions and priorities have been taken in the NPF3.

We would welcome views on these as we take forward work on NPF3 and the revised Scottish Planning Policy.

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