Planning a Nation…

Nikola Miller, Planning Policy and Practice Officer in RTPI Scotland, discusses the draft National Planning Farmework and Scottish Planning Policy

Tuesday 30 April proved to be an important date for planning in Scotland as it saw Scottish Government publish its ideas on planning for Scotland. The draft National Planning Framework 3 (NPF3) and the draft revised Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) document have vital roles in setting out the future of Scotland over the next twenty to thirty years. NPF3 will establish what should be developed where, whilst SPP will set out why and how.

The draft SPP sets out Core Values of the Planning Service and three outcomes for planning: creating well-designed sustainable places for Scotland’s people; protecting and enhancing Scotland’s built and natural environment; and supporting sustainable economic growth and the transition to a low carbon economy. The document also introduces five new Principal Policies covering sustainable economic growth; sustainable development; engagement; climate change; and placemaking.

Policy proposals include promoting a new town centres first approach for a mix of uses including cultural and community facilities, retail, leisure, entertainment, recreation, housing and business and ensuring that a generous housing land supply is in place by allowing an additional margin of 10% to 20% in development plans. It is also proposed that planning authorities undertake regular ‘business land audits’ to ensure that identified sites are marketable. The document also sets out areas where wind farms will not be acceptable and areas of significant protection. It proposes to increase the community separation distance between wind farms, cities, towns and villages.

The draft NPF3 is structured around four key issues:

A Low Carbon Place – covering energy demand; heat; onshore wind; offshore renewables; community ownership; electricity generation requirements, transmission, distribution and storage; and oil and gas
A Natural Place to Invest – including tourism, recreation, long distance routes and sustainable resource management
A Successful, Sustainable Place – including sustainable economic growth, settlement strategy, green networks, health and housing
A Connected Place – covering decarbonising transport and reducing the need to travel, cities, economic investment, rural areas, international connections, ports, airports and high speed rail

This document also sets out six Areas of Coordinated Action and 12 National Developments. It asks questions around issues including how NPF3 can support the transition to a decarbonised heat sector and transport networks; if it should safeguard areas of wild from onshore wind developments; how onshore planning can best support aspirations for offshore renewable energy; what can be done to support sustainable use of environmental assets; how to best consolidate and reinvigorate existing settlements and support economic growth; and how NPF can help deliver sufficient homes.

RTPI Scotland has broadly welcomed both documents. Prior their publication we said that they need to be ambitious and provide the context for making often difficult decisions on where we should be promoting growth and what should be protected. Given this, we are pleased that the draft NPF3 aims to establish a clearer spatial strategy for renewables developments.

RTPI Scotland welcome the publication of these documents. They show the Government’s continued commitment to using the planning system to achieve its ambitions for Scotland. The documents should influence Government policy on what goes where and decisions on investment from Government, its agencies, utility companies and developers.  We are also pleased to see the emphasis given to creating great places. Embedding these key principles into national policy documents should go some way to ensure that we help to deliver quality places for people.

RTPI Scotland has also noted the key role that planners and planning can play in meeting the Government’s ambitions around a low carbon economy and town centre first policies.

Work will now focus on looking at the detail of each of the documents and engaging with Government, politicians and stakeholders before drafting responses. We would welcome Members’ views on the documents. A number of discussion events are being held by Scottish Chapters and the Scottish Young Planners’ Network and views on the documents can be sent to  and you can get more details on Chapter discussion events at

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