Achieving Aspirations for Scotland Through Planning

Alistair MacDonald, Convenor of RTPI Scotland, discusses the National Planning Framework and review of Scottish Planning Policy

RTPI Scotland believes that planning has an important role in supporting Scottish Government’s ambitions on sustainable development, sustainable economic growth, climate change, engagement, placemaking and well located new development. We are pleased that Scottish Government is committed to the 3rd National Planning Framework (NPF3) and revised Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) and that it recognises the key role they can play and the added value that they can bring. We welcome the draft documents and the ambitions that they set out.

RTPI Scotland is committed to maximising the benefits from NPF3 and SPP. For this to happen we believe that we need to build on the many good things contained in the documents and, in doing this, Scottish Government needs to look to use them, and the other tools they have at their disposal, to provide four things.

Firstly, NPF3 and SPP need to provide certainty for planning authorities, developers, investors and communities. This requires NPF3 and SPP to:

• provide a framework to enable delivery by including a delivery focussed Action Programme for both documents that links to, and influences decisions on, resources.
• outline clear policy and geographical priorities that indicate the implications of the documents for specific sectors or areas of Scotland.
• be thought of as an investment strategy as well as a planning document, that highlights future opportunities and assets that are to be valued.

Secondly, there is a need for NPF3 and SPP to be clear on their ambitions. This requires them to:

• clearly set out the high levels ambitions they are trying to achieve and planning’s role in supporting this.
• set out the indicators that will be used to monitor progress.
• include precise and unambiguous wording that is not open to interpretation.

Thirdly, the documents need to provide a clear hierarchy for visioning and decision making. This requires Scottish Government to clearly set out, and differentiate between:

• the policies/ strategy in place to achieve outcomes they aspire to. These should be the main thrust of NPF3 and SPP.
• the means of delivering these, which should be contained in the joint Action Programme.
• guidance on definitions and technical aspects in place to support this, which should not be in main body of SPP or NPF3.

And finally, they need to provide a framework that allows Scottish Government and its Agencies, planning authorities and those engaging with the planning system to work more smartly. This requires:

• NPF3 and SPP to work towards achieving the same outcomes and to work to the same timescales. SPP should outline how these will be achieved and NPF3 should set out where they will happen. Both documents should be looking to a 20 -30 year timescale, should be reviewed at the same time, and, should be published at the same time. Pushing the publication date of SPP back to the same time as NPF3 will allow for the documents to be explicitly linked to one another.
• NPF3 and SPP to provide a context which focusses the work of Scottish Government, Key Agencies and planning authorities on those tasks that add value so as to make best use of limited resources.
• Scottish Government to ensure that NPF3 and SPP are corporate documents that influence other key Government strategies such as, for example, the National Marine Plan, the Infrastructure Investment Plan and the Land Use Strategy

We have set these out in our responses to the Scottish Government consultations on these and you can read them here. We’d also welcome any thoughts or comment you have on what we have said.

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