Scotland’s fourth National Planning Framework puts climate and nature centre-stage.
The Scottish Government is seeking to “transform planning” by putting the twin crises of climate and nature at the heart of the planning system.
National Planning Framework 4 is one of the first national-scale planning documents in the world to confront the urgent challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.
The opening paragraph scopes the ambition: “The world is facing unprecedented challenges. The global climate emergency means that we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the future impacts of climate change. We will need to respond to a growing nature crisis, and to work together to enable development that addresses the social and economic legacy of the coronavirus pandemic, the cost crisis and longstanding inequality.”
Opening the debate in the Scottish Parliament on 11 January, the Planning Minister Tom Arthur MSP, captured the spirit when he said “Planning is far from prosaic”.
The Framework requires that Local Development Plans “must address the global climate emergency and nature crisis by ensuring the spatial strategy will reduce emissions and adapt to current and future risks of climate change by promoting nature recovery and restoration in the area.”
It sets out policy that will be part of all statutory development plans in Scotland, and will shape development management decisions on plannng applications. Policy 1 states “When considering all development proposals
significant weight will be given to the global climate and nature crises.”
This represents a significant change from previous policy which prioritised “sustainable economic growth”, with the emphasis firmly on the “economic growth” part.
The Framework was endorsed by the MSPs by 88 votes to 30 with one abstention. The Conservatives opposed because they argued that it did not give sufficient emphasis to delivering more houses.
Other concerns raised in the debate were that planning departments had been run down for over a decade. They are struggling to cope with existing pressures and poorly placed to deliver on a more ambitious agenda. There were also calls for planning to be made more accessible to the public.