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National Planning Framework 3 - Main Issues Report and Draft Framework


1 Our Spatial Strategy

Map - Our Spatial Strategy

Scotland Today - our ambitions

1.1 The Scottish Government's central purpose is to make Scotland a more successful country, with opportunities for all to flourish through increasing sustainable economic growth. Our Government Economic Strategy sets out the measures we are taking to accelerate Scotland's recovery and support jobs. It highlights key sectors where there will be significant growth, and sets out our strong commitment to provide a supportive business environment and opportunities for people across the country. In delivering these aspirations, our planning system has an important and very positive role to play in ensuring that Scotland is recognised as being 'open for business'. The third National Planning Framework, like its two predecessors, will be the spatial expression of the Government Economic Strategy, informed by our plans and policies in areas such as transport, energy, health and wellbeing, climate change, and land use.

1.2 Our ambition is for a Scotland with a growing, low carbon economy with progressively narrowing disparities in wellbeing and opportunity. It is growth which goes hand in hand with reduced emissions and which respects the quality of place and of life which makes our country so special. It is healthy and sustainable growth which increases solidarity - reducing inequalities between individuals, and cohesion - reducing inequalities between our regions.

1.3 Amongst the most important challenges we face in achieving these ambitions are:

  • A global economic downturn which has increased unemployment, restricted private investment in new development, and will have consequences for the Scottish Government's own budget for years to come.
  • A spatially uneven distribution of wealth, wellbeing and opportunity, where some places need new infrastructure and development to build on their success, whilst others face the challenges of overcoming disadvantage and creating better living environments.
  • Meeting our ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, whilst planning to adapt to the consequences of inevitable climate change.
  • Ensuring that new development leads to a healthier environment and to high quality, sustainable places which people want to live in and visit.

1.4 The second National Planning Framework (NPF2) provided a strong, long-term spatial strategy for the development of Scotland. The global downturn has since changed the economic context, and new policy has developed in areas like digital infrastructure and energy. Some of the 14 national developments identified in NPF2 have gained consent, and have been completed or are now well on the way to delivery. Construction of the Forth Replacement Crossing has commenced, and the new Loch Ryan Ferry Port opened in 2011. There have been significant improvements to rail networks in the West of Scotland and the development of the facilities for the 2014 Commonwealth Games are on schedule. Good progress is also being made in improving the electricity grid, whilst other proposals have reached the consenting stage. Plans for enhancing our key airports have progressed, and collaborative working at Grangemouth is helping to address issues such as flood risk management. Some of the longer term projects, such as the Central Scotland Green Network, have gained momentum and are now supported by strong partnerships as a result of the support given to them by NPF2. But NPF2's achievements go beyond supporting specific developments. Its broader objectives for a strategic approach to sustainable economic growth, good connectivity, renewable energy and environmental protection have influenced strategic and local development plans and decision making across the country.

1.5 We aim to build on this progress. Our work in compiling the Monitoring Report for NPF2, published last year, and the research and stakeholder engagement we have undertaken in preparing this Main Issues Report, confirms our view that the overall spatial strategy in NPF2 remains essentially sound. We therefore envisage a third National Planning Framework - NPF3 - which is an evolution of that strategy, updated to reflect new circumstances, challenges and opportunities, and with an even greater emphasis on ensuring that strategy is given effect through new development and infrastructure.

Scotland Tomorrow - the opportunities

1.6 Our preferred spatial strategy for NPF3 is built on our opportunities. In particular, we note the new opportunities arising from our commitment to respond to the challenge of climate change; the role of our cities in driving growth; the critical importance of knowledge and skills; the increasing premium investors are putting on quality of place and environment; and developing digital technologies. Together, these are changing the economic geography of Scotland, and could play a significant role in narrowing the gap between our highest and lowest performing regions.

1.7 To be sustainable, it is essential that we make the most efficient use of our existing assets - our natural resources, our land, our towns and cities, our infrastructure.

1.8 We have structured this report around the key areas of change that have emerged since NPF2 was published in 2009. We have a long-term ambition, and have identified a series of opportunities in the short term which we believe should be prioritised to help us achieve this. We have also set out some alternative proposals which, although we do not identify them as a priority, also have the potential to support our ambition. Our vision is a Scotland which is:

  • A low carbon place. We have seized the opportunities arising from our ambition to be a world leader in low carbon energy generation. Our built environment is more energy efficient and produces less waste, we will have made progress in ensuring our transport networks are largely decarbonised. The benefits are realised across the country.
  • A natural place to invest. Our environment and natural resources are respected, they are improving in condition and represent a sustainable economic, environmental and social resource for the nation.
  • A successful, sustainable place. We have a growing, sustainable low carbon economy which provides opportunities more fairly distributed between and within all our communities. All our people live in high quality, sustainable places which provide enough homes and foster better health. There is a fair distribution of opportunities in cities, towns and rural areas, reflecting the diversity and strengths of our unique people and places.
  • A connected place. The whole country has access to high speed fixed and mobile digital infrastructure. We have more and better strategic transport links that facilitate our aspirations for a growing economy and inclusive society.

1.9 This overall vision, comprising these four key priorities, is set out in our preferred strategy map. It shows not just the national developments, but also the other development proposals and key infrastructure which forms part of the spatial strategy.

1.10 This vision demonstrates our commitment to providing opportunities for people throughout Scotland. Many of these opportunities are shared across the country. However, our strategy also shows how local distinctiveness should be recognised and used to shape the future of our unique places and communities. The four national priorities will together provide different futures for different parts of the country. Our emphasis on cities reflects this, but the strategy also considers opportunities for towns and rural areas, and will be informed further by the outcomes of our national review of town centres. The themes come together in Section 6, which outlines a vision for areas of co-ordinated action, building on each area's strengths.

1.11 In Orkney, the Pentland Firth and North Caithness, we expect that there will be significant new opportunities from our low carbon agenda. Our strategy supports this by planning for future infrastructure needs and fast tracking development needed to support innovation in offshore energy. Inverness is a hub for the Highlands and Islands. Our strategy outlines investment opportunities and consequent development needs around the Moray Firth. We have an opportunity to make use of the international reputation, skills and experience from the oil and gas sector. Our strategy facilitates this, by helping to accommodate further growth and prosperity, in Aberdeen and the North East and elsewhere. Further south, much of our essential infrastructure is clustered around the Firth of Forth. We want to allow for future development needs in this area whilst respecting its unique environmental qualities. To the west, ongoing regeneration of the Glasgow conurbation, focussed around the Clyde, is a continuing priority. Our strategy highlights the need for a step change in environmental quality and the importance of making better use of derelict and vacant land. In the South West, further regeneration and good connections will be required to support a stronger, more sustainable future. There are also opportunities for sustainable economic growth and development beyond these areas, from the Scottish Borders to Argyll, the Western Isles and Shetland. Our strategy therefore reflects on how, at a strategic level, planning can facilitate community led development, targeted infrastructure investment and locally driven growth to build resilience and secure a strong future for all of our population.

1.12 To help make Scotland as a whole a low carbon place, we suggest our spatial strategy:

  • Prioritises the infrastructure required to support some of the earliest offshore renewable energy projects.
  • Facilitates the development of new carbon capture and storage technologies and contributes to our energy security, by supporting potential projects at Peterhead and Grangemouth.
  • Reflects the ongoing need for reinforcements to the electricity grid.
  • Helps to provide a framework to develop the infrastructure needed to make significant progress on decarbonising heat by 2050.
  • Supports the further deployment of onshore wind farms, but balances this with our commitment to protection for our nationally important landscapes and residential amenity.
  • Supports future investment in oil and gas infrastructure, alongside support for carbon capture and storage technology and transfer of skills to support the renewable energy sector.
  • Helps to retain the benefits of renewable energy development in Scotland by supporting investment at key sites across the country.
  • Facilitates a transition to a lower carbon, more energy efficient built environment.

1.13 To help make Scotland a natural place to invest we suggest our spatial strategy:

  • Brings forward commitments to environmental protection from NPF2, and evolves the strategy to focus on how Scotland's environment should function as an ecosystem that delivers multiple benefits for people in the future.
  • Is founded upon an understanding of our key natural and cultural assets, and the contribution they make to our quality of life and our economy.
  • Supports key elements of Visit Scotland's proposed tourism development plan and the wider ambitions of the Scottish tourism industry set out in the Scottish Tourism Alliance's 'Tourism 2020 Strategy'.
  • Reflects a long-term vision for a national network of long-distance paths and routes, and identifies priority improvements to this.
  • Balances national zero waste ambition with local delivery of waste and resource services.
  • Recognises the importance of water resources, and continues to support the Metropolitan Glasgow Strategic Drainage Plan.

1.14 To help make Scotland a successful, sustainable place, we suggest our spatial strategy:

  • Highlights how planning can help to ensure that Scotland is a great place to do business.
  • Reflects the economic geography of Scotland, and the likely changes to this as a result of the transition to a low carbon economy.
  • Promotes the creation of high quality, distinctive, sustainable and healthy places.
  • Reflects the importance of our cities as drivers of the economy, and the importance of the wider city-regions and our town centres in supporting economic growth.
  • Supports economic growth at key locations, including our Enterprise Areas.
  • Identifies two nationally significant projects, Dundee Waterfront and Ravenscraig, as national developments.
  • Retains the Central Scotland Green Network as a national development, as an integral part of placemaking, with greater focus on active travel and tackling vacant and derelict land and in areas where there are concentrations of economic disadvantage and poor health.
  • Maintains a flexible approach to housing provision, reflecting the ongoing challenges and changes in the housing market.

1.15 To help make Scotland a connected place, we suggest that our spatial strategy:

  • Is founded upon an ambition for world-class digital infrastructure, fixed and mobile, across Scotland.
  • Enhances and makes the best use of our existing infrastructure in preference to building anew.
  • Supports the decarbonising of our transport sector.
  • Prioritises the enhancement of transport links between our cities.
  • Recognises the importance of links to rural areas, in particular in support of the transition to a low carbon economy.
  • Identifies enhancements to port facilities associated with Aberdeen Harbour, Grangemouth and further new freight capacity on the Forth as national developments, with longer-term deep-water opportunities at Scapa Flow and Hunterston.
  • Recognises the importance of improvements associated with the masterplans of our main airports, retains them as national developments, and considers their broader economic role.
  • Identifies a high-speed rail service between Edinburgh and Glasgow and, in time, south to London as a national development.

1.16 Following the consultation on this Main Issues Report, we will take account of the responses we receive and will update this strategy in our Proposed National Planning Framework which we intend to submit to the Scottish Parliament before the end of the year.

1.17 The final strategy maps in NPF3 will be supported by more detail about how the spatial strategy should be delivered on the ground, in particular in those areas where we identify a need for further co-ordinated action. We expect subsequent development plans and planning decisions to support all the elements of the final spatial strategy contained in NPF3, and that it will be used to inform the future policy and investment decisions of the Scottish Government, its agencies and other organisations.