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National Planning Framework 3 - Main Issues Report and Draft Framework


5 A Connected Place

Our ambition is to maintain and develop good internal and global connections

Map - A Connected Place

A Connected Place

Building on NPF2

5.1 NPF2 aimed to strengthen Scotland's links with the rest of the world and promote more sustainable patterns of travel. It identified strategic transport routes and key nodes, and international gateways. The Replacement Forth Crossing, West of Scotland Strategic Rail Enhancements, High Speed Rail Link to London, Strategic Airport Enhancements, Grangemouth Freight Hub, Additional Container Transhipment Facility on the Forth, Port Development on Loch Ryan and Scapa Flow Container Transhipment Facility were all designated as national developments.

5.2 Earlier this year we published an update to our Infrastructure Investment Plan which deals with transport and other infrastructure. This outlines plans for future infrastructure investment (as shown in Map 23) prioritised against key criteria including sustainable economic growth, the low carbon economy, efficient and high quality public services and supporting employment and opportunity. The Plan emphasises the importance of place and aims to ensure that all of Scotland derives benefit from our infrastructure investment, maximising potential and reducing disparities.

5.3 For transport, the Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR) provides the evidence base for the Infrastructure Investment Plan. In addition to these major capital investments, other projects also have the potential to help deliver the wider spatial strategy and its aspiration of growth in key economic sectors including renewable energy, tourism and food and drink.

5.4 The STPR and NPF2 share the same spatial agenda and have informed the Infrastructure Investment Plan. We therefore do not intend that NPF3 should revisit the transport infrastructure priorities which the STPR and the Infrastructure Investment Plan identify, but we do need to ensure that align as closely as possible with our preferred spatial strategy.

5.5 During the early engagement on NPF3, many consultees highlighted transport projects that they felt should be prioritised. A large proportion of those proposed as national developments are road, rail and low carbon transport projects, or proposals to enhance airports and ports.

5.6 The level of detail ranged from very specific actions on a particular route, to more general aspirations for improvements. Many of these proposals are already reflected in our investment plans. Others could be considered longer-term priorities.

Map 23 - Infrastructure Investment Plan - Transport Projects


5.7 We think the more sustainable approach, both in financial and environmental terms, is firstly to prioritise getting the greatest benefit from our existing transport infrastructure, and only then considering what additional targeted investment may be required.

5.8 We think that the transport-related aims of NPF2 remain sound. NPF3 will consider how those aims and the suite of national developments can contribute to the emerging spatial strategy. In doing this, we think the key objectives should be:

  • decarbonising transport and reducing the need to travel;
  • links within and between cities and their regions;
  • links to support economic investment, recognising the role of good connectivity in supporting balanced and sustainable growth;
  • rural links, including lifeline routes; and
  • international connections.

Decarbonisation of transport and reducing the need to travel

5.9 Throughout the spatial strategy, the need to achieve a significant shift towards low carbon forms of transport has been emphasised. The draft Scottish Planning Policy sets out how planning can reduce the need for travel and encourage the shift to walking, cycling and public transport. In spatial terms, NPF3 could highlight the role of city and town centres as integrated transport hubs, identify longer-term opportunities to promote sustainable settlement patterns that reduce the need to travel, and demonstrate our commitment to substantially increasing active travel as part of our overall strategy.

5.10 Decarbonising the transport sector will require alternative fuel sources for trains and vehicles. We are already expanding rail electrification under the STPR, and our plans for renewable energy generation will support this. We are also considering plans to promote the use of alternative lower emission fuels, e.g. Liquefied Natural Gas for use in HGVs and ferries.

5.11 In partnership with the energy sector, the Scottish Government recently announced further funding to increase infrastructure for electric vehicle charging. This includes charging points in areas ranging from the seven cities and the primary road network to the Commonwealth Games sites in Glasgow and ferry terminals on the islands. Grants (100%) are available to install charging points at homes, in private properties and workplaces through the ChargePlace Scotland Scheme. The draft Scottish Planning Policy also makes reference to opportunities to improve low carbon transport infrastructure.

5.12 NPF3 will reflect our ambition to significantly increase levels of everyday cycling and walking within our settlements, and this is recognised as part of the cities agenda. Our Cycling Action Plan was published in 2010 and is currently being updated to consider further opportunities to integrate cycling into the built environment. Individual local authorities should consider how best to adapt existing streets and places to facilitate more walking and cycling within their areas. Designing Streets explains how, in new development throughout Scotland, planning can facilitate this.

5.13 Alongside this, it is important that NPF3 contributes to reducing the need to travel. Our aspiration to achieve a step change in digital connectivity can contribute to this, and will support broader aspirations for development and investment across Scotland.

5.14 High quality mobile and fixed broadband connections have become essential to support communities and business development, in both rural and urban areas. Scotland's Digital Future: A Strategy for Scotland aims to deliver the ambition for next generation broadband to all by 2020, with significant progress by 2015.

5.15 The Infrastructure Investment Plan aims to accelerate the roll out of next generation broadband to all parts of rural Scotland over the next 5 years, to support public service provision as well as investment in the digital economy and rural economic growth. It notes the challenge of rural geography in achieving this, and the importance of public sector action to ensure rural and remote communities are not left behind. Map 24 shows where this will be required.

Question 14: How can NPF3 help to decarbonise our transport networks?

Is our emerging spatial strategy consistent with the aim of decarbonising transport?

Are there any specific, nationally significant digital infrastructure objectives that should be included in NPF3?

Should NPF3 go further in promoting cycling and walking networks for everyday use, and if so, what form could this take at a national scale?

Map 24 - Digital Infrastructure in Scotland


5.16 To facilitate the role of cities as drivers of growth, we believe that NPF3 should focus on the need to invest in transport infrastructure between them, and within their regions, to support more sustainable development, including at higher densities and mixed-uses in central areas and in those well-served by public transport. Areas of expansion around cities should be linked with public transport, and planned as sustainable places. Where we aim for higher density, management of impacts on air quality will be required.

5.17 Many of the proposals for national developments we have received relate to inter-city links which are already planned. We do not consider that national development status will add significant value to these projects. Early engagement highlighted the particular importance of the corridor from Dunblane to Inverness and making sure that road, rail and active transport links along it are optimised. Other links already identified in the Infrastructure Investment Plan include the Edinburgh to Glasgow Rail Improvements Programme, which extends to Stirling, the A96 corridor, the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route and the M8, M73 and M74 Motorway Improvements.

5.18 The spatial strategy emerging for NPF3 suggests that these priorities are correct and will facilitate further development of the cities network. However, it also suggests that, within the cities network, road and rail links from the Central Belt to Aberdeen and Inverness will be particularly important in strengthening the economic corridor as a whole. This has been identified in the Infrastructure Investment Plan and rail improvements in particular will require a significant level of investment to address constraints in the Usan area.

5.19 Around Edinburgh, capacity of the strategic and local road transport networks, particularly the A720, has implications for housing and business development in the surrounding area. STPR projects to deliver intelligent transport systems and targeted road congestion relief can help to address this directly, and other transport improvements like park and ride proposals, new junctions on the M8 at Heartlands and on the M9 at Winchburgh, the Airdrie to Bathgate Line and the Borders Railway can also assist. Forward planning in SESplan and subsequent local development plans will need to take due account of potential impacts on transport infrastructure, and address any capacity issues this raises. In the long term, there may be opportunities for matching demand within the SESPlan area as a whole to available infrastructure capacity.

5.20 Over the longer term we expect that, in addition to our infrastructure investment plans, the broader aspirations for more sustainable settlement planning, and an emphasis on making best use of existing infrastructure capacity to inform the selection of development sites, can help to overcome this constraint. Digital links could also help to address existing congestion issues.

Links to support economic investment

5.21 Section 2 emphasised the significant opportunities arising from the low carbon and renewable energy sector. As development takes place, we expect that connections to these areas will become increasingly important. Our preferred approach aims to avoid duplication. We do not propose the identification of any of these specific connections as national developments in NPF3, as this would replicate the priorities already established by the Infrastructure Investment Plan, without adding further value.

5.22 The National Renewables Infrastructure Plan (NRIP) identifies the potential for investment in ports, harbours and associated facilities to support the deployment of, and maximum economic benefit from, offshore renewable energy projects. All of these projects can deliver significant economic benefits. It is also apparent that there are other sites, additional to those in NRIP, for which strategies are being developed in response to opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

5.23 Most of these development sites are considered to be well served by existing landward transport infrastructure. In the coming years and through the lifetime of NPF3 it is expected that many movements to and from these ports will be by sea. However, there may be merit, in the long term, in reviewing the need for further investment in transport infrastructure to remote rural areas, such as the Far North Rail Line and the A9 from Scrabster to Inverness. Further key links that could be prioritised include access improvements at the Port of Dundee, and more reliable access to Campbeltown/Machrihanish via the A83. In view of its importance to the Argyll economy, a study of this route has recently been undertaken to inform a programme of targeted improvements.

5.24 As well as recognising the importance of environmental quality in supporting tourism, as set out in Section 3, NPF3 could support the development and promotion of key scenic corridors, including the A82 and A9, which have an important role in providing access to our national parks and which have already been prioritised for improvement. The Scottish Tourist Routes Project has been awarded £0.5 million to provide start-up costs for roadside viewing platforms and viewpoints. The aim is to significantly improve the journey experience by creating new places to stop and enjoy Scotland's landscapes. There may be opportunities to link these enhancements with provision of local visitor facilities, and brand them as a tourism product in their own right.

5.25 In Section 3 we also highlighted the contribution that long-distance routes and canals can make to tourism and recreation nationally. VisitScotland's emerging tourism development strategy identifies the importance of gateways and key entry points to Scotland and the need to further support the quality of visitor experiences and contribute to the target of increased visitor spend.

Connections to rural areas

5.26 Our spatial strategy, which focuses on improving existing settlements and facilitating higher density development over the long term, should provide opportunities to improve public transport provision by consolidating development around public transport corridors and stops in rural areas. However, low carbon transport options can be more limited in rural areas, and there will continue to be a need for travel by road. This suggests a particular spatial priority for the provision of infrastructure for electric vehicles (as noted above), and also emphasises the importance of strong digital links in these areas. The latter was repeatedly raised in the early engagement on NPF3.

5.27 Lifeline links to the islands and remote parts of the mainland remain essential. NPF3 will highlight the importance of ferry and air links in particular. We do not consider that the designation of a national development is necessary to take forward any of the priorities identified in the recently published Ferries Plan.

5.28 Resilience of key rural transport connections is also an important issue and will grow in importance as a result of climate change. There are particular routes which require targeted intervention to maintain essential links to rural communities and businesses. Key priorities, including the A82 and A83, are already recognised by Transport Scotland. Over the long term, the maintenance and improvement of transport infrastructure should seek to build in further capacity for adaptation to climate change.

Question 15: Where are the priorities for targeted improvements to our transport networks?

Are there other nationally significant priorities for investment in transport within and between cities?

As well as prioritising links within and between cities, what national priorities should NPF3 identify to improve physical and digital connections for rural areas?

International connections


5.29 Section 2 set out an agenda for development at many of the ports identified in the National Renewables Infrastructure Plan. Since NPF2 was published the new port facilities at Cairnryan have been completed, but there continues to be a need for additional freight capacity at Grangemouth and elsewhere on the Forth, and there is potential for port-related development at Cockenzie. Scapa Flow and Hunterston are key deepwater resources with significant potential to support both the transport and energy sectors. Over the longer term, they offer opportunities for developing new gateway and transhipment freight facilities linked to world shipping routes.

5.30 As international gateways, our ports should benefit from good landward transport links for passengers and freight. Beyond the priorities emerging from the renewable energy sector, wider development of our ports for freight remains essential.

5.31 We believe that the potential for growth at Aberdeen Harbour is nationally significant. Opportunities will arise from the expected growth in cargo over the coming years, and the port will continue to play a vital role in the oil and gas and renewable energy sectors, as well as providing key links to the Northern Isles. Given the significance of the North East and Orkney and Shetland to our long-term strategy for growth, there is a clear need to support expansion of the harbour and associated development to overcome the current limits of its capacity. Any potential impacts on the River Dee Special Area of Conservation will need to be appropriately addressed. We consider that the expansion of Aberdeen Harbour should be designated as a national development in NPF3, to reflect its importance to the spatial strategy as a whole. Development of Peterhead as an energy hub, and its pivotal role for the renewables sector and for grid infrastructure and in relation to carbon capture and storage, has already been outlined in Section 2.

National development

Aberdeen Harbour expansion

Why it is needed

To support oil and gas and renewable energy investment, freight traffic and transport links to the northern isles


Expansion of the harbour and associated facilities

5.32 Hunterston and Scapa Flow are longer-term opportunities, and should continue to be safeguarded to reflect their importance as deepwater locations. To best reflect the spatial strategy for growth in the next 5 years and prioritise development where opportunities are most immediate, our preferred approach is to designate the Grangemouth Investment Zone, new freight capacity on the Forth, and Aberdeen Harbour as national developments, and recognise Hunterston and Scapa Flow as longer-term opportunities.

National development

Grangemouth Investment Zone

Why it is needed

To help ensure future demand for freight handling facilities is met and realise the potential of the location as Scotland's largest container port, main freight distribution centre and a centre for low carbon energy and chemical sciences


Improvements in port, road and rail infrastructure

National development

Additional Container Freight Capacity on the Forth

Why it is needed

To help ensure future demand for freight-handling facilities is met


Multimodal container terminal facilities, including improvements in supporting port, road and rail infrastructure


5.33 Our international airports provide vital links with the rest of the world for business and tourism. Our internal air network provides services of great social and economic importance, particularly for island and remote communities. Scotland's location and geography therefore demand that we recognise and support the importance of airports within our spatial strategy. Airports are also hubs for business investment, for example with plans at Aberdeen for retail, hotel and business opportunities, the Enterprise Area site at Prestwick Airport, and links at Edinburgh to the wider Edinburgh International project.

5.34 Whilst air travel accounts for some 12% of Scottish transport emissions, in the long term a shift in emphasis towards low carbon options and digital links, supported by aspirations for high speed rail links to London, will play a role in offsetting these emissions. In the meantime the EU Emissions Trading Scheme includes aviation, placing a cap on emissions and incentivising improved carbon performance.

5.35 Scotland's main airports have each produced masterplans for future development - some proposals will require planning consent but much can be achieved through permitted development and targeted transport improvements. Recognising their importance to the economy and as part of the overall spatial strategy, it is proposed that updated airport enhancements incorporating wider plans for investment in adjacent areas are recognised as key priorities, and remain designated as national developments in NPF3.

National development

Airport enhancements

Why it is needed

To support improved facilities and capacity at Scotland's principal airports


Improvements to surface access, airport facilities and economic development associated with masterplans for Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Prestwick Airports

5.36 There are also proposals to improve connections to, and facilities within, Dundee and John O'Groats/Wick Airports, and the prospect of a new airstrip on Skye. We believe that, in addition to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Prestwick Airports, an updated national development should include Inverness Airport, given its role in accessing areas identified for economic development and the low carbon economy and the ongoing work to improve access to it via the A96 and Dalcross Station. Airports across the country which provide crucial lifeline links will be recognised as important regional assets.

5.37 Map 25 shows our existing key ports and airports.

High Speed Rail

5.38 A high-speed rail link to London was also designated as a national development in NPF2. Whilst it is a long-term project, it is important to begin to consider its fit within the broader spatial development strategy, and plan its route and infrastructure requirements. Since NPF2 was published, the Scottish Government has announced plans for an initial high-speed rail link between Glasgow and Edinburgh, with an expectation that this will in due course form part of the cross-border link.

5.39 Our preferred strategy is to retain the high-speed rail link as a national development, and to broaden it to incorporate plans for a high-speed link between Glasgow and Edinburgh. We will also encourage both Glasgow and Edinburgh to continue to explore with Transport Scotland the most appropriate locations for their terminals. To fit with our preferred spatial strategy and maximise the benefits for Scotland as a whole, these should ideally take the form of intermodal hubs providing connections to all parts of the country.

National development

High Speed Rail

Why it is needed

To support sustainable economic growth and modal shift from air travel


High-speed rail link between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and south toward London; terminus facilities in Glasgow and Edinburgh

Question 16: How can NPF3 improve our connections with the rest of the world?

Should the Grangemouth Investment Zone, Aberdeen Harbour and new freight capacity on the Forth be designated as national developments?

Should Hunterston and Scapa Flow be viewed as longer-term aspirations, or should they retain national development status?

Do you agree that the aspirations for growth of key airports identified in NPF2 should remain a national development and be expanded to include Inverness, and broadened to reflect their role as hubs for economic development?

Should the proposed High Speed Rail connection to London be retained as a national development? Should it be expanded to include a high-speed rail line between Edinburgh and Glasgow?

Alternatively, should High Speed Rail be removed as a national development and instead supported as a part of the longer-term spatial strategy?

Map 25 - Ports and Airports in Scotland