February 16, 2021
No room to wriggle
Any wriggle room has, by common consent of the climate scientists, finally disappeared if we are to meet the existential challenges facing us. Which is why National Planning Framework 4 is as important, perhaps more so, than the many other consultations doing the rounds which relate to Scotland’s response to the climate emergency. NPF4 sets the big picture. It should be a statement of where this country is heading. But reading the position statement it feels like it’s trying to be all things to all people rather than highlighting the really tough decisions that will need to be taken.
Our Future Places
Our places will look and feel different in the future. A significant shift is required to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045.
We cannot afford to compromise on climate change. If we are to meet our targets, some significant choices will have to be made. We will make these choices next year as we move towards a draft National Planning Framework 4 for public consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny, but it is already clear that significant effort will be required. We will have to rebalance the planning system so that climate change is a guiding principle for all plans and decisions. We will need to focus our efforts on actively encouraging all developments that help to reduce emissions. This is not about restricting development. Our aim is to help stimulate the green economy by facilitating innovation, greener design and place-based solutions.
Key opportunities to achieve this, as set out in this Position Statement, include:
- Building 20 minute neighbourhoods. We can plan our homes together with everyday local infrastructure including schools, community centres, local shops and healthcare to significantly reduce the need to travel. This is not just about new buildings – we want to guide change in a way that also helps to transform our existing places.
- Introducing a stronger preference for reusing existing buildings before new development proceeds.
- Shifting future development away from greenfield land including by actively enabling the redevelopment of vacant and derelict land.
- Strengthening our support for development in town centres and restricting out-of-town retail and leisure to help us transition away from car-dependent developments towards those that enable walking, cycling, wheeling and public transport accessibility.
- Stimulating new models of low carbon living in our rural areas as well as our towns and cities, by facilitating further investment in digital infrastructure, building in more space for people to work remotely and creating community hubs.
- Expecting low and zero carbon design and energy efficiency, for example by actively encouraging much wider use of sustainable and recycled materials in new developments.
- Significantly strengthening our policies to secure low carbon heating solutions.
- Supporting renewable energy developments, including the re-powering and extension of existing wind farms, new and replacement grid infrastructure, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen networks.
- Harnessing the potential for rural development to act as a lever to facilitate woodland creation and expansion.
- Expanding green infrastructure, biodiversity and natural spaces to make our places greener, healthier and more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
- Restricting peat extraction and development on peatland, and facilitating restoration through permitted development rights.
- Removing the need for planning permission for active travel and electric vehicle charging points to ensure that we can roll-out new infrastructure widely and quickly.