The Scottish Government has today (Wednesday 10 November 2021) published its draft ‘Scotland 2045 - Fourth National Planning Framework’ (“NPF4”). The draft NPF4 will now be scrutinised by Parliament, with a parallel public consultation running until 31 March 2022.

The draft NPF4 sets out the Government’s spatial strategy, identifies national developments, and set out a number of policies to support the spatial strategy.

We have summarised below a number of the headline points arising from the draft:


  • One of the four cornerstones of NPF4’s spatial strategy is ensuring we have ‘liveable places’, with the draft stating “We will create places with good-quality homes close to local facilities and services by applying the concept of 20 minute neighbourhoods”. The six spatial principles on which strategy and policy will be based is ‘local living’ – reducing the need to travel, promoting walking and cycling, improving access to services and building local circular economies.
  • Local Development Plans would be required to identify a ‘Housing Land Requirement’ for their area, under draft Policy 9. The HLR should at least meet the ’10 year Minimum All-Tenure Housing Land Requirement’ (MATHLR) set out in Annex B of the draft NPF4. The Scottish Government have also published a ‘Housing Land Requirement – Explanatory Report’, setting out how the MATHLR has been reached.
  • Draft Policy 7 would require LDPs to support the principle of 20 minute neighbourhoods (where people can meet the majority of their daily needs within approximately 800m of their home), and support development proposals that are consistent with it.
  • Draft Policy 8 would require LDPs to be based on an ‘infrastructure-first approach’ – requiring LDPs to clearly set out infrastructure requirements, the evidence base for those requirements, and indicate required developer contributions.
  • The reduction of the need to travel unsustainably will be a focus – draft Policy 10 requires LDPs to prioritise locations for future development that can be accessed by sustainable modes. Developments which would increase reliance on the private car should not be supported.
  • An emphasis is also placed on blue and green infrastructure, play and sport. LDPs will be required by draft Policy 12 to identify and protect blue and green infrastructure, including new or improved access to play and outdoor sports opportunities.
  • There are 6 national developments proposed to support the Government’s ‘liveable places’ vision: the Central Scotland Green Network; the National Walking, Cycling and Wheeling Network; Urban Mass/Rapid Transit Networks in the Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh city regions; the provision of Urban Sustainable, Blue and Green Drainage Solutions in the Edinburgh and Glasgow regions; provision of Circular Economy Materials Management Facilities throughout Scotland; and the continued roll-out of the Scotland-wide Digital Fibre Network.

Renewable energy and climate change

The climate emergency

  • The word "climate" features 118 times in NPF4, up from 24 mentions in NPF3, showing the prominence that the climate emergency is being given in the Framework.
  • Another cornerstone of NPF4’s special strategy is to create ‘sustainable places’. One of the six special strategies is the ‘just transition’ - noting that meeting Scotland's climate ambition will require a rapid transformation across all sectors of the economy and society.
  • One aspect of creating sustainable places is the north east transition, anticipating that the north east of Scotland will "evolve, through a just transition, to move industry and business away from the oil and gas sector towards a cleaner, greener future".
  • The climate emergency and nature crisis have a prominent position within Part 3 of the Framework (which contains more specific draft policies) at draft Policies 2 and 3 respectively. Some notable points include:
  • When considering all development proposals "significant weight should be given to the Global Climate Emergency" [bold original] (Policy 2a).
  • Development plans should facilitate biodiversity enhancement (Policy 3a) and development proposals should contribute to the enhancement of biodiversity (Policy 2b).
  • Development proposals for national, major and EIA development should only be supported where it can be demonstrated that the proposal will conserve and enhance biodiversity, so that they are in a demonstrably better state than without intervention (Policy 3d).

Renewable energy

  • Draft Policy 19 relates to Green Energy. There is a general statement that the planning system should support all forms of renewable energy development and energy storage, together with new and replacement transmission and distribution infrastructure. The planning system should also support new and emerging technology, including hydrogen and carbon capture utilisation and storage. It is noted that the onshore wind sector is considered likely to play the greatest role in the coming years.
  • There is specific policy support shown in relation to:
    • Wind Farm development - will be supported outwith the National Parks and National Scenic Areas, unless the impacts identified are unacceptable (draft Policy 19d). Repowering and extension of existing wind farms should also be supported unless the impacts identified are unacceptable (draft Policy 19e).
    • Small scale renewables - development proposals should be supported (draft Policy 19f).
    • Solar - should be supported where the planning authority is satisfied that the arrays would not adversely affect (including the effect of glint and glare) residential amenity, road safety, historic environment assets, or aviation interests (draft Policy 19j). 
    • Carbon capture and negative emissions technologies should be supported in principle (draft Policy 19i).

NPF4 will set the Scottish Government's agenda for planning policy for the next 10 years and beyond. If you would like to discuss any aspect of the draft, please contact our Scottish Planning team.