Planning for Net Zero

Wind turbines
Katharine Johnston

Developments which reduce carbon emissions to tackle climate change and restore nature would be promoted under finalised proposals for long term planning reform.

The revised draft National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) sets out sustainable policies against which planning applications would be assessed for the next decade.

It has been tabled in the Scottish Parliament against the backdrop of crucial intergovernmental climate talks at COP27 in Egypt and seeks to deliver a new and bold direction, with a shift in culture and approach to planning in Scotland.

Proposals in NPF4 include:

  • enabling more renewable energy generation, outside National Parks and National Scenic Areas, to support the transition away from reliance on fossil fuels
  • supporting emerging low-carbon and zero emissions technologies – including hydrogen and carbon capture – and developments on land that unlock the transformative potential of offshore renewable energy, such as expansion of the electricity grid. Waste incineration facilities would be highly unlikely to receive permission
  • facilitating creation of cycling or walking routes, low carbon transport, more green spaces and opportunities for play, culture and tourism
  • helping rural communities grow by enabling more local homes and encouraging a more diverse rural economy
  • regenerating city and town centres to help them adapt to economic change while enabling people to access shops, schools and workplaces within a 20 minute walk or cycle
  • adopting a planned and evidence-based approach to delivering good quality and affordable homes that benefit communities.

Planning Minister Tom Arthur said:

“The window of opportunity to act to reduce emissions and adapt to already locked in changes is narrowing. Our statutory and moral obligation to tackle climate change means change is necessary and urgent.

“This final version of the Framework makes clear that we won’t compromise on climate change. It also clarifies what is to be delivered, and how. And it is now clear through the weighting to be applied to different policies, that the climate and nature crises are the priority.  

“It is timely that we have tabled final proposals during COP27, as we set out to do when Glasgow hosted COP26 last year. This shows that Scotland’s ambition and commitment to delivering on international calls for action is unwavering.

“There is now a clear expectation of the role that planning must play in delivering the expansion of renewable energy needed to realise the just transition from reliance on fossil fuels.

“This Framework creates the foundation upon which to build the fairer, greener Scotland we want to see for the benefit of future generations.” 


Read the Minister's statement in full here

Fourth National Planning Framework proposals

Extensive public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny of the draft NPF4 was undertaken during 2022 and views have guided final changes to the plan. It would embed the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in domestic planning standards.

The revised draft is now expected to be considered by the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee before being voted on by Parliament.

A new Planning, Infrastructure and Place Advisory Group will be established to identify barriers to delivery and strengthen the alignment of NPF4 with plans and investment in places and infrastructure.

The Framework could help meet National Strategy for Economic Transformation net zero emissions goals while promoting productive communities and regions.