In a report published today, the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee has called for more information from the Scottish Government in relation to key aspects of its National Planning Framework.
Speaking of the report’s findings, Committee Convener Maureen Watt MSP said:
“The National Planning Framework is an important document. It establishes the framework and context for planning decisions across Scotland. More than this, it can also act as an investment document, identifying where planning can add value to the system and to projects.
“Whilst the Committee supports much of what is in the document, there are some areas we are suggesting the Government reflects upon before it publishes the final version of this document. This will help improve the accessibility and transparency of the planning framework.”
The key points in the report are summarised as follows:
The Committee acknowledges and welcomes the inclusion of proposals to enhance five of Scotland’s airports in simple economic terms. However, it also urges caution, given the potential for increased greenhouse gas emissions from airport expansion to undermine the Scottish Government’s efforts to meet its own ambitious emissions reduction targets.
The Committee welcomes the indication that the business case for a proposed high rail speed line between Edinburgh and Glasgow, in advance of the wider UK high speed rail project, will come before Ministers shortly. It recommends that the Scottish Government takes into account the concerns raised in evidence in relation to the impact it may have on the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP) project and the Government’s commitment to wider rail improvements in Scotland.
The Committee welcomes the inclusion of three sea port developments in the draft NPF3 (Grangemouth Investment Zone, Freight Capacity on the Forth, and Aberdeen Harbour) but recommends that the Scottish Government considers strengthening the section of the document that addresses the potential impact of these developments on the environment and local residents.
The Committee also considers it to be important that full consideration is given by the Scottish Government to the future contribution that increased freight capability – rail freight and short-sea shipping have been highlighted in evidence – might make to assist it in meeting its wider objectives regarding enhanced connectivity and, importantly, sustainability.
The Committee also welcomes the commitment by the Minister for Local Government and Planning to issue further guidance to local authorities regarding planning for active travel friendly communities. It recommends that this also includes guidance on how wider modal shift, such as to sustainable public transport, might be incorporated more effectively into the planning system.
Housing and Planning
The Committee is concerned that if planning for housing development rests so heavily on a plan-led system, and local authority plans are out of date, the credibility of this system could be undermined and left open to exploitation.
The Committee recommends that the Scottish Government work with local authorities to ensure their housing plans are updated in line with legislative requirements. The Committee considers this to be essential if local authorities are to be positioned to effectively meet the housing needs of the people in their area, taking into account the prevailing economic, social and environmental circumstances.
The Committee also queries whether assuming developers will adopt best practice with regards to access to digital fibre connections. It recommends that the Scottish Government examine ways in which developers can be more actively required through the planning system to ensure that appropriate digital connectivity measures feature in all proposals for new developments.
The draft third National Planning Framework (NPF) was laid in Parliament on 14 January.
Three other Committees also scrutinised the NPF for issues within their portfolios, including Economy, Environment and Tourism, Local Government and Regeneration and Rural, Environment and Climate Change.