New planning framework’s flexibility can benefit rural Scotland, says SLE

New planning framework's flexibility can benefit rural Scotland, says SLE

Rural-focused provisions within the latest draft of the National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) have been given a cautious welcome by rural business organisation, Scottish Land & Estates (SLE).

The revised NPF4, which sets out sustainable policies against which planning applications would be assessed for the next decade, was tabled in the Scottish Parliament this week.

The approach contained within NPF4 includes:

  • A shift towards more presumption in favour of rural development, especially to support fragile communities, rural businesses and the environment
  • Greater flexibility around rural development
  • An emphasis on the planning system facilitating community led resilience and wealth building
  • Favourable planning conditions for digital infrastructure in areas with no or low connectivity capacity.

Sarah Madden, policy advisor (Rural Communities) at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Planning policy has a significant impact on the social, economic and environmental resilience of communities and for many years we have said that reform was needed to provide greater flexibility for development in rural Scotland.

“We are pleased that the framework indicates a move in that direction, with a better understanding that a one size fits all approach for both urban and rural areas simply does not work.

“There is a shift towards greater presumption in favour for development and if implemented, it can help with the growth of the rural economy in future years. The recognition of the planning system’s role in facilitating community led resilience and wealth building is also very welcome.”

She added: “Creating and achieving locally owned visions and goals for development is particularly important for rural communities who know what their areas need to prosper. Unlocking the planning system is one of the best ways to give people the tools they need to meet such aspirations.

“Similar objectives around community led resilience have also been set out in the land reform consultation but the NPF4 approach is a more sensible and cooperative route forward.”

Ms Madden concluded: “We are also glad that the need for integrated land use, balancing essential development to support fragile communities and rural businesses alongside the necessity to maintain quality agricultural land, peatland and wild land, has been acknowledged.

“What is crucial now is how the high level principles outlined in the framework are interpreted and implemented in practice and this is something we will monitor as we move forward.”

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