Scottish MPs have signed off new planning rules that could help the country reach its climate change targets.
A planning framework will give priority to planning applications for renewable energy schemes, including wind farms. It will also seek to cut car trips by opposing car parks, out-of-town retail parks and drive-throughs.
Planners must now give ‘significant weight’ to the global climate and nature crises when considering new developments. The framework also says that all proposals for renewable energy projects, including onshore wind farms, will be supported everywhere other than in national parks and national scenic areas.
Solar arrays, hydrogen power projects and carbon capture schemes will also be backed, while it is ‘highly unlikely’ new waste incinerators will get permission.
Planning minister Tom Arthur said: “The fourth National Planning Framework represents a turning point for planning. It can help build a fairer, greener Scotland to transform the economy and benefit future generations.”
To deliver on this strategy, he said he was committed to involving a wider range of people in planning. He said: “A fairer and more inclusive planning system will ensure everyone has an opportunity to shape their future so that our places work for all of us.”
Gavin Thomson, transport campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, was hopeful about the changes: “Transport is Scotland’s biggest source of climate emissions,” he said. “Our planning system has had a ‘car is king’ fixation for far too long, and these new measures hopefully signal an end to that.
“Ideas that reduce car dominance on our streets have many benefits. The air we breathe will be cleaner, people will find it easier and safer to be active, and our communities will be stronger.”
The changes were also welcomed by Mark Ruskell MSP, Scottish Greens’ environment, climate, transport and culture spokesperson. He said: “We now have a strategy that will help us meet our targets on climate change and nature recovery. This is no longer a plan that prioritises economic growth above all else.”
However, a potential flaw in the plans was highlighted by Clare Symonds, founder and chair of the group Planning Democracy. She said: “While we applaud the increased priority given to climate and nature in the new framework, these ambitions can be undermined easily.
“Too often, communities report that the threat of appeals by developers leads to approval of environmentally damaging applications that would otherwise not be given permission. The government needs to limit the rights of developers to appeal in these cases, and ensure these laudable environmental policies are implemented properly.”
The planning framework ties in with a newly published energy strategy that states: “Our vision is that by 2045 Scotland will have a climate-friendly energy system that delivers affordable, resilient and clean energy supplies for Scotland’s households, communities and business.”
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