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01/13/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/13/2021 08:22

Future Scottish Planning policy requires ‘rural-proofing’, says Savills

Debbie's presentation focused on the unintended negative impacts that some of the projected policy approaches could have on the repopulation of rural Scotland if they are adopted in the new framework (NPF4), stressing that the proposals require careful nuancing and robust 'rural-proofing'.

Current proposals state that 'the long-term strategy will be driven by the overarching goal of addressing climate change' and that 'clear choices will need to be made to direct development to locations which reduce the need to travel and are already well served by sustainable transport options'. While Debbie accepts that these are laudable aims in an urban context she believes it is harder to see where the re-population of rural Scotland fits into this picture.

For many decades the standard approach to planning for the countryside has been to focus development on places which already have public transport and other services. Given that much of rural Scotland has been suffering from de-population and reduction in services, Debbie argues that this approach, applied without subtlety to rural planning policies, has already been counter-productive to sustaining and indeed growing rural populations.

She said: 'In relation to this specific subject of sustainable transport, significant trends in travel and working styles such as electric cars, improvements in rural IT infrastructure and home-working are already creating new opportunities to increase the sustainability of rural living. The latest ONS statistics reveal that 46% of working people were doing so from home by April 2020, and we know that home-working has long been more popular in rural areas, even prior to the pandemic.

'We need a bigger vision for rural Scotland which recognises its ability to contribute significantly to meeting climate change objectives but in a very different way to that of urban areas. And we need our planning policies to actively promote that alternative approach. Indeed I strongly believe that rural Scotland, which accounts for 98% of our land mass, deserves its own specific visionary treatment in NPF4.'

Entitled Next steps for planning reform in Scotland - The National Planning Framework, net-zero targets and adapting regulations in the wake of the pandemic, the conference was held online due to Covid-19 restrictions and was chaired by Sarah Boyack MSP Spokesperson for Local Government and Deputy Convenor, Local Government and Communities Committee and Alexander Stewart MSP, Shadow Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning and Member, Local Government and Communities Committee. The keynote speech was provided by Scottish Government's Chief Planner John McNairney.