Scottish Land & Estates has issued its reaction to the rural development sections within the newly published National Planning Framework 3 (NPF3) and Scottish Planning Policy (SPP).
Released by the Scottish Government on Monday, together NPF3 and SPP will shape long term economic development and local planning policy for areas such as transport, town centres, energy and infrastructure whilst seeking to balance sustainable rural economic and community growth with protection of the environment.
The organisation, which represents landowners across the country, has said that it supports the principles set out in the policies of encouraging development that is appropriate in character to the area and promoting integrated coastal planning, however, there is a concern that some elements of the SPP are weaker than previous versions which could pose a barrier to rural development.
Katy Dickson, Policy Officer (Business and Property) at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “In order to create vibrant countryside communities, we need to encourage sustainable rural development and we are pleased to see that the government is generally promoting growth whilst acknowledging that such progress needs to be sympathetic to the areas involved. However, the new SPP moves away from strong positive statements and specific examples of acceptable types of development in the countryside. The new SPP has much weaker statements which leave a great deal up to the Planning Authority to determine without any solid guidance.
"Another retrograde step is the statement that further greenbelt designation may be appropriate in high pressure areas. This statement is out of step with modern thinking on the unsustainability of green belt policy.
"We are pleased to see clear statements eliminating the use of occupancy conditions but there is a danger that we are now left with gaps in policy and a lack of clarity regarding when new housing in the countryside will be acceptable and the types of housing envisaged.
"It is pleasing that the Scottish Government has pledged to work with the housing sector to support affordable house building in order to sustain these communities. We welcome the suggestion that a rural exemption policy may be appropriate in order to deliver affordable housing in rural areas – an approach that we have long called for. Our members have developed some exemplar affordable housing projects, and we hope the Scottish Government provides more funding to private and community landowners to ensure that rural housing needs are met locally.
"The inclusion of a National Digital Fibre network, as one of the fourteen national developments, is also a welcome development. This, along with improved mobile infrastructure, should enable continued sustainable economic growth through home and remote working in the more isolated areas of Scotland.
"Rural business development and diversification are essential to the viability of our rural communities and it is vital that we have a supportive planning framework. We support the long term, strategic approach on a landscape scale that the Scottish Government is encouraging regarding environmental planning. This is an approach which is embedded in estates’ integrated land management approach. We are however, disappointed that the rural development policies appear to have weakened."