How NPF4 could hinder our transition to a renewables-led energy system

8/03/22 | Blog
Mark NPF4

In this short blog, Senior Policy Manager Mark Richardson looks at the current state of National Planning Framework 4.

Scotland’s planning system decides what gets built, where and, crucially, how quickly.

While it may not be glamourous, it’s a process which is a vital part of our economy, keeping the wheels of sustainable development turning.

Scotland’s target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2045 means we need to start accelerating the rapid progress we’ve made to date on cleaning up our energy sector.

For many years, our industry has often been hamstrung by delays and inconsistency in the planning system.

Recent reforms promised to put an end to those problems, rewriting “the long-term strategy” of planning in Scotland to meet “the overarching goal of addressing climate change”.

Sadly, the wording of the draft National Planning Framework 4, currently being scrutinised in the Scottish Parliament, falls far short of that impressive goal.

In its current form, NPF4 will actually hinder our transition to a renewables-led energy system.

Redrafting is essential to ensure that these planning reforms create the consistency, certainty and speed of decision making needed to achieve a net-zero-driven planning system which can respond to the climate change and nature recovery agendas.

Clear guidance is needed from government to direct all planning decision-makers to radically reform their approach to the planning balance, placing climate change and nature recovery at the heart of all decisions – and at the top of their priorities when making decisions on renewable energy projects.

The Government must also ensure that these planning reforms are able to deliver the levels of renewable energy deployment needed to achieve net-zero. At the moment, many of the changes proposed actively undermine the renewable energy consenting process.

Without significant redrafting of this blueprint for planning, we risk missing not only our climate and nature recovery targets but the chance to rejuvenate many parts of rural Scotland which are desperate for investment.