National planning framework 4 will set out clear national policy and spatial priorities for every area, including the north-east. Once adopted, NPF4 will form part of the statutory development plan, will be reviewed every 10 years and will be central to planning decision making locally.
The increase in local application combined with our long-term vision for Scotland in 2045 means that NPF4 will give greater clarity and confidence to people, communities and investors—for example, in actively planning and delivering the just transition from oil and gas to a net zero future for the north-east.
NPF4 will be closely aligned with other Government strategies and will be accompanied by a delivery programme to support better alignment and co-ordination of delivery partners and their funding sources. It is for all sectors and stakeholders to help to deliver NPF4.
Research by Scottish Renewables shows that the average planning decision for renewable energy projects can take around 772 days from submission, which is not compatible with meeting net zero by 2045. Renewable energy is key to tackling the climate emergency, securing Scotland’s energy supply and dealing with the cost of living crisis. Will the minister outline how all that will be delivered, given the timescales that I have referred to?
We recognise the critical role of planning in helping to meet our net zero targets. Our package of planning reforms is focused on delivering clearer and quicker decisions to give greater confidence and predictability to those who plan to develop.
NPF4 will signal a turning point for planning, and we have been clear that responding to the global climate emergency and the nature crisis will be central to that, including by actively enabling appropriately located renewable energy developments. I am also working with the high-level group on planning performance to drive forward a programme to enhance resources and skills.
We have recently increased planning fees to enable additional resources for planning services, and we are preparing to recruit Scotland’s first national planning improvement co-ordinator to support good practice among authorities and users of the planning system.
The minister will be acutely aware of the importance of genuine community engagement for local and regional economic development. Indeed, that is a vital part of the Scottish Government’s commitment to a just transition. Without listening to local voices, economic development cannot be just. How can we ensure that decisions on inward investment to north-east Scotland do not ride roughshod over the wishes and needs of local communities?
People rightly want to be involved, and we want them to be involved in the decisions that shape the places in which they live, work and play. Effective public engagement can lead to better planning decisions and more satisfactory outcomes. Our planning system includes statutory and non-statutory opportunities for engagement, including in the preparation of local development plans that set out the future use of land in the area and the new place plans that were introduced by the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019.
Will NPF4 provide greater flexibility for local authorities so that a community-focused approach to planning can be taken—for example, to tackle vacant and derelict buildings such as the Interfloor factory in Dumfries, which I am petitioning the council to take action on?
The member will appreciate that I cannot comment on specific cases, but we are carefully considering policies in the draft NPF4 on vacant and derelict land.
We also undertook a consultation on new-style local development plans. New-style LDP regulations will be laid shortly after the new NPF4 comes into effect.
The draft NPF4 recognises that we need to preserve and reuse existing assets; that comes from our net zero ambitions and from recognising the importance of place and having thriving centres. There are specific policies on centres in the draft NPF4, and we will bring a finalised NPF4 back to the Parliament later in the autumn.