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“Remarkable” changes afoot for Scottish planning system

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Changes to the planning system in Scotland have been described as “remarkable” and “a major step forward” by the renewable energy sector.

The revised draft of National Planning Framework 4 was released this week by the Scottish Government, seeking to “encourage, promote and facilitate all forms of renewable energy development onshore and offshore”. This draft will be presented to parliament, with MSPs voting on its adoption by the end of 2022.

According to Mark Richardson, Senior Policy Manager at industry body Scottish Renewables, the changes to the planning system are vital if Scotland is to achieve its Net Zero target:

“Scotland has rightly recognised the emergency facing our climate. We have an ambitious net-zero target and our transition to a clean energy system is well underway,” said Mark.

“To realise a Scotland powered by renewable energy we need to ensure that all levers of government are focused on tackling the climate emergency – this must mean achieving a net-zero-driven planning system. The NPF4 planning reforms provide a key opportunity to deliver this ambition.

“The Scottish Government has shown with this revised draft that it has carefully listened to the advice of industry and understood the barriers which for too long have stood in the way of sustainable development which contributes not only to mitigating the effects of climate change but also to the economic prosperity of some of the country’s most remote areas,” he concluded.

Planning laws have long been an area of difficulty in the UK, in respect of the development of the renewable energy initiatives required to boost the nation’s energy security and deliver on environmental pledges, especially in the onshore wind sector in England, where planning regulations have effectively prevented new projects for several years. It looked as though this situation could change during Liz Truss’ ill fated time as Prime Minster, with the then Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, promising to “unlock the potential of onshore wind by bringing consenting in line with other infrastructure”.

The sector is now waiting to see whether these changes will be made, following the departure of both Mrs Truss and Mr Kwarteng and the appointment of Rishi Sunak as PM.

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