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Space for people and trees in the Scottish planning system

Scotland is at the forefront of the global transition to a low-carbon future, and the Scottish Government is encouraging ambitious and innovative projects in this sector. This transition goes hand in hand with the planning system and, as more of us live in urbanised settings, green space is tremendously important for the creation of resilient communities and truly pursuing sustainable development.

The bill

The Scottish Planning Bill is being scrutinised by the Scottish Parliament. As the current bill stands, the issues that could have the most impact on trees and woodland are around proposals for Simplified Development Zones and the loss of the duty on planning authorities to produce statutory Supplementary Guidance documents - these are the documents where a planning authority will have its developer specific policies on trees, woodland, forestry and development. 

We believe that the overarching purpose of planning should be sustainable development. This is a concept which incorporates the environment, the economy and people and if we plan with sustainable development in mind, we can have better places to live and work in, with space for nature too. The environment is where society and the economy function, so it’s vital to look after it. If a provision is written on the face of the bill that the purpose of planning is for sustainable development, this can translate into better protection for trees and woodland at policy level.

An example of a failure to protect biodiversity: a wet woodland site at the Curling Pond in Monikie, Angus, destroyed for potential development (Photo: Arina Nagy-Vizitiu)
An example of a failure to protect biodiversity: a wet woodland site at the Curling Pond in Monikie, Angus, destroyed for potential development (Photo: Arina Nagy-Vizitiu)

How you can help

Together with our colleagues at Scottish Environment LINK, we have prepared an online petition. Our message states the concerns we have, as Scottish environmental NGOs, regarding the planning system, but we need you, our supporters, to send a customised message to your MSPs asking for better legislation for trees and woodland.

Your message could refer to some of the following issues:

  • The Planning Bill should have the overarching purpose of achieving sustainable development
  • The loss of the duty on planning authorities to produce statutory supplementary guidance could impact current protection levels given to trees and woodland  
  • Simplified Development Zone schemes could put trees and woodland, and designated areas such as SSSIs, at greater risk from development.

You could also ask for native woodland creation targets, better protection for ancient woodland and veteran trees in the Scottish Planning Policy, and better green network and green infrastructure implementation. Ask for strong and ambitious policies, and a move away from ambiguously worded guidance.

Finally, it is the local communities which have to live with the developments, so it is important to give examples of inappropriate developments which negatively impacted on biodiversity, trees and woodland in your area. Your MSPs would appreciate you bringing these to their attention.

We wish we had planning strategies which would encourage developers and planning authorities to create new places and enhance existing ones for happy and healthy lives.  If the overall purpose of planning as sustainable development is incorporated into the bill, we can be closer to seeing the same level of ambition in the planning system as we see in the low-carbon transition sector. We want a planning system that encourages real innovation in development rather than continuing to promote the status quo. Your voice can help.

Do you believe trees, woodland and green space need better protection?

Sign now to help us change Scottish planning law