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National Planning Framework 4: Adoption Timeline and Implications

On Tuesday 8 November, the Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth, Tom Arthur, presented the Revised National Planning Framework 4 to Parliament.

See his statement here.

The ASSC responded to the consultation on this earlier this year.

An Explanatory Report that outlines the changes from Draft NPF4 to the Revised Draft is also included.

The analysis of consultation responses can be accessed here, with comments on short-term letting on p231.

The Revised Draft National Planning Framework sets out the following policy for tourism:

Policy 30

  1. e) Development proposals for the reuse of existing buildings for short term holiday letting will not be supported where the proposal will result in:
  2. An unacceptable impact on local amenity or the character of a neighbourhood or area; or
  3. The loss of residential accommodation where such loss is not outweighed by demonstrable local economic benefits.

With the traditional self-catering sector already facing an increased regulatory burden during challenging times, the ASSC has concerns about the potential impact of Policy 30.

We firmly believe that there should be no further short-term let regulations in Scotland until the cumulative effect of licensing and control areas has been fully analysed to ensure there are no unintended consequences and that they are clearly meeting policy objectives. 

 In terms of the next steps for the Draft NPF4, the revised draft will be considered by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee before being voted on by Parliament. We will keep you updated in terms of any further developments on this issue.

The analysis of consultation responses can be accessed here, with comments on short-term letting on p231:https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/consultation-analysis/2022/11/draft-fourth-national-planning-framework-analysis-responses-consultation-exercise-analysis-report/documents/fourth-national-planning-framework-analysis-responses-consultation-exercise-analysis-report/fourth-national-planning-framework-analysis-responses-consultation-exercise-analysis-report/govscot%3Adocument/fourth-national-planning-framework-analysis-responses-consultation-exercise-analysis-report.pdf

In terms of the next steps, the revised draft will be considered by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee before being voted on by Parliament.

The revised policy for tourism is set out on p88 of the Revised Draft National Planning Framework:https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/advice-and-guidance/2022/11/national-planning-framework-4-revised-draft/documents/national-planning-framework-4-revised-draft/national-planning-framework-4-revised-draft/govscot%3Adocument/national-planning-framework-4-revised-draft.pdf

Publication Timeline

NFP4 has been subject to consultation and committee scrutiny over the last year, and was first laid before the Scottish Parliament in November 2021.  Nearly a year to the day later, the revised NFP4 has now been laid before Parliament for approval. It is accompanied by an Explanatory Report, which explains how the Scottish Government has considered responses to the initial draft NPF4 received during the preceding period of parliamentary scrutiny and consultation, in line with its statutory duty.

This is the final stage of NFP4 being examined before adoption.  The revised NFP4 will be before the Scottish Parliament for six weeks (provided there is no recess for more than four days – importantly this means the 40-day period expires just before the Christmas recess begins on 24 December).

Whilst it is before Parliament, there is the opportunity for the revised NFP4 to be debated, however, its terms will not be subject to change – it will either be approved in whole or rejected.  The Scottish Government has committed to providing an opportunity for evidence to be given by the Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee, to allow for an informed vote.

The legal framework for the adoption of NPF4 provides that if the Scottish Ministers change the whole or any part of their proposals in response to consultation, they must undertake “such further consultation with respect to the changes as they consider appropriate”. The legislation does not set out the circumstances in which it would or would not be appropriate to have a further period of consultation.  What is clear is there is no statutory requirement to consult further.  That said, the Scottish Ministers have a duty to consider whether further consultation is appropriate and must act reasonably (rationally) in this regard.  Despite the changes that have been made to the draft that is now before Parliament, the Scottish Government has confirmed that no further consultation will take place.

Ultimately, the final version of NPF4 can only be adopted once it has been approved by a resolution of the Scottish Parliament; if it is well received then it may well be approved by a vote before the end of the year.

The Delivery Programme published alongside NPF4 will act as a guide to all relevant stakeholders on how it will be implemented in due course. The Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee has also agreed to hold annual sessions on NPF4 to assess its impact.

Development Management Implications

NPF4 will form part of the statutory development plan on adoption and publication (assuming the Scottish Minsters commence the necessary provisions in the Planning Act, as promised).  Until then, the Revised NPF4 is a material consideration in development management decision making.

The weight to be given to it prior to publication is a matter for the decision maker – whether that is a planning officer, a planning committee, a Reporter appointed by the Scottish Ministers, or the Scottish Ministers themselves. There has been an understandable reluctance to attach much (if any) weight to the draft NPF4 to date. However, given its advanced stage, that position may now change.

Our understanding is that the publication of NPF4 will coincide with the implementation of certain parts of the Planning Act. A key provision that will come into effect is that in the event of any incompatibility between a provision of NPF4 and a provision of a local development plan, whichever of them is the later in date will prevail. That will include where a local development plan is silent on an issue that is now provided for in NPF4.

The exact procedure for publication of NPF4 and it becoming part of the statutory development plan is quite complex. This note necessarily provides a simplified overview.  Please contact us if you have any specific questions or concerns about what will happen over the next few weeks leading up to publication of NPF4, and beyond.

Thanks to Burness Paull LLP for this update.

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