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What are national developments? 

Map of Scotland, highlighting locations of proposed National Developments

Section 3A of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 (as amended) enables national developments to be designated in the National Planning Framework (NPF).

The national developments are those that strongly support the delivery of the spatial strategy, i.e. are ‘needed’.

Their identification is helpful to those delivering and hosting them including: public, commercial, third sector bodies and communities.

Each national development is accompanied by a statement of need and assessment of lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions, as set out in the draft National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4).

What does national development status mean?

Designation as a national development establishes the need for it, but does not remove requirements for relevant consents to be obtained before development can begin. Establishing the need facilitates onward decision making, where the matter of the need should not be considered again.

How are national developments chosen?

Suggestions for national developments were invited from any interested party during the call for ideas stage of preparing National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4). An NPF4 factsheet - PDF (124KB) was also provided and updated. Suggestions were also received in response to consultation on the NPF4 Position Statement which was published in November 2020, and also arose during the preparation of Indicative Regional Spatial Strategies.

Suggested national developments

A data viewer was provided when the position statement was published and has since been updated. This provides further information on the suggested national developments received. 

Assessment of suggestions

A high level judgement-based assessment of national development suggestions received (individually or as groups of similar suggestions) was undertaken using criteria published in early 2020:

  • Climate Change: The development will help to reduce emissions, contributing to Scotland’s target of net zero emissions by 2045, will be emissions neutral, or emissions negative.
  • People: The development will support the health, wellbeing, sustainability and quality of life of our current and future population.
  • Inclusive Growth: The development will contribute to sustainable economic growth that helps to reduce poverty and inequality across Scotland.
  • Place: The development will protect or enhance the quality of a place or improve biodiversity.

Suggestions need not meet all the criteria to be included as a proposed national development in the draft NPF4. It is, however, important that national developments have some identifiable development to occur, as their purpose is to support the process of gaining development consent.

Suggestions which were not considered to perform well in relation to the criteria or that were less focused on development were not considered further for national development status, but did inform development of the wider strategy as appropriate.

For the remainder, having assessed the suggestions in relation to all of the above criteria, they were further considered in relation to the emerging spatial strategy and objectives that were initially set out in the NPF4 Position Statement and subsequently developed. This enabled identification of those suggestions more or less likely to form national developments in the draft NPF4.

Iteration and refinement

As the draft spatial strategy was developed, the national developments were created and refined in relation to it. The proposed national developments in the draft NPF4 are considered to be those that will help deliver the spatial strategy to a degree that makes the development of more than local or regional significance.

The iterative process means that the proposed national developments in the draft NPF4 reflect the suggestions received and this may be in whole or in part.

Eighteen proposed national developments are identified in the draft NPF4 and we are now inviting comments on them as part of the consultation process.

Further information is available in the National Developments Report of Assessment.

What about the current national developments?

There are 14 current national developments, designated in National Planning Framework 3. National development status is removed from these when National Planning Framework 4 is approved and adopted, with national development status then applying to the national developments designated within it.

What happens next – have your say?

This consultation closed on 31 March 2022. Invited comments on the proposed national developments as part of the consultation process.  

We invited authorities to help share messages locally about proposed national developments and will inform relevant community councils. 

Draft NPF4 logo

The Draft National Planning Framework 4

Read the draft on

Last Updated: 22 Jun 2022