We have just contributed to the recent consultation on the draft National Planning Framework 4. The National Planning Framework (NPF) is a long-term plan for Scotland last updated in 2014 that sets out where development and infrastructure is needed. Statutory development plans must have regard to it and Scottish Ministers expect planning decisions to support its delivery, both at local level and in national developments such as electricity transmission lines.

The consultation closed on 31 March 2022 and it is to be debated in Parliament on 19 April. While much of what was said in the draft was encouraging, we were more concerned about what was not said. The NPF4 incorporates all the elements of the Scottish Planning Policy, which includes consideration of Scottish access rights in planning matters. Despite this, there is no specific reference in NPF4 to public rights of way or statutory access rights under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. The planning system has an important role to play in protecting and preserving access rights when considering applications, ensuring that development does not obstruct popular local routes, and furthermore safeguarding future opportunities to enhance public access networks. You can read our response in more detail.