This blog is one in a series of guest blogs written by the Housing and Place Delivery Forum members, reflecting on Scotland’s fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4).

Irene Beautyman, Place and Wellbeing Partnership Lead at the Improvement Service and Public Health Scotland, on how we all deliver a win, win, win with our new National Planning Framework.

We do not have the luxury of time to deal with one crisis at a time. We need a win for climate change, a win for improving our health and wellbeing and a win for reducing Scotland’s worsening inequalities.  While NPF4 supports each of these wins, we must see them as interconnected objectives requiring a joined-up approach from everyone who has the potential to impact our places.

I lead the Shaping Places for Wellbeing Programme, which looks to do just that with an ambition to “improve Scotland’s wellbeing by reducing the significant inequality in the health of its people while addressing the health of our planet”. We do this by focusing on our impact on our places and how they can deliver the triple win—working with local government, health boards and all their stakeholders.

Too often, I hear of “Healthy Places” or “Climate Towns” as if we have time to tackle these issues separately. Scotland’s communities are experiencing acute need at times of reduced resources across the sectors looking to help them. We don’t have the time or resources for siloed decisions and interventions.

NPF4 sets a framework to ensure all our places exhibit the features we need to get right to deliver the triple win, which the Place and Wellbeing Collaborative define as Scotland’s Place and Wellbeing Outcomes. However, Planning Authorities and the Planning System cannot do it alone. Our places are being positively and negatively impacted by a host of interventions and decisions being taken beyond the control of planning – but, crucially, it does not need to be this way. Our interventions and decisions for the future need to support each other. There is little point in a council climate strategy looking to reduce car mileage if the same council’s local development plan is not actively discouraging car-based development by promoting higher-density local neighbourhoods.

Focusing on local government, each has statutory duties, and national asks encourage siloed working. We must look at that work and use it as a considerable asset and delivery vehicle for NPF4. Get decision makers behind each plan, policy and proposal considering their opportunity to impact on place positively and to support each other to deliver the triple win.

So how can we make that happen?

First, Scottish Local Authority Chief Executives will spend 2023 implementing “Delivering a future for Scottish Local Authorities: the challenges they face, the questions that need asking and a model for the future”. In cognisance of the austerity context behind this, there is an opportunity for a quick win in sweating their assets – the plans, policy and proposals that will continue to be produced anyway – and the benefits in ensuring they “speak to each other”. That they consider the unintended consequences each is having on place, people, planet and inequality and the opportunity to enhance their impact and support the impact of other stakeholders. In the Shaping Places for Wellbeing Programme, we do this using a Place and Wellbeing Assessment Process.

So how does Planning maximise its influence?

To bring implementation within the influence of Planning Authorities needs someone on the ground to pursue and coordinate Chief Executive leadership on joined-up decision making. We need a Place Lead embedded in every Planning Authority across Scotland briefed to identify upcoming opportunities for decision making processes to consider the impact on place, the delivery of the National Planning Framework and the triple win. Planning Authorities need resources, more planners, and enhanced place-based skills to support this work.

NPF4 provides the policy support that is welcomed. But it is not enough to make change happen. Support to implement lies in securing local authority leadership for a coordinated approach followed by the resources and skills to enable planners to apply that influence.

On 24 April 2023, CaCHE, in association with the Housing and Place Delivery Forum, is hosting a conference entitled Delivering NPF4: What will it take? Register your place here.

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