NPF4 – will it help unlock land for renewable projects?

Author Stuart Lobb, Associate Director Davidson & Robertson

NPF4 assumptions could see the focus of adding value to land shifting from residential and commercial development towards renewable energy development.

The Scottish Government recently set out its strategy to deliver and promote development that addresses the global climate emergency and nature crisis and achieve a net zero carbon economy via the National Planning Framework 4 Policy (NPF4).

This new framework sets out the objectives that local development plans must address in order to adapt to the current and future risks of climate change by promoting nature recovery and restoration.

The positive element to NPF4 is that it should facilitate and be the overarching policy in the delivery of substantial low carbon energy, renewable energy generation and improved infrastructure. In effect, there should be a presumption in favour of development that supports renewable energy and it’s also been stated that Grid Capacity should not be a cause to restrict any possible renewable development.

This provides an exciting time for landowner and developer, whereby certain land opportunities or those more sensitively located could be unlocked for renewable development.  However, the speed of adoption of this new policy will be determined by the Local Planning Development process and we could still see workable policies delayed whilst Local Authorities realign their local planning policy.

One of the key components within the recent policy will be residential development on prime agricultural land or carbon rich soils, the presumption will be no, unless it can be clearly demonstrated there is a net gain in terms of decarbonising and encouraging renewable energy.

At Davidson & Robertson, and with the introduction of NPF4, we envisage the demand for sites will continue and when taken in conjunction with the NPF4 assumption of No Residential Development within Greenbelt or Prime Agricultural Land, we therefore see a possible shift of focus of land allocation from the typical assumption of residential / commercial development towards Renewable Energy Development.  It will be interesting to see how existing and current Residential Development Option Agreements will progress and whether landowner’s will be able to retract from long term Option Agreements should Renewable Energy land values compete with Residential Land values.  Davidson & Robertson will be watching this very closely as the policy is adopted, and the market develops.

What is also striking about the policy is the possible move towards allocating areas for Renewable Energy rather than individual sites being considered independently and those consented being based upon a time limited application. This may encourage landowners to bring forward possible sites to the market for developers to tender rather than developers seeking and sourcing land requirements on an ad-hoc basis. This allocation approach may therefore require landowners to actively promote sites at Local Planning Level, albeit we see that any site promoting will need to demonstrate its impact on the immediate community, the visual impact and noise attenuation, notwithstanding any impact on existing infrastructure, including roads and telecommunications.

Making representation will have to be thoroughly considered and supported and this is where calling on expertise in the renewables sector can add value to landowner.

Davidson & Robertson has a long history of supporting landowners looking to add value to their land. For more information contact Stuart Lobb on 0131 449 6212 or email For more information about renewable projects visit


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