National Planning Framework 4 was adopted and published by the Scottish Ministers on 13 February 2023 at 9am. What relevance does it have to the food and drink industry in Scotland?

Climate emergency

NPF4 marks a shift from the previous policy focus on sustainable economic growth: policy 1 indicates that significant weight will be given to the global climate and nature crises.

That shift includes a focus on biodiversity - the NPF rebalances the planning system in favour of conserving, restoring and enhancing biodiversity and promotes investment in nature-based solutions.

Productive places

The national spatial strategy is intended to provide productive places "where we have a greener, fairer and more inclusive wellbeing economy".

There are also frequent references in the regional spatial priorities to supporting local economic development.

Food production

NPF4 is largely silent on food production, because agriculture is mostly exempt from planning control. Aquaculture is supported by policy 32, which is intended to encourage, promote and facilitate aquaculture development and minimise any adverse effects on the environment.

Other activities

The impact of NPF4 on other food and drink activities will depend on scale and location.

Key principles include: 

  • development at locations which support sustainable travel (policy 13).
  • local living - 20 minute neighbourhoods include local access to employment and shopping (policy 15).
  • facilitating business and industry uses and enabling home working, live-work units and micro-businesses (policy 26)
  • rural economic activity is encouraged (policy 29), including production and processing facilities for local produce.

As ever, it is essential to check the detail of the provisions. For example: 

  • development on prime agricultural land is supported for production and processing facilities associated with the land produce where no other local site is suitable (policy 5) 
  • commercial peat extraction is supported for supply to the Scottish Whisky industry (policy 5). 
  • drive-through facilities need to take account of the principles of local living and sustainable travel (policy 28)


Neil Collar