Planning and development

Development must be planned with care if we’re to continue to reap economic and social rewards from Scotland’s natural environment

Looking after the natural environment – one of Scotland’s greatest assets – is an investment for the future. Our nature and landscapes provide enjoyment and support healthy lives, and are the foundations of tourism, the food and drink industry, and marine aquaculture. We strongly support renewable energy in place of fossil fuels to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

We support a plan-led approach to development. It provides certainty to developers and communities, and is the best route to achieving the right development in the right place. Scotland has had a planning system on land for more than 60 years and now has a marine planning system for the first time. This will guide the location of all marine uses and activities, minimise conflicts of interest, and ensure healthy seas.

We’re here to help planners and developers secure positive outcomes. We offer practical support for sustainable growth in Scotland by advising on the effects of plans, policies and development proposals on our natural heritage. We believe that engaging early on a proposal, before key decisions are made, delivers the best outcomes for people and nature.

New developments of all kinds can add positively to Scotland’s nature and landscapes, if planned and designed with care. Knowing how a development may impact on nature can guide its design and ensure that it’s sited in the right place. We offer advice on site selection, how to assess impacts, and the impacts of proposals.

NatureScot has a statutory role in environmental assessment and we help others in their roles by sharing data, guidance and advice. Environmental assessment covers all statutory processes to identify, assess and mitigate impacts on the environment.


Placemaking is a creative, collaborative and place-based approach in the designing and development of the urban and rural built environment. Find out more.

Other sources of information

The way we carry out our planning functions is guided by the Scottish Regulators' Strategic Code of Practice.  The Code seeks to support an enabling approach by applying the key principles of better regulation (transparent, consistent, proportionate, accountable and targeted), to assist businesses and help deliver sustainable economic growth.

PAS offers a free, impartial and confidential planning advice service, provided by specialist volunteers, all of whom are chartered planners. PAS helps individuals and community groups to get involved in the planning system in an impartial, open and inclusive way.

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