National Scenic Areas: background, guidance and policy

Scotland’s National Scenic Areas were first identified in 1980. They were designated under legislation in 2010.

Our predecessor, the Countryside Commission for Scotland, first identified the National Scenic Areas (NSAs). Read about how they were selected and see a summary for each in the Commission’s original report, Scotland's Scenic Heritage.

NSAs were first established in 1980, under planning legislation, by order of the Secretary of State. In December 2010, NSAs were designated under new legislation. Part 10 of the Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006 gave NSAs a statutory basis. The Town and Country Planning (National Scenic Areas) (Scotland) Designation Directions 2010 then brought this into force.

The legislation defines NSAs as areas “of outstanding scenic value in a national context”, for which special protection measures are required.

Planning guidance

Scotland’s planning system safeguards the special qualities of NSAs, with Scottish Natural Heritage acting in an advisory capacity.

Scottish Planning Policy provides the policy framework for planning matters.

Paragraph 212 states that development that affects an NSA should only be permitted where:

  • either the objectives of the designation and the overall integrity of the NSA won’t be compromised
  • or any significant adverse effects on its special qualities are outweighed by social, environmental or economic benefits of national importance

SNH must be consulted on certain categories of development within NSAs, and permitted development rights are more limited than elsewhere.

Planning authorities should ensure that:

  • new development in or next to an NSA doesn’t detract from the quality or character of the landscape
  • the scale, siting and design of such development are appropriate
  • the design and landscaping are of a high standard

Management strategies

A management strategy for an NSA lists its special qualities and summarises the action needed to safeguard these. Strategies are produced in full consultation with the people who live and work in the relevant NSA.

Only the three NSAs in Dumfries and Galloway have active strategies, and these have been adopted as supplementary planning guidance. You can download these from the National Scenic Areas page on the Dumfries and Galloway Council website.