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ClimateXChange, Heriot Watt University and PAS recently hosted a seminar at which planners discussed their role in climate change adaptation. Key points arising are summarised below:

How can planning balance competing objectives to achieve climate change resilience outcomes without compromising other aspirations and responsibilities?

  • How can planning have a vision set out in policy and guidance of how planners can balance competing demands in decision making?
  • How can planners to prioritise climate change adaptation against other competing policy objectives?
  • Will the new Scottish Planning Policy document enable planners to give due consideration to resilience issues?

Possible solutions

  • Embed a appropriately weighted and consistent message about adaptation and resilience at all levels in Scottish planning policy.
  • There is an opportunity for planning and community planning to be aligned in adapting to climate change.

How can impacts and risks be identified at local level and the reality of their potential impacts made clear?

  • There is the need create collective understanding of the impacts of planning decisions not taking account of climate change, and of delaying or doing nothing.
  • It would be useful to properly understand the costs and benefits of taking action now, rather than later.
  • How can planners identify the adaptation actions that are /will have the greatest impact without falling into a scattergun approach?
  • All of this is an awareness raising challenge for local authorities and other bodies.

Possible Solutions

  • There needs to be significant training for planners around climate change.
  • Better access is needed to local level risk assessments of what certain climate scenarios will mean on the ground. (Appropriate actions are often specific to a location – risk mapping will help with this).
  • Planners need access to straight-forward, useable evidence about impacts and costs in accessible forms that they can use to underpin and justify decisions. Local level risk mapping (above) would help to provide this.
  • Tools such as data visualisation and 3D mapping should be available and used by Local Authorities and planners to show communities and stakeholders the future effects and impacts of climate change.

How can awareness of planning and other adaptation responses and solutions be raised with in the profession?

  • Currently, levels of awareness are variable and solutions may not be known about.

Possible solutions:

  • Promote and support awareness raising CPD amongst professional groups including planners, and document examples of planning solutions.

How can a long term approach to climate change adaptation be achieved?
Adapting to climate change requires long-term maintenance schedules, as well as clearly defined resources/responsibilities, all of which will require investment of time and money.

  • Where will funding come from for the retrofitting of Scotland’s extensive existing infrastructure and what is the role of planning?
  • How can conflict between sustainability and Scotland’s significant proportion of heritage areas be dealt with?
  • What is the role of planning in distributing funding across areas of differing need? (There is a tension between the fact that that development – and therefore the raising of new funds – often occurs in more affluent areas, which may not the most vulnerable to climate change). Scottish legislation forbids the use of infrastructure levies (ie betterment?), limiting the funds than can be raised for adaptation.
  • Can we achieve a culture shift towards empowering people to take appropriate measures to protect their properties rather than assuming it is up to the council?

Possible solutions:

  • There would be benefit in dovetailing Planning and Building Standards Regulations.
  • Developing and setting climate-appropriate Heritage Standards

How can planning encourage adaptation to take account of the fact that Scotland’s energy and food systems may be vulnerable in future?

  • Resilience would be increased by diversifying Scotland’s food systems and making communities and individuals more self-reliant rather than relying on imports from elsewhere, particularly in view of future to global climate change impacts.
  • Scottish Government’s NPF3 plans for national development could support renewables provision and take account of the contribution that renewables/distributed energy will make to the national grid.
  • Planning should give more weight to preserving agricultural land and to food system planning (ie local food supply chains).

A set recommendations to Scottish Government is currently being prepared by ClimateXChange.


  • Perth and Kinross – The Council is using technology and social media to raise awareness and empower the community on adaptation issues and decisions – gauging what community values are and the trade-offs the community is willing to make for adaptation.
  • Inverness – The Council has developed a flood management system and is engaging the community by using an ‘integrated art strategy’ to attract people to the area and inform them about the system.

Examples of Planning Support and Solutions

  • Glasgow Council – Has had a strong focus recently on flood management and has been actively using its surface water management strategy. This has resulted in developments that change the streetscape ‘grid’ to allow the flow of water. As a result, Glasgow has created a 48 hour delay on the flooding of the Clyde under heavy rain conditions.
  • Water management has been embedded in Glasgow’s draft LDP.
  • Glasgow – The Council has been working with Green Network partnerships to map flood-risk. This has been inspired by a model used in Manchester.
  • Glasgow – The development of the Commonwealth Games Village – 70% of infrastructure to be used already exists.
  • Scottish Government – Heat mapping project – this will be useful for local planning as it identifies local producers of heat that can be utilised, where local infrastructure is required and what infrastructure needs to be developed.
  • For example Edinburgh council and Heritage Scotland have overcome one heritage/sustainability issue by allowing ‘Slimlight’ double glazing to be used in A-listed heritage buildings.

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