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Policy Background

This states that it is necessary to support integrated actions to tackle economic, environmental, climatic and social challenges affecting urban areas. One of the specific ERDF investment priorities (6e) is to “take action to improve the urban environment, to revitalise cities, regenerate and decontaminate brownfield sites, reduce air pollution and promote noise reduction measures.”

The Green Infrastructure Strategic Intervention contributes to thematic Objective 6 “preserving and protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency”. The Scottish ERDF Project Programme identifies that Green Infrastructure will help to make Scotland’s cities more attractive and environmentally sound places to live and invest.

The National Performance Framework sets the Scottish Government’s high level ambitions for delivering its purpose of creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.

The NPF states that “well-designed, sustainable places, both urban and rural, support people's physical and mental wellbeing” and it specifically mentions the importance of access to greenspace.

It recognises that the ability of Scottish businesses to succeed will depend upon “attractive well connected places to live and work that build on Scotland's natural assets in terms of cities, towns…” and an “approach to health and well-being that ensures that all of Scotland's people enjoy a level of physical and mental health which allows them to maximise their potential.”

The role of our local environments is crucial in underpinning wellbeing and addressing the inequality that exists in our communities: “Our satisfaction with our neighbourhoods has an important influence on the overall quality of our lives. In Scotland as a whole, more than 9 in 10 adults rate their neighbourhood as either very good or fairly good. However, the neighbourhood rating is significantly lower in more deprived areas” and “the proportion rating their neighbourhood as very good increases significantly as deprivation declines. Of those living in the 20% most deprived areas of Scotland in 2014, 30% rate their neighbourhood as a very good place to live, rising to 76% for those living in the 20% least deprived areas.”

The relationship between health, physical activity and productivity is acknowledged “We can make a significant contribution to the Government's Purpose by increasing the amount of time people spend in good health, by increasing their ability to take part in the workforce, by improving productivity and through population growth. In combination, these factors will promote economic sustainability.” In support of this, one of the National Performance Indicators included in the National Performance Framework is to “Increase people's use of Scotland's outdoors”.

The ERDF Horizontal Themes correlate well with the NPF, through the Wealthier and Fairer and the Safer and Stronger objectives, including a number of National Outcomes, including:

  • We have strong, resilient and supportive communities where people take responsibility for their own actions and how they affect others; and
  • We live in well-designed, sustainable places where we are able to access the amenities and services we need.

Scotland’s Economic Strategy sets out an overarching framework for a more competitive and a fairer Scotland and identifies four broad priority areas where our actions will be targeted to make a difference.

It recognises that the continuing health and improvement of the natural environment is vital to sustainable economic growth and enhancing the quality of our areas as places to live and work is dependent upon the quality and accessibility of facilities and the physical and natural environment in our communities.

The NPF 3 sets the context for development planning in Scotland and provides a framework for the spatial development of Scotland as a whole.

The NPF3 states that The Scottish Government wants a “step change in environmental quality, especially in places with long-standing disadvantages arising from a legacy of past industrial activity”. The Framework recognises that a “more integrated approach and ‘greening’ of the urban environment through green infrastructure and retrofitting can improve the quality of life within our towns and cities, alongside enhancing their longer-term environmental performance and climate resilience.”

On Scotland’s legacy of vacant and derelict land, it notes that “Most of Scotland’s vacant and derelict land lies in and around our cities, and particularly in west central Scotland. This presents a significant challenge, yet also an opportunity for investment.”

It goes on to say that “Well-designed green infrastructure can support regeneration efforts within our towns and cities, and improved attractiveness and environmental performance can act as a catalyst for economic investment. Temporary uses for vacant and derelict land, for example for community growing or supporting biodiversity, can also help to attract investment in specific sites or wider areas. Whilst re-use of vacant land remains a priority, in some cases greening initiatives could be the best permanent solutions for sites where built development is unrealistic for cost or other reasons.”

The SPP identifies green infrastructure as an essential part of our long-term environmental performance and climate resilience. It seeks to significantly enhance green infrastructure, including improving access to and the quality of greenspace and green networks, particularly in and around urban areas, to create healthier communities and neighbourhoods that are more resilient to climate change and encourage investment and development. It identifies the importance of green networks, greenspace, street trees and other vegetation, green roofs, wetlands and other water features, and coastal habitats to help Scotland mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Local development plans should encourage the temporary use of unused or underused land as green infrastructure while making clear that this will not prevent any future development potential which has been identified from being realised. This type of greening may provide the advance structure planting to create the landscape framework for any future development.

Both Scottish Planning Policy (page 50) and the national Land Use Strategy5 (page 3) support the significant enhancement of green infrastructure in urban areas as it contributes to Scotland’s prosperity by encouraging development and investment.

It is estimated that 11% of Scotland's total annual economic output is directly and indirectly dependent on the sustainable use of the environment, estimated to be worth around £17.2 billion a year. This supports employment for 242,000 people, which amounts to 14% of all jobs in Scotland. Urban green infrastructure supports economic success by attracting businesses and investment, and can improve workforce productivity.

PAN 65 advises: “Some of the best open spaces are part of networks. These can help define the landscape or townscape structure, provide links with the countryside and allow movement of people and wildlife”. It goes on to suggest that “Local authorities should aim to maintain or form networks of green and civic spaces which maintain and enhance environmental qualities; provide a range of opportunities for recreation and leisure; link and create wildlife habitats; and encourage walking and cycling and reduce car use”.

Green Infrastructure: Design and Placemaking points out that green features can be a useful way to form clear and attractive entrances and maintain and inject distinctive features, landmarks and routes into a place to make it more welcoming.

Designing Streets highlights that "Connected and permeable networks encourage walking and cycling, and make navigation through places easier."

Creating Places sets out the Scottish Government's aspirations for architecture and place making. Successful places can unlock opportunities, build vibrant communities and contribute to a flourishing economy. The document contains an action plan that sets out the work that will be taken forward to achieve positive change. Designing Places promotes principles of context, identity and character.

The six qualities of successful places are set out as:

  • distinctive
  • safe and pleasant
  • easy to move around
  • welcoming
  • adaptable
  • resource efficient.

These guiding principles continue to underpin the Scottish Government's approach to delivering good places. This guidance provides strong context and justification for the development and integration of green infrastructure into neighbourhoods and developments. Therefore, we have included a number of extracts below.

People and Communities

Quality places are often central to community life. A successful place is accessible to all and encourages people to connect with one another. The relationships which are fostered help to create communities where there is a high level of positive activity and interaction. These are communities which are safe, socially stable and resilient.

Sustainable Places

Quality places can, by their very nature, be sustainable. Sustainable places are often characterised by well-designed, walkable mixed-use neighbourhoods with integrated facilities. Places which have enduring appeal and functionality are more likely to be valued by people and therefore retained for generations to come.

Neighbourhoods which are compact and well-connected give residents additional options, allowing them to choose to use sustainable modes of transport to reach their destination. In this way, the development of, and enhancement of, walkable neighbourhoods has the potential to reduce the significant greenhouse gas emissions related to everyday journeys.

Good developments not only house people, but support a wide range of activity. Through the careful use of land, developments should be designed to accommodate a range of housing, local retail, leisure facilities, and high quality greenspaces which are attractive, rich in biodiversity and well connected.


Physical and social environments are critical elements in people's lives and can impact on their health and wellbeing. Neighbourhoods which can increase human connectedness through their design and where there is access to good quality greenspace, safe streets and places for children to play outdoors can positively benefit health.

We must take advantage of the health benefits related to physical activity and so it is vital that we create attractive, accessible places that put pedestrians first and make it safe and attractive for younger and older people to go outdoors. Creating places which are attractive and well-connected encourages people to walk and cycle and children to play.

Whereas the physical environment can have a positive impact on health and wellbeing, poor quality surroundings can have the opposite effect. People who feel that they have no control over their environment, or do not experience it as a meaningful place, are more likely to experience chronic stress. Chronic stress puts people at increased risk of mental and physical ill health and is linked to early mortality.

"There is a proven link between how we perceive our world and surroundings and the various biological responses that go on inside the body. How people feel about their physical surroundings, can impact on not just mental health and wellbeing, but also physical disease.” - Sir Harry Burns, Chief Medical Officer, The Scottish Government

Culture and Identity

Our natural and built environments help to define us as a country.

The quality of our assets contributes to Scotland's international image, as a confident, forward looking country. This is crucial in attracting people to visit and invest. It is the responsibility of us all to conserve these rich national assets, but we must also work together to create a positive legacy of which our generation can be proud.

Creative places

Culture-led regeneration can have a profound impact on the wellbeing of a community in terms of the physical look and feel of a place and can also attract visitors, which in turn can bolster the local economy and sense of pride or ownership.

Creative places are necessary if we want to attract and develop the creative talent of tomorrow. Taking a fresh perspective and encouraging new ways of working can enable Scotland to lead the way in developing a successful creative economy.

Successful cities tend to be vibrant and cultural cities, which have a distinct quality of place, amenities, retail and cultural offerings to attract and retain talent, investment and visitors

Landscape design

Landscape design is an integral component of placemaking. Well-designed landscapes can provide many benefits: safe, creative spaces for children to play and people to gather in; public space that promotes access to the outdoors; biodiversity and water management; the reduction of airborne particles; and improved micro-climate and space for local food production. These are all important issues that can be combined and delivered effectively through good landscape design.

The Community Empowerment Act provides a strong means to address social inclusion with its new focus on disadvantage at neighbourhood level and requirement for Community Planning Partnerships to draw up Locality Plans. It also complements this through aiming to strengthen community engagement in delivering public services and managing assets, including land.

A theme running through the Community Empowerment Act is what the Christie Commission described as co-production – the participation of communities in the design and delivery of the public services for those communities. Achievement of this ambition may require the machinery of government to adopt a more enabling role than its current focus on delivery.

Our Policy Background document provides some of the rationale behind the Green Infrastructure Strategic Intervention (GISI). This is not intended to be comprehensive or exclusive, and there may be policy drivers that are important in some localities that are not addressed here. The first section sets out the overarching policies, and subsequent sections focus on the policy framework of our five outcomes and the horizontal themes.

Here are the key strategic policies relevant to the GISI (click on a heading to expand text):

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