On May the 4th, 2023 the Highland Council’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee approved a Planning Position Statement which aims to provide clarity to developers in relation to the candidate Flow Country World Heritage Site.
The need for this statement has arisen due to the ways in which the planning policy context has evolved during, and following, the consultation, compilation and submission of the proposed Site’s nomination dossier and Draft management Plan (submitted to UNESCO on the 1st of February 2023). NPF4 (adopted on the 13th of February 2023) has lessened the protection provided to Wild Land Areas and carbon rich soils (peat) in respect of renewable energy developments. It was previously considered that these protections, together with existing SSSI/SPA/SAC/Ramsar designations (73% of the site), would provide adequate protection to the whole of the candidate site and its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) during the period that UNESCO is considering the nomination. However, with the lessened protection now provided by Wild Land Areas and policy concerning carbon rich soils, the area of the candidate site not protected by existing designations (27%) is under particular pressure from renewable energy developments.
The approved Planning Position Statement aims to provide protection to the OUV of the candidate site specifically, the nomination of which has the full backing of the Highland Council, the Scottish Government and the UK Government. If the site is inscribed this protection will be taken up by policy concerning World Heritage sites included in NPF4 and the Planning Position Statement therefore puts in place similar, practical measures to protect the candidate site in the interim.
It should be noted that the approved Planning Position Statement does not prohibit development within and around the candidate World Heritage Site. It provides a means by which development proposals can be guided, assessed and considered. Areas that are not integral to the expression of the site’s OUV, including some floors of lesser valleys or around isolated buildings, may be suitable for some development. More generally, Developments that are assessed as not posing a risk to the OUV could be accommodated.
The planning position statement can be downloaded here.