What is sustainable development?
Environmental protection and enhancement have become extremely important in today's society. The
issue of climate change and increasingly unpredictable weather conditions has led to a greater
awareness of the importance of our natural environment and how we treat it. This is not a new
issue although it continues to gain public awareness. One way to help reduce the impact of our
actions on the natural environment is to employ the principles of sustainable development.
'Sustainable development' is a phrase which has been used to describe the most appropriate way by
which the present generation can address environmental concerns. The term has a number of definitions.
One of the most widely used ones is: 'development which meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'.
Sustainable development is not something which can be achieved quickly. It is something which will
take many years to become a reality and can only be achieved if there is a strong and real commitment
by governments throughout the world.
Planning and sustainable development
Planning has a key role to play in moving towards more sustainable forms of development in terms of
the provisions of Section 2 of the Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006 and Scottish Government Guidance
on Planning and Sustainable Development. It can contribute by promoting more energy efficient homes,
thus reducing CO2 emissions, directing development to the most appropriate locations, facilitating
renewable energy developments, promoting green travel (reducing car borne journeys), encouraging
sustainable design and construction, safeguarding biodiversity, protecting finite built and natural
heritage resources, encouraging recycling/waste reduction and ensuring that potentially environmentally
harmful developments are properly mitigated.
A number of processes have been introduced into Scottish legislation, designed to prevent and/or reduce
adverse impacts upon our environment. These processes have clear links to planning and the Council is
keen to ensure that these processes are carried out in the correct manner and achieve real outcomes.
Some of these processes are described below.
Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)
SEA is the process by which certain plans, programmes and strategies of local authorities and public
bodies are assessed in order to determine their likely impact upon the environment. The purpose of
the assessment is to protect the environment by ensuring that environmental considerations are taken
into account at the outset of the plan-making process.
SEA was introduced into domestic legislation through The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005.
This Act implements Directive 2001/42/EC of the European Parliament.
The SEA process follows a number of key stages:
- Environmental Report
SEA pre-screening and screening reports:
SEA Scoping Reports
Environmental Impact Assessment
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a tool used to predict the environmental impacts of a project
at an early stage. Assessing the impacts of a project prior to its development presents an opportunity
to fully explore the extent of impacts upon the environment, consider where alternative approaches may
be more suitable and to consider where appropriate mitigation measures will be required.
The procedure requires the applicant to compile an Environmental Statement (ES) which describes the likely
significant effects on the environment and the proposed mitigation measures which will be used to reduce
such impacts. The ES will be circulated to a list of statutory consultees and a view regarding the acceptability
of that Statement and its conclusions must be reached by the Council prior to the determination of the related
Environmental statements are generally very large documents and can only be viewed by visiting the Council’s
offices at Burns House, Burns Statue Square, Ayr. Furthermore, environmental statements are only made available
during the consultation period.
EIA screening template for proposed single turbine or small scale wind energy developments
The Scottish Government has published a screening template for
single turbine or small-scale wind energy developments.
This should be filled out by the applicant in all relevant instances and submitted to the Council as part of the request
for an EIA screening opinion.
Habitats Regulations Appraisal (HRA)
Under the terms of The Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations 1994 (the Habitats Regulations), all
competent authorities (i.e. the plan-making body) are required to assess the impacts of certain plans or projects
upon Natura 2000 sites. This process is known as Habitats Regulations Appraisal.
HRA includes the process of screening the plan or project for likely significant effects as well as the appropriate
assessment stage. Appropriate assessment is required when a plan or project affecting a Natura site:
- is not connected with or necessary to the nature conservation management of the site; and
- is likely to have a significant effect on the site (either alone or in combination with other plans or projects).
Click on the following links for the relevant HRA:
Sustainable Development Team
Specific queries relating to sustainability/sustainable development should be addressed to the
Sustainable Development Section of the Council which deals with the full range of sustainable development