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Soils and development

Soil is a non-renewable natural resource which performs many roles, including supporting Scotland's wonderful biodiversity and rural land uses such as farming and forestry.

Once built on, soil loses its ability to fulfill any other roles in the environment. It's important, therefore, for planners and developers to think about soil as a resource which supports lots of ecosystem services.

Planning has an important role in realising sustainable development. Development Plans should be informed by a good evidence base which includes knowledge and evidence on the importance and distribution of soils. Spatial strategies and policies that that take proper account of soils are more likely to enable developments that are environmentally sustainable.

We encourage planners and developers to consider the full range of threats to soil and potential on-site and off-site consequences of activities including for example, flooding and water quality, farming and forestry production, carbon sequestration, biodiversity.

We promote best practice and guidance for sustainable use of soil during the construction stage (planning, construction, after care) through the development plan and subsequent development management decisions.

The planning system should seek to protect soils from damage especially when considering 

  • soils with high organic content,
  • soil associated directly with a habitat or key geodiversity features, and
  • prime agriculture land.

See Our approach to planning and development for detail and soil of national importance in Scotland  PDF document .

What can you do?

  • Understand your soils and sourcing information

National level informaiton - The Scotland's soil website at external site

Compendum of information per Local Authority on how to access and understand soil and relevant Earth Heritage information (SESIN report series  PDF document ).

  • Soil requirements in the Scottish Planning Policy

Scottish Planning Policies that relate to soil included general consideration that the planning system should seek to protect soils, and specific consideration on carbon rich soil, peat and peatland and prime agriculural land. (see SESIN1 Summary issues planners and developers (June 2014))

  • Soil in SEA and EIA processes

Strategic Environmental Assessment guidance external site   has been produced by the Scotland and Northern Ireland Forum For Environmental Research (SNIFFER) to provide support on how to take soil into account in strategic plans and programmes.

SNH Environmental Impact Assessment Handbook  provides guidance to planners and others on assessing the impacts of various activities on soils. 

  • Good practices and management advices

Planning for soil: advice on how the planning system can help to protect and enhance soil. external site

Code of Practice for the sustainable use of soil on construction sites published by Defra for example of good practice in handling soil on sites external site

The Highways Agency and the Construction Industry Research & Information Association have produced a best practice guide on habitat translocation  external site which also includes useful information on soil handling.

British Standards on the use and requirements for topsoil (BS3882:2007 - Specification for topsoil and requirements for use)

Check our publication page for other activities or habitats topic guidance

Last updated on Thursday 30th June 2016 at 09:02 AM. Click here to comment on this page