There is a lot more to soils than their importance as a platform for construction. Soils interact with our environment, helping to maintain clean water and air as well as supporting the green infrastructure in our towns and cities.
Soils also play a role in regulating our climate. This section provides information to help you understand the importance of soils in the wider environmental context. It will also help you evaluate the impact of proposed developments on soils and the environmental processes they control.
Soil, land use and the planning system
The National Planning Framework, Scottish Planning Policy and Development Plans are the cornerstones of the planning system. We need to enable good development in the right place and of the right design and quality, taking into account national planning policy, so that our environment is suitably protected and enhanced. Proper consideration of soils through the planning system is part of this.
Find out more about Scotland's planning system at the Scottish Government's Planning webpages.
Soil, development planning and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)
Development plan policies are expected to highlight the importance and non-renewable nature of soils, providing criteria against which development proposals may be considered; and providing a framework for enhancement. Development briefs and other forms of supplementary guidance should also include specific recommendations on the coverage and evaluation of effects on soil.
Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) seeks to ensure that the environmental effects of public plans and strategies are fully considered throughout their preparation and that adoption includes specific soil considerations. You can find out more in the Scottish Government’s SEA webpage.
Planning collaboration and statutory consultees:
- Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) - Development plan guidance: Soils
- Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) - Check list
- Scottish Water
- Historic Environment Scotland
- Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) - Main interaction with the planning system
Soil, development management and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) seeks to ensure that the environmental effects of major projects are fully investigated, understood and taken into account before decisions are made on whether they should proceed.
EIA screening and scoping procedures, as well as the assessment process itself, should fully consider the effects of developments on soil. The assessment and after-use of previously developed sites should include consideration of soils and the development control process (including the use of planning conditions and agreements) and should fully reflect the range of effects (both positive and negative) on soil during construction, operation and decommissioning. EIA should use available soil information to assess the extent of resources, but this should also be complemented by more detailed field observations to assess the impact of the development and work out options for restoration or mitigation.
- Scottish Government - Renewable energy sector: Impact on carbon - Wind farms and carbon - including Carbon calculator
- Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) - Guidance for developers and their consultants
- Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) - A handbook on environmental impact assessment - Appendix 4: Assessment of Impacts on Soils
- Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) - Site waste management: Soil and peat - Standing advice for planning authorities and developers on development management consultations
- Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) - Additional guidance on creating new or managing existing woodlands
Tool kits / soil surveying
For use in desk studies – view and download soil maps and data
- National soil map of Scotland - Go to the map - information about the map
- Soil map of Scotland (partial cover) - Go to the map - information about the map
Carbon-rich soil, deep peat and priority habitats
Land capability for agriculture
- National scale land capability for agriculture - Go to the map - information about the map
- Land capability for agriculture (partial cover) - Go to the map - information about the map
- Principles of soil survey for site evaluation - British Society of Soil Science (BSSS) - Working with soil training programme
- Peat survey - guidance for wind farm development
Accounting for your soils
- Online resources to incorporate biodiversity into the planning system and new development - Biodiversity toolkit for planners
- Managing unstable slopes examples from the Scottish Road Network Landslides Study: Implementation
- Scottish Government - Guidance on the Assessment of Peat Volumes, Reuse of Excavated Peat and the Minimisation of Waste
Good practice on-site activities
- Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (defra) - Code of practice for the sustainable use of soils on construction sites (legislation section not relevant to Scotland)
- SNIFFER - Planning for Soil: Advice on how the planning system can help to protect and enhance soils
- WRAP - Good Practice Guide - Soil manufacture and habitat creation
- British Standards:
After care, restoration and mitigation
- The Highways Agency and the Construction Industry Research & Information Association (CIRIA) have produced a best practice guide on habitat translocation which also includes useful information on soil handling.
- Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) - Peat bog restoration
You can also consult resources for Forests and woodlands for information on woodland restoration.
Developing skill sets / expert advice
- British Society of Soil Science and Institute of Professional Soil Scientist (BSSS/IPSS)
- Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA)
- Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM)
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