Performance of local level planning policies for reducing greenhouse gases: insight from new buildings in Scotland

Vincent Onyango, Neil Burford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
231 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: The purpose of the study is to assess performance of local level planning policies that required new buildings to avoid a specified and rising proportion of projected greenhouse gases (GHGs) from their use; it is calculated based on the approved design and plans for the specific development and through the installation and operation of low and zero-carbon generating technologies (LZCGTs). Design/methodology/approach: Data were extracted from a random sample of 911 new builds from 403 planning applications and related documents, across five Scottish local planning authorities (LPAs) who adopted GHG reduction policies. The data included GHG reduction, LZCGT installation and performance, use of plan designs to meet GHG reductions and exemptions from the GHG policies. Descriptive statistics using SPSS software, complimented by qualitative responses from questionnaires, helped to explain observed performance. Findings: The policies performed poorly, at the level of delivering low-hanging fruits, with significant room for improvement. Design-led opportunities in the GHG policies were not actively pursued; most LZCGT installation was exempted from GHG policies and the policies were poor in targeting the relationship between building unit size, GHG emission and reductions. Research limitations/implications: The source documents, where the data came from, had varying quality and completeness and some LPAs are over-represented in the data. The study applied limited criteria to evaluate policy performance. Practical implications: Areas for policymakers to further focus on when exploring how to enhance role and performance of LZCGT are highlighted, including practical suggestions. Originality/value: One of the few studies assessing policy performance and distilling lessons, from early adopters of GHG policies at local level planning, offer performance benchmarks and raise points of concern for policymakers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)985-1002
Number of pages18
JournalManagement of Environmental Quality: an International Journal
Issue number4
Early online date9 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2020


  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Local planning
  • New builds
  • Policy evaluation
  • Policy performance
  • Scotland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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