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Government urged to consider climate crisis in all planning decisions

Words: Laura Edgar
Planning and the climate crisis / iStock-1131757409

The power of planning to promote a cleaner and more efficient way of living has been highlighted by a group of planning and environmental organisations which has urged the government to put the climate crisis at the heart of all planning decisions.

The group (see box) has sent a statement to housing and levelling-up secretary Michael Gove ahead of COP26, a global climate conference the UK is hosting in Glasgow in partnership with Italy from 31 October to 12 November.

The statement has been signed by:

  • Campaign for National Parks
  • Centre for Sustainable Energy
  • Civic Voice
  • Coal Action Network
  • Community Planning Alliance
  • Cycling UK
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Greenpeace UK
  • Mammal Society
  • National Flood Forum
  • Open Spaces Society
  • Ramblers
  • Rights: Community: Action
  • Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA)

It highlights the power planning has to promote renewable energy, restrict fossil fuels and design places to reduce energy use and promote walking and cycling. The statement maintains that climate change has been allocated a lack of priority in existing planning policy.

The group is calling on Gove to issue an “urgent” ministerial statement to prioritise net zero and tackle flooding and overheating.

The group has identified three flaws in the planning system as to why the current approach to preparing for the climate crisis is not delivering: 

  • The provisions of the planning acts and the Climate Change Act need to be better connected so that planning can deliver emissions reductions. Policy guidance should be strengthened and a legal provision for planning on climate change introduced.
  • The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) does not give climate change the priority that the science demands. Climate change is included in paragraph 8 at the end of a long list of other environmental considerations. The most significant part of national policy on climate change is included as a footnote, which is not a commensurate way to deal with a global crisis.
  • Because of the changes brought in by permitted development, where full planning permission is no longer required, planning authorities have no way of ensuring that the climate emergency is reflected in decisions. The current prior approval process does not allow local authorities to consider the impact of development on carbon emissions or overheating.

Dr Hugh Ellis, director of policy at the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), one of the signatories to the statement, TCPA, said: “The planning system plays a vital role in cutting carbon and preparing us for the impacts of climate change. The Committee on Climate Change is advocating a strong focus on effective planning to deliver the action we need. But the current English planning system is not delivering on its positive potential to tackle the climate crisis. This briefing sets out the problem and shows how an urgent ministerial statement can seize the opportunity of a resilient, net-zero future.

“The government must act now to put the climate crisis at the heart of planning policy. If it does not, the consequences for many of our vulnerable communities will be devastating.”

Read the joint statement on the TCPA website (pdf).

Image credit | iStock