Planning not in right place to combat climate change, says new report
Planning in the UK needs to change to support a smooth transition to a net zero-carbon future and there is currently a lack of attention given to smart energy, days a new national report.
The report from the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) says it should be part of national planning policy and guidance but there is a significant gap between what happens on the ground and the opportunities offered by smart energy.
‘Nothing should be planned without demonstrating it is fit to take its place in a net-zero emissions future. It makes no sense for what is planned and built today to be delivered in a way, or in places, that will require costly retrofitting tomorrow,’ says the report.
It points out that while notable strides have been taken to cut emissions using the existing planning toolkit, the pace of change is out of step with the ambitions set out in the Clean Growth Strategy and what is needed to meet the UK’s legal commitments to decarbonise.
The perceived lack of attention given to cutting carbon emissions by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has pushed energy down the list of priorities for many local planning authorities, it finds.
The report is calling for more political clarity and a refresh of the National Planning Policy Framework or, with greater immediacy, a written ministerial statement, to give greater national political clarity that smart energy and climate change have equal status with planning for housing, transport and economic growth.
It also urges MHCLG and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to work better together and devise a joint action plan that allows energy policy to be informed by planning and land use considerations, and carbon reduction to be achieved more effectively through local planning policy and implementation.
In the absence of nationally robust trajectory for achieving zero carbon standards for domestic and non-domestic buildings, the report recommends that the Government allows local authorities to set much higher local standards.
‘The Government’s advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, has recognised the crucial role of planners and planning in taking action on climate change. It is essential that our local planning authorities have the right resources and the right backing from Government to deliver the strong planning policies that will allow our nations and regions to achieve net zero carbon in transport and in our homes and buildings, as well as in business and energy production,’ said Ian Tant, RTPI president.
‘This new report highlights the importance of curtailing carbon use in every aspect of the planning process. If we don’t, the Government simply won’t meet the UK’s legal commitment to net zero carbon and we will fail to garner the benefits to jobs and the economy that are offered by the switch to zero carbon,’ he added.
Local authorities have legal duty in climate change mitigation and adaptation
The report highlights the good work that is underway locally to drive forward smart energy through planning including in Milton Keynes, Cornwall, Bristol and Greater Manchester, but on the whole finds such examples are the exception rather than the rule.
The report also reminds local authorities of their legal duty to ensure their development plans contribute to mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, and asks MHCLG to send a clear message to the Planning Inspectorate that local plans should be examined on their climate change mitigation ambitions as much as their housing provision.