Earlier this month, more than 100 UK businesses joined forces with the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) in calling upon the Government to urgently reform the planning system to tackle climate change alongside the UK’s deepening housing crisis.

In their letter to government, the coalition is asking for reforms to the planning system that would bring it in line with the Climate Change and Environment Acts and says the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (currently going through Parliament) could also be a crucial opportunity to align planning decisions with the nation’s net zero emissions target. Find out more in today’s blog.

Calls for reform

Addressing the Prime Minister and three Secretaries of State directly, the letter comes from the UKGBC and over 100 signatories, including some of the most influential businesses in the built environment sector. It’s key ask is for:

  • Amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to directly align the planning system with the UK’s climate commitments and adaptation goals under the Climate Change Act, and nature restoration targets under the Environment Act.

Among other things, this would mean:

  • A requirement  new, clear legal duties that make that alignment.
  • Greater weight being given to Local Nature Recovery Strategies (to ensure development plans and planning decision-making include objectives around the restoration of nature).
  • Addressing the resourcing/ skills constraints in Local Planning Authorities as a priority.

Current systems inadequate

The coalition also warns the government that the current planning system is not doing what’s necessary to address climate change, environmental considerations or the housing crisis. The letter states:

“Our experience is that the current planning system is not fit for purpose, in terms of providing a consistent approach to handling climate change and environmental considerations. Current legal duties and planning policies have proven insufficient for delivering action, as shown by the lack of consistent carbon auditing for local plans and headline decisions by the planning inspectorate. The lack of clarity risks delays, costs, and legal challenges. Meanwhile many local communities continue to see unsustainable, unpopular development built in unsuitable locations, with thousands of homes built on floodplains without sufficient mitigation.”

The fact that there are so many prominent signatories to the letter shows there is a huge amount of support for reform that would potentially fix these problems. If the reforms are implemented, the result could be a planning system that has a consistent direction to achieve environmental goals, breaks down obstacles to sustainable development, encourages investment and reduces delays.

Connecting planning reform with climate goals has also received consistent support from the public, UK businesses, the Climate Change Committee, and was recognised in the Mission Zero Review, by Chris Skidmore MP, as playing a key role in building a future green economy.

Louise Hutchins, UKGBC Head of Policy and Public Affairs said:

“England’s inconsistent planning system is not delivering the change we needto tackle the climate and nature breakdown. Our business and local authority members are faced with endless barriers, delays and legal challenges to the kind of low carbon nature-friendly development we all want to see.

Today we’re urging the government to back simple changes to planning law through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill that can help fix this. By introducing a clear legal imperative for planning decisions at all levels to align with our Climate Change and Environment Acts, we can unlock huge investment and momentum towards the beautiful neighbourhoods and low carbon infrastructure the country urgently needs.”

You can read the full letter to the government here.


Feature image: Freepik