The TCPA has produced many blogs over the last six months about why the Government’s planning reform agenda is taking us in the wrong direction. We can only hope that reason will prevail when the Government publishes its response to the Planning White Paper consultation. It is true that the planning sector is divided about planning reform. But there is one issue which we should unite us and that is our shared response to the climate crisis. I won’t repeat the overwhelming scientific evidence about the catastrophic impacts of climate change. Nor do we need to spend even more time exposing the direct impacts of severe weather on communities across the globe or on those whose lives are devastated by repeated flooding events closer to home.
It is absolutely clear that planning has a crucial role to play in reducing carbon emissions and in the long-term planning for climate adaptation. The planning system will have a much bigger role in coming decades as we fight to save coastal communities and, in some cases, as we are forced to relocate whole populations as a result of sea level rise. Everyone from the insurance and investment community, to developers, to local authorities and communities have a shared common interest in building the necessary resilience to climate change which is the foundation of all economic activity.
So what can be done right now? Proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) are currently out for consultation and include a wide remit of new policy which even touches on the future of public statues. This is a critical opportunity for the Government to confront the vital role of planning in delivering on the objectives of the 2008 Climate Act. The NPPF must ensure that all decisions deliver on the 2050 net zero target providing a clear direction of travel that will drive the transformation in the design, location and energy systems of all new development. To this end the NPPF must make plain that all policies, plans and decisions must deliver on the objectives of the Climate Act. The wording we are recommending below would be inserted into the opening sections of the NPPF, which relate to the purpose of planning and sustainable development.
A new NPPF paragraph inserted after the current paragraph nine: Climate change is the greatest long-term challenge facing the world today. Addressing climate change is therefore the Government’s principal concern for sustainable development. For the avoidance of doubt, achieving sustainable development includes securing the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change. All planning strategies, and the decisions taken in support of them, must reflect the Government’s ambition to help business and communities build a zero carbon future and prepare for the impacts of climate change. Accordingly, planning policies and all planning decisions must be in line with the objectives and provisions of Climate Change Act 2008 including the 2050 net zero carbon target.
We need all the help we can get to get this message across to Government and are therefore urging organisations and individuals to support us by recommending the insertion of the paragraph above in your response to the NPPF consultation. It is critical to our future and a key test of the planning sectors commitment to our national leadership on climate change. If the Government fails to adopt this approach by the time of the COP 26 climate conference then we will have given up our best, and I fear our last, chance to secure a climate resilient society.
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Photo credit: “Teignmouth seafront” by Chris Martin Photography is licensed with CC BY-NC 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/