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From ecology to energy – what’s changing under the planning reform?

20 Aug 2020

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Whether you’re building a tall fence or 500 new houses, getting planning permission approved can sometimes feel like a dark art.

But could we be about to enter a new era for planning reform? Housing Minister Robert Jenrick has this month released proposals to create a new faster, more transparent, simpler planning system across England.

Naturally, this has been met with criticism from all sides. Under the plans local Councillors will have their powers reduced, the councils themselves will have the types of policy they can control restricted, developers can dodge hurdles if they meet certain criteria, and the green police have been quick to point out how the consultation’s carbon credentials can be summed up in just a couple of paragraphs.

At Energist we offer a collection of sustainable services to help developers steer their way through the planning process, so how will these proposals shape environmental standards moving forward?

Although the consultation is big on headline grabbing bullet points, the devil is in the detail; and the detail here is very much a ‘Work In Progress’.

We know that England will be split into three categories. Protected land (such as the Green Belt), Renewal (town centres and infill plots) and Growth (development land). The type of land you’re building on will change the course you take through the planning process, and the types of conditions you are likely to face.

The intention is to create a national set of policies which will automatically apply across England, instead of allowing individual authorities to choose their own. There is no news yet on what will feature in this nationalised list.

But if, for example, (and we mean ‘IF’) the national policy states a BREEAM Excellent assessment is required on all large developments in Renewal areas, that would apply across England as standard, and local authorities would not have the power to differ.

Policies which look at the design of a development would stay local to ensure new-builds are in-keeping with their surroundings. This means the requirement to check sunlight impact on homes in crowded developments is likely to stay as is.

But if you thought overheating would be part of this local design guide, think again. There is a separate Government investigation underway which could see overheating risks written into Building Regulations, so there would be no need to keep this in planning at all.

Then we have the issue of locally set emission targets. The Government seems keen to remove this entirely from the planning process, as they claim upcoming changes to Approved Document Part L will be strict enough to not require further reductions.

‘Zero Carbon Ready Homes’ they’re calling it… which has as much meaning as Boris’s infamous ‘Oven Ready Brexit’ soundbyte.

We know the proposed Part L changes fall short of a zero carbon target, which is already the requirement imposed on major schemes in London, so many are concerned this could lead to a backwards step in the path to sustainable design in our cities.

Another common service is the need for an ecological survey. The Planning consultation says such reports should be accessible so development areas with multiple construction companies don’t need to commission separate, duplicated documents.

It will be some time before we find out know which planning conditions will be controlled nationally, which will be kept at local level, and which will be removed completely.

The Planning Consultation is open for public comments until the end of October. More details about how to respond can be found on the MHCLG website.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/launch-of-planning-for-the-future-consultation-to-reform-the-planning-system

 

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Author

Jon Ponting

Energy And Sustainability Specialist

Email

Jon Ponting

Energy And Sustainability Specialist

jonp@energistuk.co.uk