Will planning reform push for greener developments?
20 Aug 2020
The world of planning was thrown into the national news this month, as the Government announced plans to completely overhaul the process from start to finish.
This wasn’t an out-of-the-blue announcement… Planning reform has been talked about around Westminster for a while. But the scale of change in these proposals is what piqued the interest of journalists.
Housing Minister, Robert Jenrick, is the face behind the documents. He says ‘Our proposals seek a significantly simpler, faster and more predictable system’
And for anyone who has ever gone through the planning process, simple, fast and predictable might not be words that immediately come to mind.
There are a few running themes throughout this consultation; one of which is the desire to remove the postcode lottery of planning policies that developers currently have to deal with.
Under the current system, building sites on neighbouring streets may need to be designed to meet completely different planning policies because one local planning authority has chosen to be stricter with sustainable design requirements than the other.
Under the proposed system, design codes will be drawn up a local level, but many other categories which aren’t specific to a particular region will be, in effect, nationalised.
Jenrick wants to bring in a new set of national policies which will apply across England. Local authorities will be expected not to tamper or tweak these policies, and instead focus their efforts on things which directly impact their local communities.
So what does that mean for energy efficiency and sustainability targets?
It’s a good question – one which the Government doesn’t give a simple answer to.
The Proposal states “the consultation response will look to clarify the role that they [local planning authorities] can play in setting energy efficiency standards in new build developments. We will also want to ensure that high standards for the design, environmental performance and safety of new and refurbished buildings and monitored and enforced.”
This suggests local councils will face more scrutiny about the energy efficiency policies they insist developers follow.
But that’s only half the picture. Rewind the last October… The Future Homes Standard consultation – on which the Government will be releasing updates this Autumn – says “We propose to remove the ability of local planning authorities to set higher energy efficiency standards than those in the Building Regulations.”
The Future Homes Standard is expected to bring significant changes into Building Regulations to drastically cut carbon emissions and energy use from new buildings. The Government is hinting these new targets will be so steep, that local planning authorities won’t need to impose above-and-beyond targets.
On one hand this would deal with the postcode lottery issue as mentioned earlier, but on the flip side this could lead to new build developments being less energy efficient than they are now – especially in the capital where the Greater London Authority insists on zero carbon performance through planning policy.
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.