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Upcoming planning reforms present a "critical opportunity" to meet environmental goals, the UKGBC said

Government warned: put nature ‘at the heart’ of planning reforms

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Karl Tomusk

More than 100 industry leaders – including from CBRE, British Land and Legal & General – have signed a letter urging the government to incorporate a net-zero transition, nature’s recovery and climate resilience at the heart of the UK’s new planning system.

Co-ordinated by the UK Green Building Council and the Aldersgate Group, the letter called for prime minister Boris Johnson to ensure that the upcoming Planning Bill aligns with decarbonisation targets under the Climate Change Act and plans to reverse nature’s decline in the Environment Bill.

“Despite recent changes, planning remains part of a system that is not delivering the pace of change, or the quality of development, that we need in order to successfully fulfil our legal commitments,” the letter read.

Although it said that the Future Home Standard, design codes and Future Buildings Standard are a “positive step”, they are not enough to deliver “truly resilient, sustainable development across the country”.

UKGBC called the upcoming planning reforms a critical opportunity to create a strategy for a decarbonised, climate-resilient economy.

However, plans outlined in the Queen’s Speech last month were brief and the signatories raised concerns that there have not been sufficient commitments for the Planning Bill to drive a strategic approach to net-zero.

The letter called for:

  • The new Planning Bill to align directly with, and support, the UK’s net zero target and ambitions for nature set out in the Environment Bill
  • Clarity on how land allocated for ‘growth’ will be compatible with achieving net zero, securing nature’s recovery and delivering development resilient to the impacts of climate change
  • Genuinely enhanced levels of protection in planning for designations in the Environment Bill intended to support nature’s recovery
  • Increased resourcing and skills support for local planning authorities, in order to support their ability to set local targets, and deliver across multiple objectives in their local areas

Julie Hirigoyen, CEO of UKGBC, said: “Planning is part of a wider system that is currently failing to deliver both the quality and quantity of homes needed to tackle the environmental and social challenges we face, and the upcoming reforms must form part of a coherent, long-term commitment by the government to environmental protection – one that gives developers clarity around low-carbon, nature-friendly investment.

“The number of businesses coming together to support this letter today shows clear demand for climate change to be at the heart of our planning system, and I urge government to listen to industry and match the level of ambition set out in this letter.”

Signe Norberg, head of public affairs and communication at Aldersgate Group, added: “To reach net zero emissions by 2050 and reverse the decline of the natural environment, it will be essential that the planning system fully integrates these issues at the heart of the new legislation. By setting forward a strategic approach to planning in line with this, government can unlock private sector investment, create jobs, generate vital low carbon skills, and build homes that are fit for the future.”

The letter is available here.

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