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Planning locally to address the climate emergency

Two people viewed from behind looking at a map of their neighbourhood.

Increasing community engagement with local planning.

Project duration: September 2022 ongoing

The planning system has a fundamental role to play in ensuring the UK meets its CO2 reduction targets. When we talk about ‘the planning system’, we mean the management, control and regulation of development and land use across the country. This includes where houses get built, where land is protected from being built on and how development can benefit local communities.

The challenge of delivering net zero

Most local plans do not acknowledge the extent of the challenge of delivering net zero. Local plans are the documents drawn up by local authorities with input from residents outlining the planning priorities of the council area, ensuring that the right development happens in the right place at the right time. They cover policy areas such as housing, the local economy, community facilities and infrastructure, seeking to safeguard the environment and adapting to climate change.

Only 19% of local plans contain specific energy efficiency measures or binding carbon policies.

Producing a local plan should be shared between the council in collaboration with communities, developers, landowners, and other interested parties. This collaboration can be achieved through meaningful engagement. However, many community groups find it difficult to engage with the planning system, some to the extent where they are effectively excluded from the process.

We need local plans that advance the zero-carbon agenda and are shaped by meaningful community engagement. This new project funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation’s Creative, Confident Communities programme aims to do this. This is through drawing on the enthusiasm and commitment of local communities who are keen to tackle the threat of climate change.

How the planning system can accelerate local change

Specifically, the project aims to build the capability of local people to use the planning system as a key lever of local change. It will do this in two ways:

Neil Best is a project manager at CSE. “In our experience, few climate-action networks, organisations and activists are able to effectively engage with and use the planning to achieve their local aspirations,” he said. “We’re excited about the opportunity this project provides us to work with local organisations to design and pilot approaches that are locally meaningful and influential.”

How we can support your community

CSE supports communities to make sure reducing carbon emissions is written into their local council’s polices and plans. We also provide advice and training to councillors and planners to better understand their role in making the changes needed. Contact us to find out more.

For further information contact