Don’t water down climate policy in the new planning framework

Comment by CSE trustee, Peter Ellis

28 March 2018

Update May 2018: This consultation is now closed. You can read CSE's response to the consulation here

Amid the big news stories of the day – Brexit, spying, the business practices of Facebook – this one may have escaped you.

It’s the news that on 5 March the UK government launched a consultation on its proposed revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The NPPF sets out the government’s planning policies for England and its overall vision for the planning system. It’s where the priorities are laid down - for how our towns and cities will change over time, for how we provide enough, affordable homes and for our stewardship of the environment. 

And what goes into the NPPF in turn informs the planning policies and planning decisions of local councils, so it directly and quickly affects us all.

The consultation draft is being hotly debated. Some fundamental questions are being asked about the direction it takes planning and whether it really will deliver sustainable development.

Because of the NPPF’s significance, it is important to forensically examine the consultation draft and ask the difficult questions. Not least on climate change. The NPPF should be clearly ambitious and set a high bar for what is expected of local councils. 

Sadly, the government has missed the opportunity to set planning an ambitious agenda for cutting carbon. Or at least in this draft. If enough of us say ‘not good enough’ then we must hope government will listen. 

At the very least, we must persuade government to reverse the watering down of climate policy. The current NPPF is far from perfect but it is clear that “Planning plays a key role in helping shape places to secure radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions”. That rallying call has gone. So too has the requirement for local councils to adopt proactive strategies in line with the ambition of the Climate Change Act 2008. The explicit support for energy efficiency improvements to existing buildings has also been dropped. No good, or indeed any, reason has been given for these changes. 

For more of my thoughts on the draft revised NPPF click here

The consultation period runs to 10 May 2018 and the full text of the proposed revisions can be found here.

CSE will respond in detail to the consultation. I like to hope government will listen, so I want to encourage anyone concerned about the missed opportunity to spur real action on climate change to add their own views via the NPPF consultation survey ( or by email (

Peter Ellis joined CSE's board of trustees in June 2014. He is an experienced town planner used to engaging at the highest levels of government, and with leaders of business and the third sector. Peter led the team responsible the first national planning policy statement on climate change, provided the planning input to the zero carbon homes policy and the UK Renewable Energy Strategy. He was also a member of the Energy Minister’s Renewables Advisory Board.

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