Why we need more ambitious climate goals in neighbourhood plans

And how we’re working towards a strategy to establish stronger carbon reduction and climate change requirements in neighbourhood plans.

29 July 2019

At CSE we've long seen neighbourhood planning as a key intervention for building meaningful public understanding of, and consent for, the changes needed to deliver climate action at a local level.

As our in-house planner, Dan Stone, explained in this article, neighbourhood plans could play an important role, nurturing consent for the changes we need (e.g. quadrupling renewable energy output). As such, we need to push for these plans to have much stronger focus on climate change and related issues like energy generation.

With this in mind CSE set about bringing together a coalition of organisations to explore possible strategies for establishing stronger carbon reduction and climate change requirements in neighbourhood plans.

And so this month we invited potential coalition members to a roundtable event in parliament, hosted by Helen Hayes MP (herself a chartered Town Planner), with support from our partners, the Town and Country Planning Association.

We welcomed representatives from a cross-section of national organisations in the planning and policy sphere of influence: the Royal Town Planning Institute, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Committee on Climate Change, Policy Connect, New Economics Foundation, UK 100, as well as leading local planning authorities and members of neighbourhood planning groups.

The discussion was facilitated by CSE Chief Executive, Simon Roberts, and focused on the benefits and practical problems that might arise from encouraging Neighbourhood Development Plans (NDPs) to include such ambitious goals.

Key takeaways from the day were that neighbourhood planning couldn’t be seen as a cure all, after all, it relies on non-professional volunteers working in their spare time; easier in a wealthy community with plenty of qualified people to call on; much more difficult in a less advantaged community where people have more immediate concerns.

Instead, every tier of planning needs to tackle the climate emergency (from the NPPF, through formal requirements on local plans down to neighbourhood plans), with local government properly resourced and supported to do the heavy lifting.

Neverthess neighbourhood planning was seen as a vital tool in building public understanding and involvement in place shaping for net zero futures… and encouraging neighbourhood plans to consider this agenda could be an easy place to start.

And what’s next, well over the next months with our partner organisations, we plan to put together a coherent list of reforms which could be delivered now and a more radical agenda for change in the future and a strategy for how these are to be achieved.

CSE’s Low Carbon Neighbourhood Planning Programme encourages neighbourhood planning groups to consider their resilience to climate impacts and incorporate locally relevant adaptation and mitigation policies.

We’ve published a guidebook encapsulating the best policies we’ve seen (10,000 downloads, and new edition on the way). We give free hands-on support to groups seeking to push through climate friendly plans, and we’re developing a suite of workshops and community engagement approaches that neighbourhood planning groups can use to build a mandate for ambitious policies.

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