Our response to proposed changes to the planning policy framework

24 March 2021

The Centre for Sustainable Energy and Town & Country Planning Association have led a coalition* that has submitted a joint response to the government's consultation on changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

You can read our submission here.

The central plank of our response is that the proposed changes to the NPPF fail to address the seriousness of the climate emergency which the government claims is a priority.

"The planning system has a major role to play in shaping new development, transport patterns and energy systems that can deliver on the Government's net zero target and adapt to a dramatic increase in severe weather and sea levels" states our submission. "However, the NPPF consultation proposals simply fail to address it adequately which is a significant lost opportunity."

This is a particularly striking omission in view of Britain's hosting of COP26 later this year, and one picked up by CSE's Dan Stone in his blog lamenting the failure of the government to bind the planning system into the UK's climate policy.

"The revisions to the NPPF fail to join the dots around the climate crisis" writes Dan. "In the really high-carbon areas (fossil fuel development, aviation) it’s silent, while elsewhere (buildings, renewable energy, transport) it lacks urgency. As others have said before me, we need to treat the climate emergency as an emergency."

The consultation is the first significant review of the NPPF since the publication of the IPCC report Global warming of 1.5°C in 2018 that revealed the extraordinary dangers of allowing a global temperature rise of 2°C. It is also the first since the climate change act was revised in 2019 to commit the UK to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. It is both surprising and disappointing that the NPPF proposals fail so spectacularly to march in lock-step with this.

Our submission calls for specific additional text to be inserted into Chapter 2 of the NPPF to provide clarity on the importance of climate change within the context of sustainable development, and to explicitly set the 2008 Climate Change Act at the centre of the planning system. We are calling for action on carbon reduction to become the first amongst equals as a material consideration in the planning process and for the following paragraph to be inserted after paragraph 9.

"Climate change is the greatest long-term challenge facing the world today. Addressing climate change is therefore the Government’s principal concern for sustainable development. For the avoidance of doubt, achieving sustainable development includes securing the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change. All planning strategies, and the decisions taken in support of them, must reflect the Government’s ambition to help business and communities build a zero carbon future and prepare for the impacts of climate change. Accordingly, planning policies and all planning decisions must be in line with the objectives and provisions of Climate Change Act 2008 including the 2050 net zero carbon target."

* The coalition comprised Town and Country Planning Association, Bristol Energy Network, Campaign for National Parks, CPRE, Cycling UK, Friends of the Earth, Green Alliance, Ramblers, Rights: Community: Action, SNRG, UKGBC, and Wildlife and Countryside Link.

Mendip District Council, Eden District Council and the Association of Green Councillors added their name after consultation closed on 27 March, and other co-signatories are welcome. Please get in touch.

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