Planning needs to change to support a smooth transition to a net zero-carbon future, says a new report published by the RTPI.

NPPF: lack of attention to smart energy

The report highlights the lack of attention given to ‘smart energy’ in national planning policy and guidance and the gap between what happens on the ground and the opportunities offered by smart energy.

“Nothing should be planned without demonstrating it is fit to take its place in a net-zero emissions future… It makes no sense for what is planned and built today to be delivered in a way, or in places, that will require costly retrofitting tomorrow,” says the report.

The report finds notable strides have been taken to cut emissions using the existing planning toolkit, but the pace of change is out of step with the ambitions set out in the Clean Growth Strategy and what is needed to meet the UK’s legal commitments to decarbonise.

The perceived lack of attention given to cutting carbon emissions by MHCLG has pushed energy down the list of priorities for many local planning authorities, it finds.

Nothing should be planned without demonstrating it is fit to take its place in a net-zero emissions future… It makes no sense for what is planned and built today to be delivered in a way, or in places, that will require costly retrofitting tomorrow.

More national political clarity needed

The report is calling for a refresh of the National Planning Policy Framework or, with greater immediacy, a written ministerial statement, to give greater national political clarity that smart energy and climate change have equal status with planning for housing, transport and economic growth.

It also urges MHCLG and BEIS to work better together and devise a joint action plan that allows energy policy to be informed by planning and land use considerations, and carbon reduction to be achieved more effectively through local planning policy and implementation.

In the absence of nationally robust trajectory for achieving zero carbon standards for domestic and non-domestic buildings, the report recommends that the Government allows local authorities to set much higher local standards.

Ian Tant, RTPI President, said:

“The Government’s advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, has recognised the crucial role of planners and planning in taking action on climate change. It is essential that our local planning authorities have the right resources and the right backing from Government to deliver the strong planning policies that will allow our nations and regions to achieve net zero carbon in transport and in our homes and buildings, as well as in business and energy production.

“This new report highlights the importance of curtailing carbon use in every aspect of the planning process. If we don’t, the Government simply won’t meet the UK’s legal commitment to net zero carbon – and we will fail to garner the benefits to jobs and the economy that are offered by the switch to zero carbon.”

Local authorities have legal duty in climate change mitigation and adaptation

The report highlights the good work that is underway locally to drive forward smart energy through planning including in Milton Keynes, Cornwall, Bristol and Greater Manchester, but on the whole finds such examples are the exception rather than the rule.

It reminds local authorities of their legal duty to ensure their development plans contribute to mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, and asks MHCLG to send a clear message to the Planning Inspectorate that local plans should be examined on their climate change mitigation ambitions as much as their housing provision.

The report follows closely the launch of the Institute’s Resource Planning for Climate Action campaign last month, which calls on the Government to take radical climate actions around buildings and transport, and to develop a tool to help local authorities gauge the carbon impact of existing and emerging local plans.

The Planning for a Smart Energy Future report has been commissioned by the RTPI South West and conducted by RegenThe Landmark PracticeUWE Bristol and Pell Frischmann.

You can read the report below

RTPI

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