RTPI Report Finds Planning and Net Zero-Carbon Future Out-of-Sync

A new report published by the Royal Town Planning Institute has found that the planning system needs to change to establish a successful transition to a net zero-carbon future. “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 perceived lack of attention given to cutting carbon emissions by the MHCLG has seen pushed energy down the list of priorities for many local planning authorities.

The report finds notable effort has been made to cut emissions using the existing planning toolkit, however the pace of change is conflicting with the aims set out in the Clean Growth Strategy and what is needed to meet the UK’s legal commitments to decarbonise. The report also 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. The perceived lack of attention given to cutting carbon emissions by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has seen pushed energy down the list of priorities for many local planning authorities, the report finds.

The report is also calling for an overhaul of the current National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to help give a greater national political clarity that climate change and smart energy have equal status with planning for transport, housing and economic growth. Further to this, the report urges the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to work alongside MHCLG to creative a joint action plan which allows energy policy to be informed by land use considerations and planning, and allow carbon reduction to be more effectively achieved through local planning policy and implementation.

The report commends the good work underway locally to drive forward smart energy through planning in Milton Keynes, Cornwall, Bristol and Greater Manchester, but finds such examples are the exceptions. 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 strong and clear message to the Planning Inspectorate that local plans should be examined not just on their housing provision, but also on their climate change mitigation ambitions.

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