Planners call on government for stronger direction on climate action

An overwhelming majority of UK planners want the next government to give stronger direction and more resources to enable local planners to deliver net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

A recent survey by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), revealed that even though 79% of respondents agreed that climate action should be a top priority for the profession, only 17% felt their nation’s planning system or policy framework was well equipped enough to deal with the current climate crisis.

Nearly 90% agreed or strongly agreed that there needed to be stronger direction from central government and greater resourcing, training and capacity for local authority planning departments to enable more effective local planning for net zero carbon.

Victoria Hills, the RTPI’s chief executive, said: “The Government’s own advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, has acknowledged the role of planners in taking decisive and effective climate action, but without strong direction from central government and an increase in resources and capacity at a local level, it will be impossible for planners to meet the challenges of climate change and achieve the target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“These challenges are so significant and long-term that widespread and fundamental changes in the way our societies are organised and managed will be required. Planning can’t resolve this issue on its own.”

The RTPI has recently joined the UN’s Planners for Climate Action Campaign, which aims to catalyse and accelerate climate action through responsible and transformative urban and territorial planning practice, education and research.

Earlier this year, at its annual conference, the organisation called on 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 campaign calls on the next government to:

  • Ensure that all new build homes are zero carbon and that measures and resources are put in place for existing homes to be zero carbon and to begin a major national retrofitting programme for existing homes
  • Roll-out SCATTER, a tool for assessing the carbon impact of existing and future local plans, on wider scale
  • Ensure that climate change mitigation is a vital component of wider planning and infrastructure policy and that government listens to the planning profession in formulating that policy
  • Give more resources to local planning authorities
  • Empower devolved national governments and local authorities to lead on climate change mitigation in the devolved nations at local level and give them the resources to do so

Invest in UK infrastructure for smart energy heat and sustainable mobility, including greater collaboration between the ministries of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Transport, and Housing, Communities & Local Government, as well as devolved governments.

THE RTPI said a total of 994 out of 25,000 members responded to the its climate change survey. Respondents came from across the public, private and third sectors.

One respondent said: “Nationally, the planning system is fractured and dysfunctional. Much development is permitted, to which no standards can be applied, and even development which requires planning permission is not suited for the climate we will have.

“Barriers are put in the way of LPAs, requiring zero carbon development, to be able fully exploit renewables (e.g. wind). Current planning policy is not compatible with a zero carbon future, and the government has ‘left the room’, leaving local authorities to take the lead.”

Another said: “The planning system continues to be picked apart from the centre at a time when government should be actively empowering the planning system to bring about a more sustainable approach to planning for the future – across all agendas. Climate change is upon us and we are tinkering at the edges with little impact. The balance remains in favour of the developers’ short term profits and this needs to change.”

Other respondents called for zero carbon targets to be set in Building Regulations, more collaboration with other industries in the built environment sector, greater subsidies for retrofitting and more focus on transport planning.



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