Local plan policies to address climate change - Why the differences in approach?

date Released On 26th Jul 2023

Over the past year or two we have seen several local planning authorities drafting their local plan policies to include measures to address climate change – many in response to their own council’s declarations of a climate emergency.  However, the success of these measures has varied despite similarities in the proposals and the justification.

Though there are differences in the detail, many of these planning authorities have been seeking to secure higher standards through embedding the proposed 2025 Future Homes building standard into planning policy (in case the government rows back on previous commitments) as well as going further and faster towards net zero carbon from new residential buildings.

Some of these have moved through to plan adoption swiftly and with limited challenge from either the public, development industry, other interested parties or Planning Inspectors – Cornwall Council, Bath & North East Somerset and Central Lincolnshire all fall into this category.

However, the Plans put forward by West Oxfordshire and Lancaster City have faltered, with the former having to strike out the requirements in order to proceed and at Lancaster a drawn-out discussion with an Inspector not prepared to move position, despite the wealth of evidence presented to the contrary. The issue with Lancaster seems to be the Written Ministerial Statement – Planning Update dated 25 March 2015 (HCWS488) which discusses commencement of amendments to the Planning and Energy Act 2008 and states that local planning authorities should not set conditions with requirements above Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4 equivalent. Notwithstanding that this has already been superseded by changes set out in the 2021 Part L building regulations, the inspector is adamant that the Ministerial Guidance from 2015 is extant and therefore still applies in Lancaster (but seemingly doesn’t apply in Cornwall, Bath or Lincolnshire…)

The mystery is why have different Inspectors comes to different conclusion when presented with the same circumstances – only PINs can really answer this question.  In the meantime there are a few days left (closing date is 5pm on the 28th July) to comment on proposed modification to the Lancaster Plan.  Make your views known here
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