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Do Planners Consider Climate Change?

Do Planners Consider Climate Change?
July 14, 2021 Rosie Ranson

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) states that a “town planner helps communities, companies and politician to decide on the best way to use land and buildings” with a main aim for “achieving sustainability”[1]. However, when it comes to climate change, just how much are town planners required to do?

Current Guidance

When decision making, town planners rely on both national and local planning policy. The National Planning Policy Framework, known as the NPPF, sets out the government’s planning policies for England and how these policies are expected to be applied. In July 2018, the government released the revised NPPF, which contains ambitious policies on climate change [2]. Following this, the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) and RTPI came together and released a guide entitled “Rising to the Climate Crisis: A Guide for Local Authorities on Planning for Climate Change”. The guide considered the revised NPPF and investigated how the climate change policies could best be implemented by local government and planners. 

Issues

Although the guidance is out there in the public domain, the on-the-ground delivery of carbon emission reducing development is slow, with lack of practical advice and support at the forefront. Government guidance has also been seen as deficient on adjusting to climate change, predominantly in issues such as:

  • Heat waves,
  • Flooding,
  • Infrastructure, and
  •  Sea-level rises [3]

The key issue when it comes to town planning and climate change is that developers are not thinking 100 years in the future, they are focused on the present. 

Section 14 of the NPPF is titled “Meeting the challenge of climate change, flooding and coastal change.” and looks at how the planning system should support the transition to a low carbon future [4]. However, the guidance is just that, guidance. Phrases such as ‘proactive approach’, ‘encourage’ and ‘support’ are littered throughout the section. Much like the upcoming guidance on wearing face coverings, the measures are not mandatory.  

What’s next?

The latest progress report to Parliament by the Climate Change Committee advises that Climate Change must “be integrated throughout policy and planning decisions, and must be a key consideration in the government’s proposed planning reforms” [5] with key requirements embedded into core policies. It should not just be guidance, it should be law. Climate change is already having an impact on communities all over the UK, and over the next 50-100 years there will be even more devastating consequences. Going forward, planning could be capable of implementing sustainable development, but will the government be willing to support this? 

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References

[1] Rtpi.org.uk. 2021. What a town planner does. [online] Available at: <https://www.rtpi.org.uk/become-a-planner/about-planning/what-a-town-planner-does/>
[2]
TCPA. Second edition, December 2018. First edition (Planning for Climate Change – A Guide for Local Authorities) published May 2018
[3] Town and Country Planning Association. 2021. Climate Change. [online] Available at: <https://www.tcpa.org.uk/pages/category/energy-and-climate-change>
[4] Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. (2019) National Planning Policy Framework.
[5] Planningresource.co.uk. 2021. Climate change ‘must be integrated into planning policy’, government advisor urges. [online] Available at: <https://www.planningresource.co.uk/article/1721090/climate-change-must-integrated-planning-policy-government-advisor-urges>

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