Whitehall impeding local plans’ potential for climate action


A lack of clarity on Government policy is undermining the ability of local planners to mitigate and adapt to the climate emergency, a new report has found.

The planning system should be a vital tool for driving carbon reductions, but is instead seen by Whitehall as a problem, according to research by the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) and the Town and Country Planning Association.

As a result, national planning policy development has been de-prioritised, there is no holistic approach to tackling climate change, and local authorities face a ‘chronic’ lack of resources, the report found.

Local plans are directly affected. In a survey conducted by the researchers, not one local authority respondent said their adopted local plan was fully aligned with the emission reductions needed to reach net zero.

Just over a quarter of respondents (28%) said their local plan was ‘not at all’ aligned with this target.

The research, which was commissioned by the Committee for Climate Change, found that guidance on climate adaptation – including resilience to heatwaves – was not developed sufficiently in local plans.

Nearly a quarter of respondents (22%) said their local plan did not contain a renewable energy policy.

Neil Best, senior planner for net zero at the CSE, said there was a ‘glaring disparity’ between the planning system’s ‘huge potential’ to tackle climate change problems and the current reality.

Mr Best said the cause of this lay ‘in a series of defined legal, policy, skills and resource issues, many of which stem from a lack of clarity at national level on the priority that should be placed on climate change.’

The report did highlight case studies of councils overcoming these barriers, Mr Best said. He added: ‘but these are few and far between and these examples are delivering change despite national policy, rather than because of it’.

This article first appeared on localgov.co.uk.

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