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Local Government policy and planning

The governance framework for construction and development is devolved at the district local authority (LA) level, with cities and other unitary authorities also taking responsibility for the planning and development strategies within their district. Previously 9 regional development agencies (RDAs), also had some responsibility for planning and development strategy, however these bodies were scrapped in 2012. Decision making is divided at the county and local district authority level, whereby local authorities take responsibility for planning policy within their specific district. However many larger town and cities agglomerate these two parts under a single unitary authority.

National Planning Policy Framework

In March 2012 the old planning policy guidance (PPG) system was replaced by the more aggregated National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The NPPF sets out the Government’s planning policies for England, and how these policies are expected to be applied.  The following briefly outlines the policies relevant to climate change and energy.

Paragraph 14 of the NPPF states that:

At the heart of the NPPF is a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which should be seen as a ‘golden thread’ running through both plan-making and decision-taking. For decision-taking this means approving development proposals that accord with the development plan without delay. The NPPF outlines a set of core land-use planning principles that should underpin both plan-making and decision-taking, three of which are particularly relevant to the issues surrounding energy consumption and climate change.  Under paragraph 17, these principles are that planning should:
  1. Support the transition to a low carbon future in a changing climate, taking full account of flood risk and coastal change, and encourage the reuse of existing resources, including conversion of existing buildings, and encourage the use of renewable resources (for example, by the development of renewable energy); Meeting the challenge of climate change is addressed in section 10 of the NPPF, and paragraph 93 states: ‘Planning plays a key role in helping shape places to secure radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, minimising vulnerability and providing resilience to the impacts of climate change, and supporting the delivery of renewable and low carbon energy and associated infrastructure. This is central to the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development’ Further to the above, paragraph 95 addresses local plan-making and state: To support the move to a low carbon future, local planning authorities should:

plan for new development in locations and ways which reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
actively support energy efficiency improvements to existing buildings; and
When setting any local requirement for a building’s sustainability, do so in a way consistent with the Government’s zero carbon buildings policy and adopt nationally described standards.

Additionally, paragraph 96 discussed decision-taking and states that:

In determining planning applications, local planning authorities should expect new development to:
  1. comply with adopted Local Plan policies on local requirements for decentralised energy supply unless it can be demonstrated by the applicant, having regard to the type of development involved and its design, that this is not feasible or viable; and take account of landform, layout, building orientation, massing and landscaping to minimise energy consumption. Further to the above, paragraph 95 addresses local plan-making and state: To support the move to a low carbon future, local planning authorities should:

  2. plan for new development in locations and ways which reduce greenhouse gas emissions;

  3. actively support energy efficiency improvements to existing buildings; and

  4. when setting any local requirement for a building’s sustainability, do so in a way consistent with the Government’s zero carbon buildings policy and adopt nationally described standards.

This broad framework is designed to form the basis for the design of Local Plan Policies adopted by local authorities, in relation to energy and sustainability from buildings. However several city level/ unitary organisations; notably the Greater London Authority (GLA) have produced more prescriptive and comprehensive guidelines, that go beyond national requirements

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