Our latest LI policy update providing a brief overview of the Institute’s most recent policy outputs, as well as a summary of a new report from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee

Wokingham Market Place
Wokingham Market Place

Since beginning a new parliamentary session, the government has been busy consulting on and issuing a number of key policy statements – many of which will affect our sector. This brief summary will give members a chance to see our recent policy responses and what’s coming next.

There are three key areas of interest:

Environmental Audit Committee Inquiry: Sustainability of the built environment

In May, The Environmental Audit Committee launched an inquiry into the sustainability of the built environment. It will look at the best routes to net zero for our future building needs from low carbon materials through to policies, to minimise the whole life carbon impact of new buildings.

The Government’s target of building 300,000 new homes per year means that a huge amount of construction is anticipated over the coming decade. Although the operating energy efficiency of a building is taken into account, the embodied carbon cost of the construction is not required by current policy to be assessed or controlled, other than on a voluntary basis.

The Landscape Institute working with our membership submitted a detailed response here. Of particular interest were questions around Green Infrastructure and Nature Based Solutions.

Consultation on the Draft Policy Statement on Environmental Principles

In June the Landscape Institute submitted a consultation on DEFRA’s Draft Policy Statement on Environmental Principles. The UK Government has committed to five environmental principles in this legally binding statement, which will guide its work and ensure considerations for the environment remain central to policy making. The policy statement is intended to ensure that ministers understand how to interpret and proportionately apply these principles across government policy, and will guide ministers towards opportunities to prevent environmental damage whilst supporting innovation and sustainable development.

Overall, the LI believes that the Environmental Principles Policy Statement is a relatively defensible and safe framework for environmental governance. However, the loss of legally binding robust EU environmental governance is not offset by this document.

Given that this is a chance to create a visionary “world-leading” mechanism the policy statement is a disappointment. The EPPS lacks the teeth, demanding language and ambition to fulfil the government’s commitment to “to leave the natural environment in a better state than it found it.” The document acts as soft guidance that will potentially maintain the status quo rather than a framework that can deliver environmental enhancement.

See our full response here.

HCLG Committee report: the future of the planning system in England

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has published a report on the future of the planning system in England.

The report considers the Government’s proposed reforms to the planning system announced in August 2020. The Government has proposed that local areas will be divided (through Local Plans) into three parts: growth, renewal and protected, with different planning rules applying in each.

The report makes the following recommendations relevant to our sector:

Government’s three areas or “zoning” proposal

  • The Government should clearly explain how Local Plans will impose requirements on developments in area or zones.
  • The Government should consider the proposals for sub-areas within a ‘renewal area’, where permission in principle would not apply and individual planning permission would be required.
  • The Government should implement a ‘highly protected’ alongside a ‘protected’ area category.
  • The Government should clarify who will have the power to decide whether a development, particularly in growth and renewal areas, has met the requirements laid down in the Local Plan.

Resources and skills

  • MHCLG should seek to obtain a Treasury commitment for an additional £500m over four years for local planning authorities.
  • The Government must undertake and publish a resources and skills strategy in advance of primarily legislation.

Design and beauty

  • The Government must ensure that its national design code, advice for local authorities about local design codes, and other aspects of design policy reflect the broadest meaning of design, encompassing function, place-making, and the internal quality of the housing as a place to live in, alongside its external appearance.

Green Belt

  • A review should examine the purpose of the Green Belt, including whether it continues to serve that purpose, how the public understand it, what the criteria for inclusion should be, and what additional protections might be appropriate.

Environmental and historical protections

  • The Government recommends that it should publish an assessment of the impact of its proposed changes on historic buildings and sites. This should include the impact on undesignated and future archaeology, and on heritage sites situated in growth areas.
  • The Government should clarify how it intends to define flood risk in the planning system.
  • The planning system should pay greater attention to the importance of green spaces and to wildlife near to people’s residences.
  • The Government should reconsider the retention of sustainability assessments and ensure that the operation of Environmental Impact Assessments on the planning system is covered as it goes through the next round of consideration on the report ahead of the Planning Bill.

The LI is planning to follow up with committee’s report and support the objectives outlined in our previous response to the governments planning changes.

For more information on upcoming policy, or to get involved with our policy activity, please email policy@landscapeinstitute.org.

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