Net Zero Review recommends planning reforms

On 13th January, the former Energy Minister Chris Skidmore MP published his Net Zero Review, outlining the ‘historic opportunities’ offered by net zero. The report makes 129 recommendations, with many of them relating to national planning policy.

The report spans sectors and Government departments in its recommendations but perhaps most pertinently for the DHULC is the recommendation to embed the drive to reach Net Zero in a review of the NPPF.

The report states:

The local net zero framework should therefore be supported with a statutory duty for local authorities to take account of the UK’s net zero targets. The statutory duty should encourage close community engagement on net zero, create clear accountability and responsibility for net zero within local authorities and encourage a whole system view across the breadth of areas for which local authorities are responsible.

The review also recommends that Local Area Energy Planning, should include a ‘Net Zero Neighbourhood Plan’ and that local frameworks should therefore be supported with a statutory duty for local authorities to take account of the UK’s net zero targets.

This is potentially encouraging news for the planning and development sector. Although councils will no longer be under as much pressure to release green belt land or adhere to mandatory housing targets following the recent announcements from the Government, if the report recommendations are adopted there will be a new requirement for them to actively work towards Net Zero in planning decisions and in their Local Plans.

Subsequently, house builders could reasonably argue that this qualifies as Very Special Circumstances to justify releasing green belt land for development. We could also see Local Plans which propose very low amounts of housing successfully challenged by Planning Inspectors if it can be proven that there were development opportunities and sites discounted which could have contributed to decarbonising their housing stock. Furthermore, the report recommendations will also be very good news for renewable energy developers, as the statutory requirement to plan for Net Zero would naturally mean that allocating sites for clean energy production in Local Plans would be a requirement.

So this is potentially some good news from the Government and an opportunity for it to step up to standards on Net Zero many in the industry have been way ahead of for some time.

Author: Robert Laird

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