Written evidence submitted by the Town
and Country Planning Association |
1.0 ABOUT THE
1.1 The Town and Country Planning Association
(TCPA) is an independent charity working to improve town and country
planning. Its membership includes organisations and individuals
drawn from planning practitioners in government, private practice
and universities. It puts social justice and the environment at
the heart of policy debate and champions fresh perspectives on
major issues, of planning policy, housing, regeneration and climate
change. Our objectives are to:
- Secure a decent, well designed home for everyone,
in a human-scale environment combining the best features of town
- Empower people and communities to influence decisions
that affect them.
- Improve the planning system in accordance with
the principles of sustainable development.
OF TCPA EVIDENCE
2.1 The TCPA welcomes the Environmental Audit
Committee's inquiry into "embedding sustainable development
across government", in particular examining the potential
impact of the abolition of the Sustainable Development Commission
(though TCPA notes that the London Sustainable Development Commission
will continue to exist).
2.2 The Environmental Audit Committee has, in
recent reports, highlighted the need for a greater leadership
role from national government on the delivery of sustainable development.
These reports include the findings from inquiries into Government
Departments' progress against sustainable development objectives,
such as on climate change
as well as the work of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.
2.3 In addition to abolishing the Sustainable
Development Commission and the Royal Commission on Environmental
Pollution, the Government is in the process of "streamlining"
national planning guidance, including the supplement to Planning
Policy Statement 1: Planning and Climate Change. The Government
is also abolishing the Audit Commission, and removing the local
government performance management framework including key national
indicators on carbon dioxide emissions and climate change adaptation
which were useful mechanisms to enable compilation of a national
picture of progress towards meeting sustainable development objectives.
2.4 The TCPA has been actively engaged in examining
the proposals set out in the Conservative Party Policy Paper,
"Open Source Planning"
which laid the foundations for the Government's
planning reform package. Drawing on feedback from over 100 participants
in five cross-sector roundtable debates held this autumn, the
TCPA's latest publication "The Future of Planning Report"
presents a series of solution-focused recommendations. The report
can be downloaded from www.tcpa.org.uk/pages/the-future-of-planning.html
2.5 In the context of the above background information,
the TCPA's brief submission highlights three issues for the Committee's
2.6 Firstly, sustainable development remains
the key guiding principle for human development. Its
reputation is blunted not because it is conceptually wrong but
because applying principles such intergenerational equity
is difficult and run counter to dominant economic models. Sustainable
development remains crucial for the future of spatial planning
where we can show that built development can genuinely integrate
the economic, socials and environmental needs of society and the
2.7 Secondly, for sustainable development
to be effective there needs much greater cross departmental commitment
to its principles. The 2005 UK Sustainable Development
Strategy is a sound basis for action but this strategy requires
an urgent update to factor in increasing global change, particularly
in relation to poverty and climate change. Existing legal duties,
such as the one expressed in the 2004 Planning and Compulsory
Purchase Act and 2008 Planning Act, are weak and need to be addressed. The
skills and resources of decision makers on issues such as planning
also require vigorous improvement if sustainable development is
to be achieved. Independent organisations such as the SDC, RCEP
and Audit Commission will need to be retained to hold the Government
to account to ensure Government coherently delivers sustainable
development actions across its departments and functions.
2.8 Thirdly, the Governments current planning
reform agenda will set back delivery on sustainable development. The
abolition of regional planning structures was not assed against
its impacts on sustainable development in general or on specific
issues such as climate change or equality. Little consideration
has yet been given as to whether the "localism" of planning
will lead to sustainable development.
2.9 There are opportunities through the Localism
Bill to strengthen duties to promote sustainable development and
to ensure that key bodies such as Local Enterprise Partnerships
(LEP) have a duty to support sustainable development. The
abolition of the Sustainable Development Commission and of bodies
such as the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution is likely
to have a negative impact on the progress of sustainable development. The
Sustainable Development Commission provided the key expertise
by which progress on sustainable development could be evaluated.
It also offered expert advice on both delivery and development
of sustainable development. The abolition of Royal Commission
on Environmental Pollution removes a vital source of expert information
on key environmental issues related to sustainable development. The
TCPA questions whether Select Committees can replace such bodies,
given that they have neither the resources or time to undertake
investigations of the breath and detail of the RCEP.
13 October 2010
5 Climate change and local, regional and devolved Government,
Eight Report of Session 2007-08 (July 2008). Back
Climate change and local, regional and devolved Government, Sixth
Report of Session 2009-10 (March 2010). Back
Adapting Institutions to Climate Change, March 2010. Back
"Open Source Planning" (February 2010), Conservative
Policy Green Paper No. 14. Back
TCPA (2010) The Future of Planning Report - distilling the
roundtable debates. TCPA, London. Back