Sustainability of Planning Reforms
6. We welcome the Government's commitment to put
sustainable development at the heart of the planning system and
provide people with greater influence over planning in their communities,
but we are concerned that the intention to introduce a presumption
in favour of sustainable development might not be accompanied
by a statutory description of what that means.
As a result, the principles of sustainable development living
with environmental limits, ensuring a strong, healthy and just
society, achieving a sustainable economy, promoting good governance
and using sound science responsiblyare unlikely to be adequately
represented in the planning process.
7. The evidence we took highlighted a number of potential
risks with the proposed planning reforms, which include:
- Influencing neighbourhood
development: The use
of neighbourhood development orders and neighbourhood development
plans raises an issue of fairness. They could favour those who
have more time and money to spend on influencing these processes,
and could therefore disadvantage those that do not.
- Monitoring the cumulative impacts of locally
determined planning decisions: When it
removes the regional planning tier, the Government will reduce
the extent to which the combined impacts of developments on climate
change targets and the environment are monitored across England.
The replacement arrangements, to encourage cooperation between
local planning authorities, are inadequate and poorly described
in the Bill.
- The application of sustainability and climate
change duties to neighbourhood planning.
Clauses on neighbourhood planning in the Localism Bill would not
fall under the requirements of the 2004 and 2008 Planning Acts.
This means that none of the duties placed upon local planning
authorities in relation to sustainable development and climate
change would apply to the neighbourhood planning processes.
8. The Bill is due for report stage and third reading
before the House of Commons shortly. In the Committee a number
of amendments were debated which addressed these issues and on
15 February the Minister agreed to return "with a set of
Government amendments with the objective of achieving as much
consensus as possible". In the same debate, the Minister
also said that:
[...] I also want to make sure that, for example
when responding to new technological developments, we do not end
up being constrained by an encapsulation of [...] sustainable
9. We agree that a definition of sustainable development
needs to allow for future progress, but this is not a reason for
holding off providing one. Indeed, this is exactly why it must
be defined. At the core of sustainable development is planning
for the long-term. A proper definition of sustainable development
in planning would not be a barrier to technological development
but would encourage it. A planning system with sustainability
at its heart would require planners and developers to consider
the inter-linkages between various policy requirements, development
impacts and future needs. It would provide a much needed incentive
to look beyond the ten year timescale that tends to dominate the
current planning system.
10. The Localism Bill must provide a statutory
duty to apply the principles of sustainability in the planning
system and other functions of local government. The Bill must
also provide a commitment to define the term 'sustainable development'
in the planning context. An essential prerequisite of such a commitment
will be to include in the Bill the five internationally recognised
principles of sustainable development as set out in the 2005 Sustainable
Development Strategy. A fuller explanation of what sustainable
development means in the planning context should then be developed
for the National Planning Policy Framework.
10 Speech by The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Local Planning
for Sustainable Development, 10 February 2011 Back