Building better places Contents

Chapter 4: Building for the long-term: sustainability and resilience

Investing in long-term, sustainable communities

Lifetime homes and lifetime neighbourhoods

149.For a number of years, demographic projections have suggested that the UK needs to address a significant shift in the age profile of the population. The Office for National Statistics projects that the number of people aged 80 and above will more than double, to 6 million, by mid-2037; the number aged between 70 and 80 will grow from 4.5 million to 7.5 million.158

150.These projections are often lost in the media and public policy debates concerning the housing shortage, much of which focuses on the needs of first time buyers. We were told that 60% of total household growth in England up to 2033 is expected to come from households headed by someone aged 65 or over.159 In spite of this trend, current housing provision for this demographic is lacking; we were told that only 2% of the country’s current housing stock is retirement housing.160

151.It is essential, therefore, that steps are taken to ensure that the housing and planning system serves the nation as a whole. Changes are required to ensure a proper response to our changing demographic circumstances both in terms of housing supply and specialist accommodation. All local authorities should have explicit regard in their policy documents to the age profile of the local area and the needs of local residents.

152.The provision of specialist retirement housing161 can serve a dual purpose; in addition to meeting the needs of older residents it can also help to release housing that meets the supply needs of different parts of the population. Many of those who would look to move into retirement housing would, in effect, be ‘down-sizing’. We were told that, for every 5,000 purchases of retirement properties, larger housing worth a total of £1.5 billion was released into the market.162 In addition, the provision of specialist housing can prevent or delay the need for institutional care, offering further savings to the public purse.163

153.Currently, however, the planning system does not fully recognise these wider social benefits. Some types of housing (including affordable homes and the Government’s proposed starter homes) are exempt from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and Section 106,164 as they are seen to be delivering a wider social good. This is not the case for specialist retirement housing. McCarthy & Stone and Anchor Housing Association suggested that retirement housing should be excluded from these “onerous requirements”.165

154.While we did not take extensive evidence on this particular aspect of housing provision, it is clear that an increasing amount of specialist retirement housing will be required. We also support the proposition that such housing delivers wider social and economic benefits.

155.We call on the Government to examine ways in which the provision of specialist retirement housing can be incentivised and increased. We recommend that the Government should examine and review the case for exempting such housing from Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy payments.

156.Beyond the provision of specialist housing there is, in our view, a more general case for ensuring that new housing is better equipped to deal with the changing demography of the country and greater opportunities for people to age in place are created. We were told that only 4% of the current housing stock met basic accessibility criteria; this is, in our view, an unacceptably low figure.166

157.The Lifetime Homes standard comprises a range of measures intended to improve the accessibility levels of new housing development. The cost of incorporating Lifetime Homes criteria into a new dwelling was estimated, in 2007, to be between £545 and £1,615 per dwelling.167 We were told that cost-benefit analysis had demonstrated that, over the course of its existence, a Lifetime Homes standard property would deliver around £60,000 worth of societal benefit.168

158.In London, the Lifetime Homes standard has been compulsory since the adoption of the first London Plan in 2004. We were told that this had led to a significant increase in provision169, although evidence from Create Streets also noted that Lifetime Homes might not be universally suitable for all design contexts.170

159.Across the rest of England, the accessibility standards of new dwellings are principally determined by the Building Regulations. We were told that Part M of the Regulations,171 which sets standards for accessibility, mandated a level of provision which was below the standard set by Lifetime Homes.172 Habinteg told us that:

“Government have looked at viability standards in constructing the review of the new [building] standards purely in terms of the financial viability of the housebuilding industry: effectively, what is the impact on the first sale price of that property? What they have specifically excluded from financial viability is any wider societal or health benefit for an individual or local authority or health authority”.173

160.We believe that this is a short-sighted approach. Lifetime Homes have the potential to ensure that our built environment is better placed to cope with a changing population. The additional cost appears, to us, to be relatively marginal when compared to the wider social and economic benefits.

161.We believe that the Lifetime Homes standard can play a key part in addressing the demographic challenge facing our housing stock. We recommend that local authorities should be required, within their local planning policies, to set appropriately ambitious targets for the delivery of Lifetime Homes.

162.The needs of an ageing population do not begin and end in the home. There is a strong case for ensuring that the built environment as a whole is able to take account of changing demographics.

163.We were told that pavements, traffic junctions and, more generally, ‘places’, were not always designed to take account of the needs of older age groups and those with limited mobility.174 This can lead to preventable hazards and accidents, and also has the effect of limiting the social contact and access to services of these groups. Edinburgh College of Art suggested that:

“With the cost of sedentary behaviour estimated at £8.3bn per year, this places a further financial burden on the NHS and Local Authorities through increased admissions to hospitals and residential care homes”.175

164.Habinteg Housing Association told us that design and good management were key to improving this situation:

“For anyone in the street who is slightly infirm, has a temporary injury or is pushing a buggy, that requires good design to start with and then maintaining it. It is about thinking through not just what is a good quality neighbourhood, but the functional importance of allowing people to enjoy and access that environment. That is the kind of issue that stops older people venturing out—when they think they have a six-inch kerb to get over, that there are roadworks, that there is an overhanging tree that blocks their path. It is about good neighbourhood management, but there is a real inclusive design aspect to it as well”.176

165.Design and management is, therefore, key in ensuring that the built environment is accessible and hospitable to communities as a whole. It was suggested that such neighbourhoods and environments—sometimes described as Lifetime Neighbourhoods—offered benefits to all sections of society. The Olympic Park and Village was highlighted as a good, positive example of an accessible and inclusive neighbourhood; it was noted that the Park was also popular with, and had been successfully marketed to, younger people.177

166.We believe that accessibility in the built environment is of vital importance; improving the standard of accessibility is essential if we are to address the long-term demographic changes that are projected to take place.

167.We recommend that the Government should set an appropriately high standard in this regard, and should provide guidance drawn from best practice examples such as the Olympic Park. Local authorities and their partners must give this an appropriate degree of priority, and should look to develop and apply ‘lifetime neighbourhood’ principles within their local planning policies.

The resilience of town centres and high streets

168.Across England, the growth of internet shopping and associated retail portfolio restructuring is presenting a significant challenge to the vitality of our town centres and high streets. We were told that, in 2008, around 4.7% of all shopping took place on the internet; currently, the total is almost 12% and this is projected to grow to 18% by 2020.178 Peter Brett Associates argued that: “Our high streets have been shaped by the past, they are now trapped in their current configurations and are in poor shape to face the future”.179

169.The National Planning Policy Framework recognises this challenge and states that:

“Local planning authorities should recognise town centres as the heart of their communities, and pursue policies to support their viability and vitality”.180

We were told that, over the past 15 to 20 years, the prevailing emphasis of planning policy had been to direct new retail development into town centres, and away from out-of-town shopping destinations.181

170.It is, however, apparent that the challenging circumstances facing our high streets call for a more focused, intensive approach. We were told that the planning system was failing to respond effectively, with local plan-making processes focusing on the wider geography of a council area and failing to conduct intensive appraisal of the needs of town centres.182 The Theatres Trust told us that local authorities often failed to appreciate the diversity of the ‘offer’ within town centres, and that more could be done to maximise the potential of cultural assets and attractions.183 Urban Vision Enterprise told us that existing town centres “must receive a higher priority”.184

171.We believe that local planning authorities need to develop specific plans to stimulate activity in their town centres, promoting a diversity of uses and—in tandem with our earlier recommendations on lifetime neighbourhoods—increasing access and permeability. In Birmingham we saw the important work that had been carried out, over the long-term, to improve access to the city centre by breaking the ‘concrete collar’ of roads around the city centre. The Minister for Housing and Planning highlighted the importance of accessibility in high streets, and cited research which had shown that people were more likely to drive to large retail developments if they were unable to easily walk to local shops. He went on to highlight the wider health and wellbeing benefits of more accessible town centres:

“I am quite interested in looking at how we get more footfall and more people living in and around our town centres … [This] also has the benefit that people might walk to their shops and get a bit more involved. The moment you are walking around, human nature dictates that you walk past someone and you might nod and smile, and the next time you walk past them a few days later you might actually say hello, and suddenly you are getting to know people”.185

172.The planning consultancy CBRE suggested that new approaches and more targeted proposals were required to reinvigorate existing town centres. They told us:

“This is going to have to be guided by local authorities and the main landowners in those [town] centres to identify their future role. How do they reinvent themselves so that they are fit for purpose and meet a genuine need? There may be a slightly bitter pill to swallow, which is for those centres to consolidate in some places, so that the fringes, the straggly ends of some of these centres, are converted to residential. As I say, some careful thinking needs to be done”.186

173.Town centres and high streets should not be seen solely as retail destinations by local authorities and landowners; they often host a complex mixture of uses and a wide variety of employment opportunities. It is clear that, in an era of growing online shopping, retail uses will need to be more carefully blended with cultural, leisure and other uses. There is also a case to be made for encouraging more residential development within town centres—with appropriate safeguards regarding design quality and living standards. All of this requires careful local planning and management and, moreover, vision and leadership on the part of local authorities, who need proactively to manage their high streets. Our earlier recommendations regarding public realm and design quality will also serve to address and improve the situation.

174.Changing technologies and patterns of retail behaviour are posing a significant challenge to our high streets. There is a threat to the long-term resilience of our town centres and the vitality of the urban built environment. We believe that local leadership is central in addressing this challenge.

175.Planners should continue to encourage retail development into existing town centres. They must also begin to think more proactively, and creatively, about other ways to stimulate additional activity and footfall. Additional residential development may help to deliver this, but must be implemented with due regard for design quality, living standards, a diverse and sustainable mix of uses and the overall cohesion of the built environment. A wide range of services, alongside retail, can help to drive footfall. These include leisure, culture, sports, health, education and small scale manufacturing. Local authorities should use their multiple resources and responsibilities to proactively shape their town centres and positively plan for their future.

Investing in heritage

176.The Committee received a large volume of evidence highlighting the important role played by historic buildings, townscapes and landscapes in determining and sustaining a sense of place, pride, and wellbeing. While much of our historic environment is fragile and can easily be compromised by poor planning and development, we heard how the careful conservation of townscapes and streetscapes, and the new, sustainable uses that can be found for historic buildings, can help to shape the future as part of positive change, enterprise and regeneration.187

177.Urban Vision Enterprise and the Institute for Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) told us that the Government had a tendency to see heritage as having ‘cultural’ value but overlooked its economic and social value.188 There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that the economic and social benefits of the historic environment make a significant contribution to the economy. Repair and maintenance of historic buildings directly generated £4.1 billion of GDP in England in 2010; when indirect supply chain effects are also taken into account, this increases to £11 billion.189 Heritage tourism accounted for 2% of the UK’s GDP in 2011.190

178.We heard, however, that the full potential of the historic environment to contribute to place-making and regeneration had not been realised, and that the Government needs to formulate clear policy and guidance which fully recognises the value of heritage.191 RIBA told us that an integrated strategy to address the skills needs of the heritage sector was also needed.192

179.While ministerial responsibility for heritage rests with DCMS, the provisions and protections for historic buildings are the responsibility of DCLG. The IHBC suggested that ministerial responsibility for heritage should be transferred to DCLG, in order to integrate it more closely into wider planning policy. Judith Martin, however, noted that it was “hard to think it could operate without the cultural dimension”.193 The Design Council emphasised the important role of Historic England, and the capacity of both Historic England and DCMS to “punch above their weight”.194

180.England lacks a proactive, long-term national strategy for managing our historic environment, as part of planning for the future of the built environment. We believe that such a strategy, which would recognise the full value of our built heritage as a unique national and local asset, central to place-making, should be articulated for the future.

181.Both DCMS and DCLG are responsible, in different ways, for heritage policy and the way in which these policies impact upon the built environment. We do not support the calls for ministerial responsibility for heritage to move from DCMS to DCLG. We would like, however, to see evidence of more joint leadership and proactive joint working between the departments in developing policies, for example, for heritage and regeneration, and across joint policy areas such as the protection of World Heritage Sites.

182.The NPPF sets out broad policy on conserving and enhancing the historic environment, to be applied by local authorities when developing their local plans. Historic England and the Heritage Alliance told us that, in essence, the right balance had been achieved between heritage protection and development in the policies contained within the NPPF.195 There were however, sometimes problems regarding the implementation of policy, many of which related to resources and capacity at the local authority level.196

183.The National Planning Policy Framework seeks to balance heritage protection and development policies. We believe that it is essential that this balance is sustained, enhanced and delivered. We recommend that planning and development policy and practice should reflect more explicitly the fact that our historic environment is a cultural and economic asset rather than an obstacle to successful future developments—whether in urban or rural areas—and can contribute, uniquely, to the highest standards of design and the quality of community life.

184.The maintenance and upkeep of buildings of historic value can have a significant impact upon the sense of pride and pleasure that a community feels in its surroundings; we were told that the historic environment has a significant role to play in identity and place-making.197 At the same time, our evidence consistently identified some of the difficulties in maintaining historic buildings and maximising the use of heritage assets.198

185.Listed Buildings—especially Grade I and II*—are some of the community’s most significant assets, and many are still in private hands. They contribute to civic pride and economic prosperity, attracting visitors from home and abroad. It is, therefore, particularly important to the wider public interest that they are well maintained and appropriately used.

186.Unfortunately, tax falls capriciously across the work that is needed to maintain, repair and adapt them. Problems resulting from the application of VAT to historic building repairs were highlighted in evidence.199 At present, VAT on repairs and alterations to buildings is charged at 20%, while VAT is zero-rated on new build construction and a rate of 5% applies to some residential conversions. There is, therefore, potentially a disincentive towards the retention, renovation and repair of historic buildings. The British Archaeological Trust told us that this:

“ … has created a development framework that actively works against incorporating heritage assets in regeneration and place-making. This framework must change if we are not to cause significant and irreversible harm to our national heritage assets. VAT rules must be relaxed to promote building conservation”.200

Historic England, the RICS, the Heritage Alliance and the Prince’s Regeneration Trust all supported calls for a change to the rate of VAT charged on repairs to existing buildings.201 The Heritage Alliance, in particular, has campaigned for the rate to be reduced from 20% to 5% for private dwellings, and has published research suggesting that such a change could provide a £15 billion stimulus to the UK economy.202

187.At present, VAT is charged at a rate of 20% on repairs and maintenance to existing buildings, while VAT on much new-build construction is zero-rated. This provides a perverse disincentive to the retention, restoration and revitalisation of historic buildings, and works to prevent owners from looking after them properly. We recommend that the Government should review the rates of VAT charged on repairs to listed buildings, and examine the economic rationale for reducing the rate.

Environmental resilience

Protecting against flood risk

188.We received a considerable amount of evidence on how national policy can reduce and mitigate flood risk in the built environment. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) noted that many towns and cities are currently located on the floodplain, with over 240,000 properties in England currently located in areas of high flood risk, and 1,500 homes a year being built each year in areas that are currently designated as high flood risk. The CCC stated:

“Existing flood risk management policy focuses on building bigger defences where possible and affordable but fails to address the increasing numbers of homes and other properties elsewhere that are falling in to the high flood risk category”.203

189.The Environment Agency informed us that its advice on the flood risk of new development was taken in the vast majority of cases:

“Every year, we review how effective our advice has been. In the last year for which we have full data, 2014–15, our advice on flood risk was taken in 98% of cases … our advice goes wider than flood risk and, if you look at our overall advice, outcomes in line with our advice amounted to 96% of cases. That includes our advice on water resource management, waste water management, land water and quality”.204

190.The Committee on Climate Change also observed that progress in managing surface water flood risk had been slow in urban areas, and that surface water flooding was likely to increase in future with increased paving over of front gardens, infill development and an ageing public sewer network.205

191.The report from the Commission of Inquiry into flood resilience of the future, commissioned by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment and published in March 2015, stated that 5.2 million homes are at risk of flooding. It criticised the lack of government leadership on the issue and the absence of a sustainable long-term strategy for water management, and argued for a policy shift away from a focus on flood defence and towards a focus on flood resilience. This would include the increased provision and maintenance of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS).206

192.Tony Grayling of the Environment Agency told us that local authorities had the power to apply planning policies on surface water flood risk, and that they should aim to incorporate these into their local plans and into their approach to decision-making.207

193.The Committee on Climate Change told us that flood risk management policy currently “fails to address the increasing number of homes and other properties elsewhere that are falling into the high flood risk category”.208 While we recognise there are mechanisms in place to support flood resilience and to manage surface water flood risk, we believe there is scope for these to be toughened to ensure as many new and existing homes as possible are fully flood resilient.

194.While we note the Environment Agency’s remarks on local planning policy, the Committee on Climate Change also told us that local flood risk management strategies have yet to be finalised by the majority of local authorities in England.209

195.The Construction Industry Council told us that all new housing in areas of flood risk must have resilience to flood water built in when constructed. This would incorporate all homes built in flood zones 2 (medium risk), 3a (high risk) and 3b (the functional floodplain).210 We believe there is a strong case to support this recommendation.

196.The evidence we received also saw a consensus that the provision of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) was of key importance to future urban water management. SuDS are intended to mimic natural drainage systems and can incorporate features such as permeable surfaces, green roofs, ponds and wetlands, and underground storage. They provide an alternative to drainage of surface water through pipes to watercourses, which may increase flood risk.

197.The Government’s decision not to implement Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, which would have established a separate approval regime for SuDS in new developments, attracted some criticism from our witnesses.211 The decision means that any SuDS provision will now be considered directly through the planning system, risking its implementation in cases where developers may raise questions over cost and seek to negotiate out of such provision.

198.The Construction Industry Council was highly critical of the decision, telling us that the decision had created voids in policy, uncertainty in planning policy interpretation, the abandonment of the concept of drainage as “critical infrastructure”, no structure for the adoption and maintenance of SuDS, and no measures to address flood resilience at a local scale.212

199.We recommend that the Government takes a more proactive approach to the provision of Sustainable Drainage Systems. The Government should consider whether to introduce a separate approval regime, as was envisaged in the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, or whether to upgrade the status of Sustainable Drainage Systems to critical infrastructure.

200.Further efforts need to be made to increase flood resilience in the built environment. This would include taking steps to reduce the number of new properties built in areas of flood risk against Environment Agency advice. In addition, there should be a requirement for all new properties in flood risk areas to have flood resilience measures built in. Government should also promote a co-ordinated programme of retrofit for the growing number of existing properties in such areas.

Sustainable design and construction

201.In July 2015, the Government announced it was scrapping a proposed regulation to require all new homes to be carbon neutral from 2016, known as the “zero carbon homes” policy.213 This was justified in the Government’s 2015 “Productivity Plan” on the grounds that it was seeking to continue to reduce the overall burden of regulation on housebuilders.214

202.Earlier, in March 2015, the Government had also removed the Code for Sustainable Homes, which allowed councils to adopt their own sustainability standards as a planning requirement for new residential development. Instead, elements of the Code are now incorporated into Building Regulations and defined as “new national technical standards”.215 The Government justified this on the basis that it “rationalises the many differing existing standards into a simpler, streamlined system which will reduce burdens and help bring forward much needed new homes”.216

203.Both these decisions have attracted criticism. The UK Green Building Council told us:

“The Government has removed the national policy driver as well as removing the ability of local planning authorities (LPAs) to promote locally relevant ambitious policies to deliver energy efficient and sustainable homes. Furthermore, with the removal of the Code for Sustainable Homes, Government has removed the common language that has been used by LPAs and housebuilders or developers to negotiate or work in partnership to deliver better than regulated standards”.217

204.Elaborating on this point, we were told that the removal of the zero carbon homes requirement had generated uncertainty for housebuilders:

“In the last 10 years we have had this very clear trajectory and everyone has known where they are going and have had a lot of time to put in place the strategies. Now we do not know where we are going. We do not know when the next update to building regulations might be and, therefore, industry has nothing to place its investment in. Not only have we had wasted investment, but we now have no replacement trajectory. The arguments for repeated investment next time, based on a governmental policy, will be much harder to make”.218

205.Worcestershire County Council made a similar point in noting the impact of the Government’s decision on sustainability policy at a local level:

“Withdrawing the Code for Sustainable Homes appears to have sent a signal to developers that sustainability measures are less important than before, meaning that councils wishing to promote better environmental performance in new development will struggle to deliver higher standards. For example, Local Plan policy promoting sustainable building practices has had to be compromised by these changes, and lower standards are now seen to be acceptable”.219

206.We disagree with the Government’s decision to remove the zero carbon homes policy and the Code for Sustainable Homes. These decisions are likely to add to long-term housing costs through a reduction in energy efficiency, and we have heard no clear evidence that they will lead to an increase in housebuilding. Nor has the Government given a clear explanation as to how new homes will be energy efficient and environmentally sustainable without the provision of such standards.

207.The Government should reverse its decision to remove the requirement for new homes to generate no net carbon emissions (known as the “zero carbon homes” policy) and its decision to remove the Code for Sustainable Homes. The Government must set out and implement a viable trajectory towards energy efficiency and carbon reduction in new homes.

208.We also received evidence noting that environmental resilience measures would have little positive impact unless they also took account of the needs of the existing housing stock. The Committee on Climate Change noted that most existing housing stock will still be in use by 2050 and that retrofit measures are necessary to improve energy efficiency, increase suitability for low carbon heat sources and increase resilience to even moderate increases in global temperatures, but that “this is not currently happening at any scale”.220

209.The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers told us that there were “important questions” regarding the retrofit of existing buildings and that a more systematic approach was needed:

“There have been numerous practical projects and research studies focusing on retrofit of different types of buildings, both domestic and non-domestic. These need to be brought together and the findings used to inform a scaled up national programme of retrofit to improve both sustainability and resilience of buildings”.221

210.The Mineral Wool Insulation Manufacturers Association noted that Germany had operated a system of low interest retrofit loans to households for 15 years, which had proven popular and reduced some of the reliance of the retrofit industry on direct public subsidy.222 The National Housing Federation made a similar suggestion, arguing that “a wide range of households should be able to access energy efficiency measures, based on effective targeting and a range of relevant, good quality, and affordable products”.223 The UK Green Building Council called for improvements to the energy efficiency of existing buildings to be identified as a national infrastructure priority, backed by a long term infrastructure strategy and government capital investment.224

211.We also heard evidence, from John Preston and the Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance, that existing retrofit policies were inappropriate for older solid wall buildings and that a “one size fits all” approach was proving unsuccessful.225 The Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance called instead for a “whole building approach” to retrofit, which would be more sensitive to the context of individual buildings and their practical uses. A “whole building” or “whole house” approach sees a building as an energy system with interdependent parts, all of which must be addressed in retrofit, as opposed to more common approaches which focus on the fabric of buildings.226

212.It noted that there were significant knowledge gaps in how traditional buildings function and that more technical training of surveyors was needed to help identify the most appropriate retrofit requirements for traditional buildings.227

213.We also heard evidence in relation to the Government’s decision effectively to end the “Green Deal” through cessation of funding to the Green Deal Finance Company, which provided finance to providers of retrofit measures such as insulation, draught proofing and renewable energy generation. The Government justified this decision on the basis of “low take-up and concerns about industry standards”.228

214.While some respondents criticised the way the Green Deal had functioned, we heard evidence that replacement financial measures to incentivise retrofitting were still necessary. The Royal Academy of Engineering told us that “new policies are needed urgently in the area of home energy efficiency”.229 The UK Green Building Council informed us that the withdrawal from the Green Deal had “sent a very damaging message to the industry on future intent”.230

215.While we recognise the evidence that the Green Deal Finance Company did not operate as effectively as hoped, we believe there remains a compelling case for financial incentive measures to support retrofit and energy efficiency measures in existing homes. This is particularly in light of the additional costs imposed on householders over the long-term by poor energy efficiency performance.

216.We believe that the Government must be more proactive in supporting retrofit measures for existing buildings, and should examine financial measures and mechanisms which would allow for more widespread retrofitting to take place. These might include a low-interest retrofit loan programme on the German model, or consideration of a more effective replacement for the Green Deal. The Government should consider promoting a “whole building” approach to retrofit to encourage more context-sensitive retrofitting of traditional buildings, looking beyond the building fabric to consider the energy performance of all parts of the building.

Green infrastructure

217.The importance of Green Infrastructure (GI) was emphasised throughout our inquiry. This is a broad term which can encompass green open spaces such as parks, trees, gardens, green roofs, and spaces associated with the capture and dispersal of rainwater. Its value lies in improving the sustainability and resilience of built environments as well as in the delivery of wider social benefits, including improved health outcomes. Its role is, however, poorly defined at a national level, meriting just one reference in the National Planning Policy Framework.

218.Public Health England noted evidence that residents in the most deprived areas of the country were “ten times less likely to live in the greenest areas”. It also cited a range of evidence on the relationship between health and access to green spaces including better self-rated health; reductions in stress and depression; lower levels of obesity; improved mental health; and increased longevity in older people.231

219.The Town and Country Planning Association also emphasised the wider social and economic benefits of Green Infrastructure, noting that it could help to tackle a range of problems including air pollution, the economic attractiveness of places, active travel and reduction in overcrowding of public transport, reduction in water run off to drains, reduction in over-heating in urban areas, and increased social cohesion.232

220.The Landscape Institute argued that the long-term benefit of Green Infrastructure was being underrated in current built environment policy. They told us:

“Perhaps it is about the clarity of what Green Infrastructure is. It is misunderstood. Developers see Green Infrastructure sitting on the wrong side of the balance sheet … there are some developers who are far better at this than others. Certainly it is fair to say that they do not necessarily see this just as something that is nice to have but: can we afford it, or is this something else that we are shoving on the bottom line of a development that is going to cause us a problem in our viability?”.233

221.This message was echoed by the Land Trust:

“We are very good at planning for grey infrastructure. We are very good at thinking about services, data, communications, roads, highways, streetlights … what we do not do particularly well is think about how the Green Infrastructure components of development are connected into those much broader landscapes. When you are thinking about development, when you are going through a process to get approval for that development, we think it would add significant value to the end product if green infrastructure was afforded the comparable degree of importance that grey infrastructure gets currently”.234

222.The Land Trust was also critical of the Government’s decision to archive the guidance to Green Infrastructure at the beginning of 2015, arguing that “this will make it harder for the sector to understand what is involved, the importance of GI and how to embed it into the built environment”.235

223.The Forestry and Woodland Advisory Committees Network argued that Green Infrastructure should be fully integrated into infrastructure planning alongside transport and water, and that each local authority should have a Green Infrastructure Plan which will include urban trees and woodlands as one element. The Parks Alliance cited evidence from the Natural Capital Committee indicating that green infrastructure provides a “good return” on investment but that this is not embodied in developers’ or planners’ decision-making.236

224.The Government must do more to protect and promote Green Infrastructure in national policy and guidance, including setting out its benefits for sustainability. It should also encourage local authorities to set minimum standards for Green Infrastructure provision and management in local plans and in planning decision-making. Within and beyond Government, there must be wider recognition of the fact that Green Infrastructure is an asset, and offers wider economic, health and social benefits.

158 Office for National Statistics, National population projections, 2012-based statistical bulletin (November 2013): [accessed on 29 January 2016]

159 Written evidence from McCarthy & Stone (BEN0218)

160 Written evidence from Anchor (BEN0206)

161 There are a variety of different types of specialist retirement housing. The Housing and Learning Improvement Network offer definitions in their report Housing in Later Life: planning ahead for specialist housing for older people (December 2012): [accessed on 5 February 2016]

162 Written evidence from McCarthy & Stone (BEN0218)

163 Written evidence from Professor Anthea Tinker and Professor Jay Ginn (BEN0046)

164 These payments are sometime described as planning obligations; in essence, they are payments made (or obligations undertaken) by developers in order to offset the wider impact of their projects on the infrastructure of a community. In the case of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), a payment is made according to a tariff drawn up by the local authority. In the case of Section 106, payment is negotiated as part of the planning process, based upon a judgement as to the wider impact of a development. Section 106 agreements are also sometimes used to secure contributions to affordable housing provision.

165 Written evidence from Anchor (BEN0206), Written evidence from McCarthy & Stone (BEN0218)

166 Q 235 (Sue Adams)

167 Lifetimes Homes, ‘For professionals: costs’: [accessed on 28 January 2016]

168 Q 238 (Sue Adams)

169 Written evidence from Care & Repair England (BEN0091)

170 Written evidence from Create Streets (BEN0195)

171 HM Government, The Building Regulations 2010: Access to and use of buildings: Approved document M (2015 edition): [accessed on 29 January 2016]

172 238 (Paul Gamble)

173 Q 238 (Paul Gamble)

174 Written evidence from the Access Association (BEN0198)

175 Written evidence from Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh (BEN0058)

176 239 (Paul Gamble)

177 Q 239 (Sue Adams and Paul Gamble)

178 Q 194 (Adrian Penfold)

179 Written evidence from Peter Brett Associates (BEN0095)

180 Department for Communities and Local Government, National Planning Policy Framework (March 2012) para 23: [accessed on 27 January 2016]

181 Q 194 (Richard Lemon)

182 Written evidence from Peter Brett Associates (BEN0095)

183 Written evidence from the Theatres Trust (BEN0123)

184 Written evidence from Urban Vision Enterprise (BEN0026)

185 Q 338 (Brandon Lewis MP)

186 Q 194 (Richard Lemon)

187 Written evidence from Beam, Farrells and the Place Alliance (BEN0217) and Historic England (BEN0042)

188 Written evidence from Urban Vision Enterprise (BEN0026) and IHBC (BEN0160)

189 Historic England, Heritage and the Economy (July 2015): [accessed on 28 January 2016]

190 Historic England, Heritage and the Economy (July 2015): [accessed on 28 January 2016]. This figure includes direct, indirect and induced effects of both built heritage and natural heritage tourism.

191 Written evidence from CIFA (BEN0063) and the Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance (BEN0115)

192 Written evidence from RIBA (BEN0157)

193 Written evidence from Judith Martin (BEN0148)

194 Q 92 (David Waterhouse)

195 QQ 159-160 (Duncan Wilson and Henry Russell)

196 QQ 159-160 (Duncan Wilson and Henry Russell). Issues relating to local authority resources, capacity and skills are considered in more detail in Chapter 6.

197 Written evidence from the TDAG (BEN0182) which also emphasised the important role of heritage trees.

198 Written evidence from IHBC (BEN0160), Giles Bergne (BEN0056), Canterbury Society (BEN0107), CIFA (BEN0063), The Edge (BEN0122), Historic England (BEN0042), Kew Society (BEN0180), Tony Michael (BEN0125)

199 Written evidence from the British Archaeological Trust (BEN0049), Institute of Historic Building Conservation (BEN0160) and Historic England (BEN0042)

200 Written evidence from the British Archaeological Trust (BEN0049)

201 Written evidence from Historic England (BEN0042), RICS (BEN0185), Q 166 (Henry Russell and Ros Kerslake)

202 The Heritage Alliance, Value added taxation (VAT): supplementary briefing (July 2014): [accessed on 29 January 2016]

203 Written evidence from the Committee on Climate Change (BEN0124)

204 Q 294 (Tony Grayling)

205 Written evidence from the Committee on Climate Change (BEN0124)

206 All Party Group for Excellence in the Built Environment, Living with water: Report from the Commission of Inquiry into flood resilience of the future (March 2015): [accessed on 26 January 2016]

207 Q 286 (Tony Grayling)

208 Written evidence from the Committee on Climate Change (BEN0124)

209 Ibid.

210 Written evidence from the CIC Flood Mitigation and Resilience Group (BEN0053)

211 Written evidence from the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (BEN0209); written evidence from the CIC Flood Mitigation and Resilience Group (BEN0053)

212 Written evidence from the CIC Flood Mitigation and Resilience Group (BEN0053)

213 Philip Oldfield, ‘UK scraps zero carbon homes plan’, The Guardian, 10 July 2015: [accessed on 25 January 2016]

214 HM Treasury, Fixing the Foundations: creating a more prosperous nation, July 2015: [accessed on 27 January 2016]

215 Department for Communities and Local Government, ‘Planning update March 2015’, (25 March 2015): [accessed on 19 January 2016]

216 Ibid.

217 Written evidence from the UK Green Building Council (BEN0081)

218 Q 251 (Louise Sunderland)

219 Written evidence from Worcestershire County Council (BEN0101)

220 Written evidence from Committee on Climate Change (BEN0124)

221 Written evidence from Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (BEN0102)

222 Written evidence from Mineral Wool Insulation Manufacturers Association (BEN0176)

223 Written evidence from National Housing Federation (BEN0152)

224 Written evidence from UK Green Building Council (BEN0081)

225 Written evidence from John Preston (BEN0100)

226 Institute for Sustainability, Retrofit strategies Key Findings: Retrofit project team perspectives (2012): [accessed on 20 January 2016]

227 Written evidence from the Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance (BEN0115)

228 Department for Energy and Climate Change, ‘Green Deal Finance Company funding to end’ (July 2015): [accessed on 21 January 2016]

229 Written evidence from the Royal Academy of Engineering (BEN0128)

230 Written evidence from the UK Green Building Council (BEN0081)

231 Written evidence from Public Health England (BEN0186)

232 Written evidence from Town and Country Planning Association (BEN0171)

233 QQ 122-123 (Noel Farrer)

234 Q 122 (Iain Taylor)

235 Written evidence from The Land Trust (BEN0069)

236 Written evidence from The Parks Alliance (BEN0133)

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