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A missed opportunity to put climate risks front and centre – the government falls short on revised planning policy

The government has just missed about 10 open goals to protect the environment.

It’s probably the most immediate way that the public could influence the quality of life in the place they live. Yet the town and country planning system – the rules that specify what can be built, where and when – is poorly understood by so many people.

Friends of the Earth has always believed, and fought for, a participative, democratic and fair planning system. One that delivers sustainable development and safeguards the public interest. From new housing, to local renewable energy, safeguarding wildlife and nature sites and sustainable transport principles, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) guides local authorities in their planning decisions. This national policy document dictates how much of a priority the environment can be given in planning decisions.
In April, the government published draft revisions to the NPPF that threatened sustainable development and efforts to curb fossil fuel use across England. They missed a golden opportunity to safeguard our environment for the future.

Both our planners and local group members responded to express objections. Under pressure from Friends of the Earth and others, the government abandoned its attempt to weaken the importance of the Climate Change Act when councils are taking planning decisions. This is hugely important, as without this concession, climate change considerations would have been given much less weight in planning decisions. We also worked with other organisations in ensuring that protections for local wildlife sites are maintained within the document.

Despite these concessions though, the verdict is pretty damning. The government has failed to take their chance to put climate risks front and centre. The NPPF is damaging to the environment.

The full Friends of the Earth NPPF2 briefing is available (PDF).

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