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UK: Green overhaul for planning system to cut emissions and bills

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UK Housing and Planning Minister John Healey has on 9 March 2010 announced a triple boost for councils tackling climate change by updating planning rules, granting nearly £10m to improve green skills and backing further progress by the "second wave" of eco-towns. Three planning policies have been overhauled so that councils have the very latest targets and guidance to address climate change, putting them in the driving seat of change. Combined, the new policy statements (Climate Change, Natural Environment and Coastal Change) will give councils a "green planning rulebook" so new sustainable developments are planned and built with the aim of reducing carbon emissions and with the future climate in mind.

Proposals for the new climate change planning policy will ensure new developments are built in the right places, utilising sustainable sources of energy and encouraging the installation of electric car charging points.

To help councils, Mr Healey has today granted nearly £10m to boost their expertise as "green champions", updating the tools and know-how they need to develop sustainable housing and energy sources for their areas.

Mr Healey also confirmed that a further two new areas have been added to proposed eco-town "second wave" originally announced in December. Two more councils - East Devon District Council and Fareham Borough Council - have expressed an interest in using eco-town standards for new settlements in their area. The bids need to meet the pioneering green standards set out in the eco-towns planning policy statement published last July, and will be subject to widespread public consultation and local planning approval before going ahead.

The Minister has announced a share of £10m for these areas, originally announced in December, to help generate plans and "early win projects". The funding will help get proposals and masterplans off the ground, introducing greener living not only for people who go on to live in the new eco-towns, but for the thousands of people already living nearby.

A consultation has been launched today for the new climate change planning policy, to ensure new developments are built in the right places, so that where people live and work helps secure radical cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and developments are resilient to the effects of our changing climate. This includes requirements to reduce the need for people to travel between where they live and work, encouraging the installation of electric car charging points, better public transport and improved walking and cycling links.

The proposals aim to ensure that more of our energy will be from renewable energy sources, and applications for such sources are approved more quickly. Local councils have a hugely important role to play. Therefore empowering local authorities and giving them the skills to approve these projects means we could release more green energy from developments.

Mr Healey also confirmed a final planning policy for managing coastal change, giving new planning powers to coastal communities to help their local economy and tourist industry. After extensive consultation, all inappropriate development such as housing will continue to be banned in areas vulnerable to coastal erosion. But there will no longer be a blanket ban on temporary development that has wider economic benefits, an acceptable coastal use and could be relocated when required.

The third boost comes in the form of a consultation on the Natural Environment planning policy, which provides councils with updated guidance to plan for and provide for 'green infrastructure' - networks of parks, cycleways, rivers, allotments and trees on streets.

The guidelines aim to boost the nation's health and fitness even further by allowing more sports clubs to stay open after dark with hi-tech floodlights that cut light pollution. With floodlighting for local sports pitches, people will have more opportunities to make use of facilities in the evenings.

Proposed new planning guidelines will:
  • ensure that councils plan for the provision of low carbon and renewable energy in their areas;
  • protect communities from future harmful effects of climate change, such as water shortages and heat;
  • put councils centre stage in securing electric vehicle charging infrastructure in new developments;
  • help businesses by ensuring councils plan for renewable energy at the local level, rather than one-size-fits-all approach that makes developers source renewable energy on site.

3. On a daily basis, planning officers across the country give the green light to hundreds of different projects - from planning permission for extensions to major housing developments and infrastructure projects. It is crucial that local authorities approving greener energy projects are clear on the criteria to do so. In July last, the Government committed to ensuring the right skills and knowledge to deliver low carbon and renewable energy are available within local planning authorities at a local and regional level. The 9.75m pledged today will be used to support local authorities by training members and planners and for better community engagement in the planning process, including the provision and use of renewable energy. The remainder will be used for programme management, including for continuous professional development.

4. Eco-towns need to meet the pioneering green standards set out in the eco-towns planning policy statement published in July 2009. The target is to see up to ten eco-towns underway by 2020 and any proposals will need to meet the established eco-town standards of including at least 5,000 homes with innovative ideas for how jobs, schools and services are delivered in low carbon ways that will help the UK respond to climate change.

5. The second wave of eco towns are in addition to the four sites announced in July 2009, which met tough government standards. Those sites in Hampshire, Norfolk, Cornwall and Oxfordshire are currently developing revolutionary "masterplans" for local planning approval. Whitehill-Bordon in Hampshire was the first to publish its draft masterplan for public consultation in November 2009. All proposals will have to meet the high standards of sustainability that we set out in July. Reheated or 'greenwashed' proposals will not make it through the planning process. All locations have submitted promising ideas so far for meeting these standards.

6. The £10m (originally announced in December 2009) has been granted across the second wave sites to develop plans and introduce greener living not only for people who go on to live in the new eco-towns, but for the thousands of people already living nearby. Construction of demonstrator projects and "eco show homes" could also potentially create and support local jobs, including apprenticeships to help advance new green building skills.

7. The funding will also go towards studies in how to improve existing transport links, including options such as rapid routes for buses with real-time travel information, green travel hubs and facilities for electric cars and bikes. Pioneering new energy projects will be set up so that residents take their energy from natural sources. The cash will also provide funding for further studies to see whether the locations can match up to the standards expected in the eco-towns PPS.

8. Possible second wave bids are still at an early stage and will be subject to further, widespread consultation on proposals, before public consultation and local planning approval.

9. Progress and funding allocation across the second wave sites is as follows:

  • Northstowe ( Cambridgeshire local authorities and Homes and Communities Agency): The project is intended to create around 9,500 homes with up to 9,000 new jobs and benefits from over £100m of up front transport investment from the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway, which will serve the new community and act as an alternative to using a car. £1.5m funding has been awarded to develop the eco-town plan. It will also fund the Northstowe Information Centre (as part of a station building on the guided busway/Park and Ride) to showcase greener living and a "retrofitting programme" in the local area to improve the environmental performance of existing homes on the new site.
  • Shoreham Harbour: Today's funding award of up to £1.5m will support the Adur Core Strategy (due for consultation later in 2010) by funding studies which will help provide evidence to ensure deliverability and develop green infrastructure and renewable energy. Working with Brighton and Hove City Council, and subject to a successful planning application, the funding could also help the development of 'PortZed', an innovative 67 apartment scheme in which all electricity required for the apartments will be provided by small scale wind turbines situated between the apartment blocks including affordable housing together with commercial/retail and public space. The entire eco-quarter could eventually contain around 5,000 homes with a similar level of jobs.
  • Yeovil: South Somerset District Council and Somerset County Council are committed to the potential of achieving eco-town standard in an urban eco-village and an eco-extension on the edge of Yeovil. £1.5m funding will support the Council in undertaking more detailed studies, including masterplanning to eco-town standards, assessing renewable energy sources, sustainable transport options and enabling them to publish their emerging core strategy later in 2010. It also includes demonstrator funding which, subject to further discussion of details, would support a start on the urban village with an innovative 37 home scheme at The Glove Factory to illustrate the potential of wind, solar Photovoltaics (PV) and hydro power in an urban setting together with biomass distributed heating for the scheme. It would also provide an education centre and retrofitting of properties. Biodiversity would be enhanced at the site through increased planting and there would be improved links to a nearby country park. The innovative small-scale hydro power scheme would supply low energy lighting on the development and serve as an educational feature.
  • Taunton: Somerset County Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council are proposing detailed studies of potential eco-town development at Monkton Heathfield, a development area with capacity for 5,000 homes to the North East of Taunton. It will be a self-contained community, including employment, services and community facilities, well linked to Taunton by public transport and sustainable travel option. This additional funding of £630,000 will support development of detailed proposals for sustainable transport, renewable energy, green infrastructure in the masterplan.
  • Leeds (Aire Valley, York North West, North Kirklees and Bradford-Shipley Canal Corridor): Leeds City Region has developed an Urban eco-settlement programme, with the aim of delivering Eco-towns PPS standards in four key housing growth and regeneration areas (Leeds Aire Valley, York North West, North Kirklees and Bradford-Shipley canal corridor) within the City region. Today's funding of £1.2m will enable additional work on the local plans and masterplans, including detailed studies on energy, environmental infrastructure and transport across the 4 areas.Demonstrator projects in York and Aire Valley will let local people see early on the benefits of eco development. An education centre and information show home at York North West will also provide a base for training in sustainable construction techniques with links to the University of York's academy.
  • Lincoln area and Gainsborough: City of Lincoln Council, North Kesteven District Council, West Lindsey District Council, Lincolnshire County Council wish to achieve zero carbon development that is highly adaptive to climate change and to commit to the Eco-towns PPS standards. A key focus on the future will be on urban extension development options around Lincoln and at Gainsborough. These potential urban extensions are mainly in single ownerships which would help to secure eco-town concepts and a high standard of sustainability. This funding award of up to £1.5m will support the Joint Committee in driving forward their core strategy for publication in 2011, by enabling them to undertake a detailed assessment of meeting higher environmental standards, particularly for green infrastructure and energy usage. In Gainsborough it will support a highly innovative project to retrofit existing terraced and new build housing, including the remodeling of a traditional terrace and street, by introducing greenspace and linked to a combined heat and power plant.
  • Coventry: Coventry Council are at concept phase are waiting to consider the Inspector's report into their Core Strategy before pursuing proposals further.
  • Dearne Valley, Sheffield City Region: The plan is to apply the principles of eco-towns to existing communities in the Dearne Valley to provide a showcase for sustainable living threading through three local authority areas - Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham. The partners are looking to create a masterplan for the Dearne Valley as a whole to provide a consistent approach to ensure that the area becomes the lowest carbon community of its type in the country within ten years. The funding awarded today £455,000 will support development of the vision for Dearne Valley in all 3 areas through detailed studies on delivering to the higher eco-town standards, as well as identifying employment and education opportunities. This will be further supported by the demonstrator project at the Ann Rhodes Community Centre at Brampton in Rotherham which will showcase new technologies in a retrofit show home.
  • Cornwall: Cornwall Council is supporting one of the four first wave eco-towns around St Austell and is keen to apply the eco-towns concept as it addresses the growth and housing needs of other parts of the county. The funding awarded today of up to £500,000 will test a range of options for Cornwall based on the PPS standards and also innovative solutions to delivery. This will be further supported by the Illogen Green Ripple, a community based green living project on the edge of Camborne, which aims to deliver significant carbon emission reductions, in line with the PPS, through both physical and behavioral change in areas such as transport, energy and waste.
  • Cranbrook: A growth point and new settlement east of Exeter will initially provide 3,500 homes by 2016 (with 40 percent of these being affordable), with the potential for further expansion to 7,500 homes. Funding of £200,000 will enable East Devon District Council to carry out further work to develop their masterplan and enable them to test the potential for higher standards and levels of growth building on the innovative approaches that they have already developed, including combined and district heat and power proposals.
  • Fareham: This is a new settlement of at least 7,000 homes, north of Fareham which is part of the South Hampshire growth partnership (Partnership for Urban South Hampshire). It is a priority for Fareham Borough Council who are committed to developing a sustainable development to the high standards set out in the PPS. Funding of £200,000 will enable the Council to undertake more detailed work, including green infrastructure assessments, and studies on waste, water and renewable energy.

10. The 'Warm Homes Greener Homes Home Energy Management Strategy' was launched last week by Energy Secretary Ed Miliband, Communities Secretary John Denham and Housing Minister John Healey. It put a clear emphasis on the role of energy companies and local authorities in tackling climate change:

11. The strategy recognises councils' important existing responsibilities for cutting carbon emissions: and their abilities to bring the right people together, reducing the burdens on individual householders. Councils can also use the planning system to establish large scale, community heat and energy sources.

12. It builds on the pioneering Local Carbon Framework pilots Communities Secretary John Denham announced in January. These nine authorities are ready to help Government identify the support needed for all local authorities to follow the lead of the best, make sure unnecessary barriers to action are swept away, and identify the tools needed for local authorities to do the job.

13. Manchester, Leeds City region, Bristol, Oxford, Northumberland, Haringey, Nottingham, Plymouth and Bournemouth Poole and Dorset MAA will work with Government over the coming twelve months to pioneer and test new local carbon frameworks.