Government scraps eco-towns planning policy
- Local government ,
- Central government ,
- Public sector ,
- Construction ,
- Business & Industry
The government has axed planning policy aimed at supporting the building of housing developments to showcase best practice in environmental standards.
The eco-town planning policy statement was introduced by the previous government in 2009 with the aim of delivering developments that were “exemplars of good practice and provide a showcase for sustainable living”.
It set out a range of minimum standards that were more challenging than would normally be required for a new community, such as more efficient use of energy and water.
But the eco-towns programme was wound up shortly after the coalition government came to power in 2010. Eco-towns are being pursued in four locations: North-West Bicester in Oxfordshire; Whitehill-Bordon in Hampshire; Rackheath in Norfolk and St Austell in Cornwall.
In a statement to parliament last week, communities and local government minister Brandon Lewis said: “Despite a pledge of 10 new towns by the last government, the eco-towns programme built nothing but resentment.
“The initiative was a total shambles, with developers abandoning the process, application for judicial review, the timetable being extended over and over, and local opposition growing to the then government’s unsustainable and environmentally damaging proposals.”
The planning policy will remain in place for the North-West Bicester eco-town until the local authority, Cherwell District Council, has completed its local plan, Lewis added.
The department for communities and local government (Dclg) commissioned planning consultants LUC to consider if it needed to undertake a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) before it cancelled the policy.
In a report, LUC concluded that an SEA was not needed. Its report states that since the standards in the planning policy were not being implemented in full, the environmental impacts from cancelling the policy would not be significant.
However, the Environment Agency warned that planning authorities working on eco-towns in Whitehill Bordon, Rackheath and St Austell might find it harder to achieve the higher standards it is asking developers for once the policy is cancelled, according to the report.
In particular, the agency points out that water management policy being promoted by East Hants council, which is working on the Whitehill-Bordon eco-town, could be challenged once the eco-towns planning policy is removed.
Environment and planning charity the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) slammed the move, saying it brought to an end any aspiration England had to be a global leader in sustainable innovation in the built environment.
Hugh Ellis, chief planner at the TCPA, said that instead of cancelling the policy, the government should have promoted the planning policy as best practice for local authorities to aspire to.
“This is an enormous retrograde step. The clear trend is not to follow innovation in the built environment but build what industry says thinks it can afford to build, which drives performance downwards,” he said.
The Environment Agency has successfully prosecuted Southern Water for thousands of illegal raw sewage discharges that polluted rivers and coastal waters in Kent, resulting in a record £90m fine.
In Elliott-Smith v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the claimant applied for judicial review of the legality of the defendants’ joint decision to create the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) as a substitute for UK participation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).
None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.
Global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are projected to increase by 4% over the next 10 years, despite the carbon intensity of production declining. That is according to a new report from the UN food agency and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which forecasts that 80% of the increase will come from livestock.
Half of consumers worldwide now consider the sustainability of food and drink itself, not just its packaging, when buying, a survey of 14,000 shoppers across 18 countries has discovered. This suggests that their understanding of sustainability is evolving to include wellbeing and nutrition, with sustainable packaging now considered standard.
Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.
New jobs that help drive the UK towards net-zero emissions are set to offer salaries that are almost one-third higher than those in carbon-intensive industries, research suggests.