Reducing the environmental impact of new development is an increasing problem for local authority planning leaders, but a new report published recently could help. The report Planning Policies for Sustainable Building contains guidance to help councils adopt planning polices that ensure the impact of new buildings on the environment, both during construction and over their whole life cycle, is minimised.

The information aimed at planners and developers is about setting higher standards on a range of environmental issues. These include:

* Cutting carbon emissions

* Better use of water resources

* Cutting waste and making more efficient use of materials in construction

* Reducing light pollution.

* Increasing recycling of household and commercial waste

* Protecting and enhancing existing natural features, habitats and wildlife species

Many local authorities and regional planning bodies are currently revising their planning policies. Sustainable construction is a common theme, but is being interpreted in a variety of ways. Greater consistency is needed to give developers a level playing field and to send a stronger signal to the market.

'Planning Policies For Sustainable Building' provides a set of model policies and guidance which reflect affordable good practice. Local authorities are encouraged to use them as a common starting point, adapting them according to the local and regional context. The work was commissioned jointly by the Local Government Association, Planning Officers Society, Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), Planning Advisory Service (PAS), Sustainability Forum and the London Borough of Enfield. The Energy Saving Trust advised on carbon issues, and Waterwise on water efficiency. The team consulted widely with planning officers and other stakeholders.

The guidance has been published as a web based consultation document. A final printed version, which will incorporate consultation feedback, will be available in August.