Sustainable development definition 'can't be one-size-fits-all'

Sustainable development should be defined in different ways in different parts of the country, a senior aide to decentralisation minister Greg Clark said last week.

John Howell MP
John Howell MP

Speaking at a lunch organised by public affairs company Curtin & Co, Clark's parliamentary private secretary and Henley MP John Howell said that it would be wrong for his rural constituents to have to conform to exactly the same sustainable development standards as residents of Kensington & Chelsea.

Talking to Planning after his speech, Howell said: "We should not so predetermine the balance that sustainability is defined in the same way in every place. What is sustainable in one place may not be sustainable in another".

But he denied that this was an argument against a concise definition of sustainable development, which many commentators have said needs to be added to the draft National Planning Policy Framework. Instead, he said, it was "an argument against a tick box mentality".

As an example of the type of issue that should not be treated in the same way in every place, he cited public transport. "It is a sustainable means of getting about in Kensington & Chelsea, but not in most of my constituency" he said.

Howell was the author of Open Source Planning, the Tories’ pre-election green paper on planning, and has been credited by Clark as the source of many of the ideas in the Localism Act. However, Howell stressed in his speech that he was not in a position to speak for the minister on planning.

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