Government commits to planning changes to boost green infrastructure provision

The government will examine how green infrastructure provision can be 'incorporated into national planning guidance and policy' to help mitigate against rising temperatures in urban areas, a Whitehall response to a parliamentary committee report has revealed.

Green infrastructure: Government commits to strengthening planning rules
Green infrastructure: Government commits to strengthening planning rules

In July, the Environmental Audit Committee published a report warning that UK summer temperatures could regularly reach 38.5°C by the 2040s.

MPs warned that the new NPPF does not make reference to rising temperatures in towns and cities.

The committee noted that heatwaves are not identified as a specific climate change risk in the NPPF’s accompanying guidance and expressed concern that local plans tend not to include measures to mitigate rising urban temperatures.

The committee also called for a green infrastructure target to be added to the NPPF with the aim of increasing the amount of urban green space in the UK. Local authorities should further be required to demonstrate provision of shaded spaces in local plans, it said.

In addition, MPs expressed disappointment that the government had dropped a previous commitment to make sustainable drainage systems a requirement in all new developments and called for this policy to be included within the NPPF.

In its response to the report, the government does not directly commit to the committee's recommendations on amending the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

It says the NPPF "clarifies important aspects of climate change policy and sets out that all local development plans should take a proactive approach to mitigating and adapting to climate change and take into account the risk of overheating from rising temperatures".

It also stops short of the committee’s recommendation on sustainable drainage systems saying that the new NPPF "incorporates strengthened policy to ensure sustainable drainage systems are provided in all major developments".

However, the response does commit to the government considering strengthening planning policy to boost the provision of green infrastructure.

It says that government agency Natural England is leading the establishment of "a national framework of green infrastructure standards" which will be published in 2019.

"We agree with the committee’s view that shaded spaces are important and we will ensure that the project considers evidence on provision of shaded spaces in urban areas," it says.

It says that, once the framework has been published, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government "will work together to see how our commitments on green infrastructure can be incorporated into national planning guidance and policy, including how to incorporate them in planning and design guidance for new builds and estate regeneration".

It says that this "could include asking local planning authorities in areas where the need for urban cooling is significant to demonstrate their provision of shaded spaces as part of their plan preparation".

The mayor of London's draft London Plan, published last November, includes proposed policies aiming to boost green infrastructure. Many of these measures were first announced in his draft environment strategy, published last August and finalised in May.

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