Policy Summary: Guidance for local authorities on the role of planning in climate change adaptation

POLICY: Preparing for a Changing Climate: Good Practice Guidance for Local Government.

Green walls: nature-based solution (pic: Demita Horticultural Services via Flickr)
Green walls: nature-based solution (pic: Demita Horticultural Services via Flickr)

ISSUED BY: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport

ISSUE DATE: June 2019

Background: The document states that local government has a significant role to play in ensuring effective adaptation across all areas identified in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment and the National Adaptation Programme, whether by providing local leadership, adapting the services councils deliver or working collaboratively with others in their local area to achieve broader goals.

Key points: The guidance reminds readers that under section 19 (1A) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, as amended under the Planning Act 2008, local authorities are required to reduce future climate risks through the planning system. The National Planning Policy Framework, it adds, requires local authorities to ensure local plans contribute to climate adaptation. "Developers need to consider potential climate risks to development and minimise the potential for proposed projects to lock in future risk," it says.

It adds that failure to adapt the built environment to the range of climate risks will undermine the long-term viability of places – existing as well as new developments. "Whilst it is important to ensure new development is resilient, there is also a need to address risks to existing building stock since 80 per cent of it will continue to exist in 2050," it says. "Building retrofit programmes should be designed to consider adaptive interventions, ideally alongside energy efficiency."

The document notes that under the Flood and Water Management Act (2010), local authorities have a key role to play, working alongside the Environment Agency and water companies, to reduce flood risk. "The act requires local authorities to prepare local flood risk management strategies and a register of structures or features likely to have a significant effect on flood risk in the area," it states.

Modifying the built environment presents a significant opportunity to manage many climate risks that "interact or relate to wider risks to society, business and industry, and the natural environment," the guidance urges. Retrofitting nature-based solutions, such as green roofs and walls, is a good example, it notes, adding: "Effective siting can provide health benefits, support biodiversity, improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions as well as help manage flood risk and excess heat."

The document says it is important that local authorities play an active role in working with infrastructure providers to minimise climate risks to existing assets, as well as ensuring new infrastructure appropriately accounts for climate change over the lifetime of the asset. "Emergency planners already understand locations of critical infrastructure, in particular power, water and transport, in their areas," it adds. "They should also understand their vulnerabilities to extreme weather."

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