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Weekly planning news

Planning news - 23 May 2024

Weekly newsletter header Planning Portal 23 May 2024

£557m awarded to boost public sector decarbonisation

The recent announcement of £557 million awarded to boost public sector decarbonisation1 marks a significant milestone for the UK in meeting sustainability targets.  

The investment highlights government's commitment to reducing carbon emissions and promoting energy efficiency across public buildings such as schools, hospitals and pools.   

The allocation of £557 million is part of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS)2, a crucial element in the UK's strategy to achieve net-zero. The funding will support a wide range of projects, including the installation of energy-efficient heating systems, the implementation of advanced insulation techniques, and the integration of renewable energy sources.  

For planners and developers, this presents an unprecedented opportunity to incorporate cutting-edge technologies and sustainable practices into public infrastructure.  

By retrofitting existing structures and ensuring new developments adhere to stringent environmental standards, the public sector can lead by example, demonstrating the viability and benefits of sustainable development practices.  

From a planning perspective, the decarbonisation drive is not just about reducing emissions; it is also about fostering innovation and stimulating economic growth. Planners and planning authorities alike have a pivotal role to play in facilitating this transformation by streamlining planning application approval processes for sustainable projects and encouraging the adoption of eco-friendly building practices.  

As planners, it is imperative to seize this opportunity to integrate sustainable practices into the very fabric of our public infrastructure. The £557 billion investment is not just a financial commitment; it is a call to action for all stakeholders in the planning and development sectors.  

Planning Portal are proud champions of sustainable development initiatives and are keen to do whatever we can to promote understanding of the vital legislation and funding opportunities, to encourage uptake wherever possible. 

Visit our Sustainability Hub today to find the tools and guidance you need to plan and build sustainably.3 

Industry bodies respond to National Audit Office’s assessment of Biodiversity Net Gain implementation

The National Audit Office (NAO) published a report on 17 May which claimed the country’s planning sector is still ‘unprepared’ for biodiversity net gain measures and their implementation.  

The report evaluates progress made by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Natural England in implementing statutory BNG.  

Whilst noting the government's swift action in launching BNG, the report also identifies significant risks to the legislation’s effectiveness. The report alludes to incomplete arrangements for ensuring biodiversity enhancements and doubts the ability of local authorities to enforce compliance. 

The Royal Town Planning Institute issued a response to the report4, expressing similar concerns to those outlined by the NAO, drawing on their own survey, which revealed that a significant portion of planners felt unprepared, lacking guidance, resources, and staff around BNG.  

Victoria Hills, Chief Executive of the RTPI, also emphasised the need for adequate support and funding for local planning authorities to successfully implement BNG.  

The RTPI continue to monitor BNG’s impact on the planning system and is urging its members to share their experiences and case studies of best practice, participate in surveys5 and attend upcoming BNG events6.  

Meanwhile, land banking solution Environment Bank have issued their own response to the report, by highlighting their substantial supply of banked sites for Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) off-set: 

‘As of today, Environment Bank has a national network of over 1,758 hectares of land in development for habitat creation – equating to thousands of Biodiversity Units – which are already being sold to meet the needs of RESI, commercial and utility developers in England. This is sufficient to meet national market demand for at least the next 18 months, with a further 3,000 hectares in progress.’ 

Planning Portal are keen to help increase understanding of BNG and help facilitate uptake wherever we can. We provide a range of resources, in partnership with Joe’s Blooms7 and Environment Bank8, aiming to clarify Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) and help our stakeholders fulfil their BNG responsibilities: 

Government reiterates desire to see solar farms built on brownfield land, whilst continuing to shake up agricultural regulations

Following the recent implementation of changes to permitted development (PD) rights for agricultural buildings13, which came into effect on 21 May, the government has outlined a comprehensive strategy for the growth of the fruit and vegetable sector, as laid out in their recent white paper.14  

It’s hoped the move will see innovation across the sector, with investment in modern glasshouses and vertical farming technologies. The initiative aims to increase domestic food production, reducing reliance on imports.  

The UK’s Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho also recently reiterated commitment to seeing solar farms built on brownfield land, emphasising that higher quality land must be reserved for agriculture. In an article from 16 May15, The Planner reported: 

‘Coutinho said on Wednesday (15 May) that the government was concerned that “as large solar developments proceed at pace, more of our ‘Best and Most Versatile’ (BMV) land could be used for solar PV instead of food production. I am therefore setting out further detail about how our policy on balancing these competing priorities is intended to be applied.” 

The new National Policy Statement (EN-3), published in January, already states that applicants should use previously developed land where possible. 

She reinforced that solar power will continue to play an important role in delivering cleaner, cheaper and more secure energy, but that developers and local planning authorities should consider the cumulative impact solar project can have on local communities, in particular if there are a high number of applications.’ 

The government also plans to review obstacles impeding the expansion of glasshouses.  

Furthermore, government will consult on the introduction of a new PD right for small-scale on-farm wind turbines, aiming to promote renewable energy generation while supporting farm diversification efforts.  


Our planning news is published in association with ThePlanner, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

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    Planning news - 23 May 2024

      The Planning Portal is delivered by PortalPlanQuest Limited which is a joint venture between TerraQuest Solutions Limited and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG). All content © 2024 Planning Portal.

      The Planning Portal is delivered by PortalPlanQuest Limited which is a joint venture between TerraQuest Solutions Limited and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG). All content © 2024 Planning Portal.