Following on from my previous blog...

According to a report by MPs, the Government’s proposed reforms to the planning system will allow unsustainable developments to go ahead and needs “significant” alterations. The report says that the government needs to clarify the definition of sustainable development, and tighten up drafting in a number of key areas in order to avoid: “fuelling a system of planning by appeal”.

Clive Betts MP, chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, said:

“The way the framework is drafted currently gives the impression that greater emphasis should be given in planning decisions to economic growth”.

“As currently worded the framework would introduce several ambiguities that are more likely to slow down the planning process. Gaps or contradictions in the document are likely to fuel a system of ‘planning decision by appeal’ instead of the local decision making that ministers advocate,”

Chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association, Kate Henderson, welcomed the MPs conclusions saying:

 “Sustainable development must be at the heart of the planning system, and a principled and measured definition, such as that contained within the 2005 Sustainable Development Strategy, is pivotal to delivering the kind of inclusive, attractive and resilient communities we want to see both now and in the future.”

Surely there is already an existing framework/system for measuring the definition of sustainable development called ‘The Code for Sustainable Homes’?

In Wales all new build dwellings need to meet a minimum code level 3 standard as a condition of planning approval. In England this is only the case for developments over a certain size/number of units and these requirements and their details vary between Local Authorities. 

New planning laws are an opportunity to adopt, and refine if necessary, the Code for Sustainable Homes scheme as the primary tool in assessing the suitability of residential development.

Universal requirement to meet a minimum code level standard would give developers a level playing field across the country as well as the clear framework/certainty/predictability that they desire. The code requirements can be slowly cranked up, or down, as required over time. Predictability and uniform standards will allow house builders and developers to strategically plan and take account of the new requirements and proceed with, the much needed, increased level of house building.  This will naturally provide the economic stimulus developers bring to the local, and consequently national economy, whilst at the same time providing much needed good quality sustainable housing.