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‘Business as usual’ planning offers little defence for climate change mitigation

20 March 2019
Reading Time: 2 mins

The recent report from the Committee on Climate Change, ‘UK Housing: Fit for the future?’ (21 February 2019) warned that urban extensions and garden villages will hamper green transport delivery, by the very nature of their scale and location.  They assert that public transport services are most cost-effective and more viable when they are able to serve a number of linked, small settlements in between existing urban areas or destinations.

The conclusions of the Committee on Climate Change are valid if we accept the assumption that development will continue to be delivered through the familiar, highly contestable development planning process.  But it doesn’t have to be the case and we must not accept it.   This form of ‘business as usual’ planning, as outlined in the report, is reflective of a fragmented approach to sustainable development and climate change.

Clearly, we share the urgent need to mitigate against climate change but we advocate a complementary, alternative approach.  This looks beyond the current default position, which pits individual sustainability targets – for example, on environment, energy, connectivity, product quality and so on – against quality of life ones.  This aims too low for true sustainable development.  To continue with this fragmented delivery, that picks off one or other of the targets, will not impact meaningfully on climate change.

We are long overdue something different, such as a climate assessment of new schemes because, yet again, there is the danger that silo mentality over-rules the full sustainability agenda. 

Hence, it is time to promote integrated planning and transport delivery to achieve sustainable places, ensuring the agenda of one cannot frustrate the goals of the other. The wider growth impacts for our growing and diverse demographics must be addressed positively and assessed responsibly, embracing climate, environment, liveability and economy at the same time.  UKBCSD advocates a holistic vision for growth, driven by climate mitigation and better living.

The places we envisage necessitate supply-led, infrastructure-first planning, creating productive places for the future that are high on the Liveability Index and Sustainable Development Goals, where environment sustains healthier lives and where communities can purposefully thrive.  They are accessible to the non-polluting resources that are needed to develop, service and maintain them; and they deliver quality – in the right location, with the right homes and right services - needed for tomorrow’s communities.  We cannot allow a race to the bottom, to meet today’s housing supply numbers.

Promoting sustainable and productive new places for tomorrow and beyond requires an approach to delivering differently. This future thinking offers the potential for achieving different infrastructure solutions, backed up with a more assertive planning approach as advocated by Letwin (and our own garden communities report).  We urgently need to think and plan for resilient new places. Places that deliver different types of infrastructure and co-locating homes and jobs to reduce the car borne trips normally associated with the ‘business as usual’ residential development.

As a starting point, take a look at our vision for delivering new Garden Communities Pace, Place, Productivity
Click here for a copy of the full report “Place, Pace and Productivity: Delivering Garden Communities”