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PR 40 - Planning Bill can reduce risk of climate chaos say the RTPI

10 December 2007

Green groups are missing an important opportunity to tackle climate change by standing against the Planning Bill. The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) believes the Planning Bill, with its call for an independent planning commission, will speed up the delivery of vital green infrastructure. The commission will work within set national policy statements which, when linked to the Climate Change Bill, will transparently demonstrate whether this Government has a real commitment to a low-carbon future.

RTPI Director of Policy and Communications, Rynd Smith said: \"Green groups are missing a trick by not supporting this legislation. Clear national policy statements will offer a window into our Government's commitment to reducing CO2 emissions. And the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) will deliver green infrastructure more quickly: in the timescales identified by the Stern Report as necessary to prevent climate chaos. At last the public will have a measuring stick to ensure that new infrastructures deliver to the commitments in the Climate Change Bill, once it has been passed.\"

\"The Climate Change Bill commits the UK to a 60 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 with 'real progress' by 2020. It also calls for carbon budgeting. The national policy statements will have to form part of the pathway to meeting these goals and for taking forward carbon budgeting in a very real sense. The IPC will be charged with delivering this on a location specific basis.\"

The RTPI believes that Government must be honest in their commitment to reducing climate change impacts and it must bring people with it, and ensure that the inevitable adverse effects of new infrastructures are identified and mitigated, as far as is reasonably possible. It must commit to real community engagement. Sections of the bill do need to be changed to deliver against this agenda and the RTPI is actively campaigning for these changes.

Opponents of the bill run the risk that if it does not pass, or is repealed, the UK will lose its only real opportunity to renovate its infrastructures to meet the climate change challenge in a relevant timescale.

In summary, proposals for national policy statements and an infrastructure planning commission should be supported as these could provide a more transparent and publicly accountable major infrastructure planning system than we have at present. However, much of the workings of the proposed agencies and new commitments such as the development of the statements have still to pass a series of tests. Of central importance to the RTPI is the role communities will play. Real community engagement cannot and must not be sidelined.

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Andrew Kliman, RTPI Communications Manager, 0207 929 9479

Rynd Smith, RTPI Director of Policy and Communications, 0207 929 9478

Notes to Editors:

1. The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)
The RTPI is a dynamic organisation leading the way in the creation of places that work now and in the future. We understand that just as people develop places, so places develop people. We are committed to the enhancement of our natural and human environment, using spatial planning to manage competing pressures on our built environments and the very real effects on our space. Through our 20,000 members, we constantly seek to create areas and places in which people want to live and work.

For further general information, visit the RTPI website at:
41 Botolph Lane, London, EC3R 8DL, charity no. 262865

2 The RTPI has outlined tests that it will uses to assess how the Independent Planning Commission will work

3. RTPI Press Release on Eight Point plan for a workable IPC

4. RTPI web review of the Planning Bill

5. Bill clauses targeted for amendment as a high priority by the RTPI, as set out in our parliamentary briefing
Clause     Purpose     Amendment Objective
7     Publicity and consultation for national policy statements     ▫ Ensure an unambiguous statutory commitment to publicity and consultation on all draft statements.
▫ Seek the inclusion of policy options.
42     Duty to consult local community     ▫ Applicants/ developers must be guided in much greater detail as to their responsibilities in consulting local communities.
▫ Essential Secretary of State issues specific guidance on community involvement.
▫ Essential Commission issues guidance on community involvement.
▫ Ensure consistent approach to community engagement across projects.
▫ Adequate resourcing for groups such as Planning Aid to help community involvement.
44     Response by the applicant to issues raised following publicity and consultation for applications     ▫ Ensure that the applicant must consider the reasonable mitigation of proposals and produce a statement of impact and mitigation that is considered by the infrastructure planning commission in due course
80     Initial consideration of issues by the infrastructure planning commission     ▫ Ensure that the statement of impact and mitigation is considered
82 - 84     Hearing processes before the commission     ▫ Ensure an unambiguous right to be heard by impacted parties
94 - 95     Decisions     ▫ Require existing Planning Policy Statements to be relevant considerations before the commission.
▫ Require the development plan to be a relevant consideration before the commission.
▫ (Accepting that the national policy statement will remain as the prime consideration)
▫ Import the concept of 'other material considerations' as understood in existing planning legislation.
▫ Broaden the requirement for decisions to be 'in accordance' with policy to 'generally in accordance'.
▫ Broaden the range of circumstances in which the commission is statutorily entitled to decide other than indicated by policy; and specifically.
▫ Include a requirement that proposals must meet a reasonable mitigation test.
150 - 154     Local Member Review Bodies     ▫ Remove all reference to such bodies from the Bill.
163 - 172     Community Infrastructure Levy     ▫ The levy should provide a means of securing necessary local infrastructure based on an understanding of local infrastructure need developed in partnership between local planning authorities, development interests, infrastructure providers and local communities themselves.
▫ It should build on the willingness of local government to innovate, but should not be seen simply as a means of raising funds for local government projects.
▫ It should require the formation of new and stronger partnerships to diagnose and cost infrastructure needs.