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Use planning system to soften climate impacts, councils told

Planning experts issued fresh guidance to local authorities, urging them to embed climate resilience into new developments and local plans.

The Climate Crisis Guide for Local Authorities on Planning for Climate Change, co-authored by The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), urges councillors, planners, and other practitioners to prioritise addressing climate change as a primary objective of planning and placemaking.

The guide illustrates the many ways that the planning system can reduce the carbon impact of new development, through promoting sustainable transport and renewable energy and setting policy requirements for sustainable buildings.

The guide also encourages local authorities across the UK to approach climate change adaptation with a local understanding of the ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’. This will mean evaluating flood risk to safeguard future developments and designing buildings and communities to be resilient to future shocks and stresses.

Replacing earlier guidance issued in 2021, this fourth edition of the guidance demonstrates how local authorities can use existing policy levers to take meaningful climate action at a local level.

The update has been made possible thanks to generous support from Flood Re.

Dr Hugh Ellis, Director of Policy, TCPA, said:

“Thanks to this latest edition of the climate guide, local authorities will have a better understanding of how to harness the planning system for climate action. Planning can shape lives and communities for the better, and is uniquely placed to provide a holistic, integrated view of climate mitigation and adaptation in housing, energy and transport. Local government can and must step into the gap left by central government inaction – and this guide explains how.”

Richard Blyth, Head of Policy Practice and Research, RTPI, said: “Planning plays a crucial role in achieving the climate commitments of UK Government and the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as those of local authorities, engaging communities and enabling environmentally friendly choices in everything from energy to transport.

“The fourth edition of our climate guidance for local authorities, updated together with the TCPA, sets out a range of ways in which the planning system can take the lead in preparing for and tackling climate change. We urge local authorities to ensure this is at the heart of their vision for the future of our communities and make it their priority.”

Dermot Kehoe Director of Transition and Communications, Flood Re:

“Working in partnership with the TCPA and RTPI, Flood Re has advocated for improved consideration of current and future flood risk in the planning sector. We have highlighted the economic cost of the increase in flood risk for the insurance industry and homeowners along with the need to adapt to climate change (through PFR measures with our Build Back Better scheme and SuDS). The Climate Guide provides the necessary best practice examples to embed climate change in planning policy and safeguard homeowners from flood risks now and in the future.”

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