NET ZERO PLANNING POLICY

UPDATE! A Written Ministerial Statement (WMS) published 13/12/23 has created confusion for local planning authorities on their ability to set sustainability standards above and beyond national regulations.

Alongside TCPA and others, GHA is engaging with DLUHC to seek clarity on the WMS and has signed a joint letter to the Secretary of State (21/02/24) to outline our concerns. A response from Baroness Swinburne (25/03/24) stated “that local plan-makers retain the ability to set energy efficiency standards at the local level that go further than the Building Regulations.” which seems to contradict the WMS.

To support and inform LPAs, TCPA, supported by GHA and other progressive organisations, will:

  • Host a webinar on 20/05/2024. https://goodhomes.org.uk/events/net-zero-planning-policy-may-24
  • Publish updated technical guidance for local authorities.
  • Author a blog post, highlighting the outcomes of legal challenges in regard to decisions made by the Planning Inspectorate referencing a 2015 WMS (see Salt Cross, Lancaster), and seek to provide clarity on the 2023 WMS to provide reassurance for LPAs who are seeking to set ambitious net zero policies in their updated local plans.
Local Authorities can, and are, setting higher sustainability standards in their planning policies. This new resource sets out some practical steps for the adoption and implementation of progressive policies, including leading edge case studies, timeline and actions, and resources. 

This resource hub has been created and is managed by the Good Homes Alliance, with the support of consultants and GHA members, Bioregional and Etude, alongside GHA partners Passivhaus Trust and Town and Country Planning Association.

Table of Contents

Latest news

Leading edge case studies

Cornwall Council

Cornwall Council continues to work towards becoming carbon neutral by 2030. The council is leading by example encouraging all other agencies, businesses, residents and visitors to Cornwall to help take this huge step. 

Cornwall adopted their new Climate Emergency DPD in February 2023, with a clear set of Energy Use Intensity (EUI) targets going above and beyond building regulations for all new residential developments.

Read the Climate Emergency Development Plan Document here.

As members of the collaborative Good Homes Alliance Vanguard Network of Local Authorities, Cornwall Council show their leadership and commitment to the climate emergency.

Policy SEC1 – Sustainable Energy and Construction

Development proposals will be required to demonstrate how they have implemented the principles and requirements set out in the policy below.

1 The Energy Hierarchy

All proposals should embed the Energy Hierarchy within the design of buildings by prioritising fabric first, orientation and landscaping in order to minimise energy demand for heating, lighting and cooling. All proposals should consider opportunities to provide solar PV and energy storage.

2b New Development – Residential

Residential development proposals will be required to achieve Net Zero Carbon and submit an ‘Energy Statement’ that demonstrates how the proposal will achieve:

  • Space heating demand less than 30kWh/m2/annum;
  • Total energy consumption less than 40kWh/m2/annum; and
  • On-site renewable generation to match the total energy consumption, with a preference for roof-mounted solar PV.

Where the use of onsite renewables to match total energy consumption is demonstrated to be not technically feasible (for example with apartments) or economically viable renewable energy generation should be maximised as much as possible; and/or connection m a d e to an existing or proposed low carbon district energy network; or where this is not possible the residual energy (the amount by which total energy demand exceeds the renewable energy generation) is to be offset by a contribution to Cornwall Council’s Offset Fund.

Where economic viability or technical constraints prevent policy compliance, proposals should first and foremost strive to meet the space heating and total energy consumption thresholds. Proposals must then benefit as much as possible from renewable energy generation and/or connection to an existing or proposed low carbon district energy network. As a last resort, any residual energy is to be offset by a contribution to Cornwall Council’s Offset Fund, as far as economic viability allows.

While this policy does not require the application of these standards to reserved matters applications that relate to outline planning permissions that predate the adoption of this climate Emergency DPD, developers are encouraged to apply these standards on a voluntary basis, where it is feasible to do so and not within breach of existing permissions.

3 Existing Buildings

Significant weight will be given to the benefits of development resulting in considerable improvements to the energy efficiency and reduction in carbon emissions in existing buildings.

Proposals that help to increase resilience to climate change and secure a sustainable future for historic buildings and other designated and non-designated heritage assets will be supported and encouraged where they:

  • conserve (and where appropriate enhance/better reveal) the design, character, appearance and historical significance of the building; or
  • facilitate their sensitive re-use where they have fallen into a state of disrepair or dereliction (subject to such a re-use being appropriate to the specific heritage asset).

4 Domestic and Non-Residential Renewables

The Council will support domestic and non-residential renewables such as solar panels where they require planning permission. Proposals should minimise visual impact wherever possible.

Proposals affecting heritage assets, including their settings, shall seek to avoid and minimise negative impacts on their significance and conserve the character of historic townscapes, landscapes and seascapes.

Read the full policy on page 39 of the Climate Emergency DPD

In 2019 Cornwall Council Declared a climate emergency.

Februaruy 2023, Climate Emergency DPD adopted.

In recognition of the Climate Emergency and the very real need to meet net zero as soon as possible, Cornwall Council has collaborated with GHA member and sustainability consultants, Etude, alongside the South West Energy Hub, to carry out energy modelling work tailored specifically to Cornwall. Cornwall Council also worked very closely with Bath and NE Somerset Council.

  • AECOM were appointed to carry out the Sustainability appraisal.
  • Three Dragons were appointed to carry out the viability report.
  • You can see all of the submission documents including those referenced above here.
Bath and North East Somerset Council

In order to address a range of urgent issues in B&NES, including the climate and ecological emergency declarations, the Council has implemented a partial update of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan (which together comprise the Local Plan).

B&NES adopted a Local Plan Partial Update in January 2023, with a clear set of Energy Use Intensity (EUI) targets going above and beyond building regulations for all new residential developments.

Read the Local Plan Partial Update here.

Policy SCR6 – Sustainable Construction Policy for New Build Residential Development

New Build Residential Development

New build residential development will be required to meet the standards set out below. 31 New build residential development will aim to achieve zero operational emissions by reducing heat and power demand then supplying all energy demand through onsite renewables. Through the submission of an appropriate energy assessment, having regard to the Sustainable Construction Checklist SPD, proposed new residential development will demonstrate the following;

  • Space heating demand less than 30kWh/m2/annum;
  • Total energy use less than 40kWh/m2/annum; and
  • On site renewable energy generation to match the total energy use, with a preference for roof mounted solar PV
  • Connection to a low- or zero-carbon District heating network where available

Major residential development

In the case of major developments where the use of onsite renewables to match total energy consumption is demonstrated to be not technically feasible (for example with apartments) or economically viable, renewable energy generation should be maximised and the residual on site renewable energy generation (calculated as the equivalent carbon emissions) must be offset by a financial contribution paid into the Council’s carbon offset fund where the legal tests set out in the Community Infrastructure Regulations are met.

In 2019 B&NES declared a Climate Emergency.

January 2023, Local Plan Partial Update adopted. 

Currie & Brown and GHA members Etude did the energy review and modelling.

B&NES worked closely with Conrwall Council, with whom they shared an evidence base.

Greater Cambridge

The aim of the new Local Plan is to help Greater Cambridge, which comprises  South Cambridgeshire District Council and Cambridge City Council, transition to net zero carbon by 2050, by ensuring that development is sited in places that help to limit carbon emissions, is designed to the highest achievable standards for energy and water use, and is resilient to current and future climate risks.

Read the first proposals documents here.

As members of the collaborative Good Homes Alliance Vanguard Network of Local Authorities, South Cambridgeshire District Council and Cambridge City Council show their leadership and commitment to the climate emergency.

Policy CC/NZ: Net zero carbon new buildings

Net Zero Carbon Buildings – operational emissions

1. Part A: All housing and non-domestic buildings should achieve a specific space heatingdemand as follows:

  • a. All new dwellings should have a space heating demand of 15-20 kWh per metre
    squared per year
  • b. All non-domestic buildings should achieve a space heating demand of 15-20 kWh per metre squared per year

2. All heating should be provided through low carbon fuels (not fossil fuels).

3. No new developments should be connected to the gas grid.

4. Part B: Total Energy Use Intensity (EUI) targets are achieved as per building type (set out in kWh per m2 per year), as follows:

  • a. All dwellings should achieve an EUI of no more than 35 kWh per m2 per year

5. Part C: Proposals should generate at least the same amount of renewable energy (preferably on-plot) as they demand over the course of a year. This should include   energy use (regulated and unregulated), calculated using a methodology proven to accurately predict a building’s actual energy performance.

Net Zero Carbon Buildings – construction

9. Residential developments of 150 homes or more and non-residential development of 1,000 m2 or more should calculate whole life carbon emissions through a nationally recognised Whole Life Carbon Assessment and demonstrate actions to reduce life-cycle carbon emissions. This should include reducing emissions associated with construction plant.

At first proposals consultation stage.

The following organisations were appointed by Greater Cambridge Shared Planning (GCSP) service to provide a ‘local plan net zero carbon evidence base’ which can be seen here.

  • Bioregional – Environmental charity and GHA member with experience in all -round sustainability, sustainable construction and policymaking from local to international level 
  • Etude – Engineering firm with expertise in energy, construction and architecture 
  • Currie & Brown – Quantity surveyors/cost consultants and GHA member with experience of advising central and local government on cost implications of the transition to low carbon
  • Mode – transport planners
  • Perkins & Will – architecture and master planning experts
Central Lincolnshire

The three local planning authorities that comprise Central Lincolnshire, the City of Lincoln and the districts of North Kesteven and West Lindsey, have recognised an urgent need for action in response to climate change.

The Local Plan Review includes five ‘themes’ to reduce energy consumption, increase renewable energy generation, prevent the loss of carbon sinks, facilitate the transition to a net-zero carbon lifestyle and adapt to climate change.

Read the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan here.

See all news and documents relating to the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan here.

Policy S7 – Reducing Energy Consumption – Residential Development

Unless covered by an exceptional basis clause below, all new residential development proposals must include an Energy Statement which confirms in addition to the requirements of Policy S6 that all such residential development proposals:

1. Can generate at least the same amount of renewable electricity on-site (and preferably on-plot) as the electricity they demand over the course of a year, such demand including all energy use (regulated and unregulated), calculated using a methodology proven to accurately predict a building’s actual energy performance; and

2. To help achieve point 1 above, target achieving a site average space heating demand of around 15-20kWh/m2/yr and a site average total energy demand of 35 kWh/m2/yr, achieved through a ‘fabric first’ approach to construction. No single dwelling unit to have a total energy demand in excess of 60 kWh/m2/yr, irrespective of amount of on-site renewable energy production. (For the avoidance of doubt, ‘total energy demand’ means the amount of energy used as measured by the metering of that home, with no deduction for renewable energy generated on site). The Energy Statement must include details of assured performance arrangements. As a minimum, this will require:

a) The submission of ‘pre-built’ estimates of energy performance; and

b) Prior to each dwelling being occupied, the submission of updated, accurate and verified ‘as built’ calculations of energy performance. Such a submission should also be provided to the first occupier (including a Non-Technical Summary of such estimates).

Weight will be given to proposals which demonstrate a deliverable commitment to on-going monitoring of energy consumption, post-occupation, which has the effect, when applicable, of notifying the occupier that their energy use appears to significantly exceed the expected performance of the building, and explaining to the occupier steps they could take to identify the potential causes of such high energy use.

In 2019 Central Lincolnshire declared a Climate Emergency.

April 2023, Local Plan adopted.

The Central Lincolnshire Joint Strategic Planning Committee appointed the following organisations to help develop its response to the climate emergency. They provided the region’s local authorities with an evidence base for creating a net zero carbon Local Plan. 

  • Bioregional – Environmental charity and GHA member with experience in all -round sustainability, sustainable construction and policymaking from local to international level 
  • Etude – Engineering firm with expertise in energy, construction and architecture 
  • Currie & Brown – Quantity surveyors/cost consultants and GHA member with experience of advising central and local government on cost implications of the transition to low carbon

The climate change evidence documents can be seen under the climate change tab here.

Implementing ambitious policies - timeline and actions

Below is a timeline for creating and implementing planning policies above the minimum required by Part L, based on the experience of Cornwall Council, who’s Climate Emergency Development Plan Document (DPD) was formally adopted in February 2023, with supporting documents from B&NES (Local Plan Partial Update), Greater Cambridge (Local Plan) and Central Lincolshire (Local Plan).

All of the above are avenues within the Local Plan in which local authorities are able to amend and introduce ambitious net zero policies. 

The timeline lays out 7 steps, from inception, to implementation, and training. It includes key information with some examples and resources. 

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2012/767/part/6/made

Practical steps to implement ambitious planning policies

The four tests of ‘soundness’ (NPPF 2021)

1: Plans should be positively prepared:

  • Responding to objectively assessed needs
  • Delivering ‘sustainable development’

2: Plan should be justified

  • Based on evidence
  • Having considered reasonable alternatives

3: Plan should be effective

  • Deliverable in the plan period
  • Based on effective joint working on cross-boundary strategic matters

4: Plan should be consistent with national policy

  • Enable delivery of ‘sustainable development’
  • Accord with NPPF 2021 policies
  • Accord with other statements of national planning policy, where relevant
Powers

Planning & Energy Act 2008

Can set “reasonable” local requirements for:

  • “Energy efficiency standards” that exceed those of building regulations
  • “a proportion of energy used…to be from low-carbon or renewable sources of the locality of the development”

Town & Country Planning Act 1990

S106 Planning Obligations

  • Used in several precedents to deliver carbon offsetting

Local Development Orders

  • Can bring forward renewables, low carbon energy networks, existing building energy efficiency retrofit

National Planning Policy Framework (2021)

Location, orientation and design of new development

Positive strategy for renewable energy (do not require demonstration of need for this energy)

Positive strategy for conservation of historic environment including “viable used consistent with conservation”

Planning Practice Guidance

Reduce need to travel, sustainable transport

Create opportunities for renewables ≤50MW

Promote low-carbon energy efficient design in new buildings (unrestricted in non-residential)

Identify measures via local data; future trends; spatial tests, sectoral differences

Overcoming barriers

The Written Ministerial Statement (WMS 2015)

The Report on the Examination of the Local Plan (Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan) Partial Update for Bath and North East Somerset provided by the planning inspectorate states the below:

85. I therefore consider that the relevance of the WMS 2015 to assessing the soundness of the Policy has been reduced significantly. […] For the reasons set out, that whilst I give the WMS 2015 some weight, any inconsistency with it, given that it has been overtaken by events, does not lead me to conclude that Policy SCR6 is unsound, nor inconsistent with relevant national policies.

Read the report here.

There are increasing calls for WMS 2015 to be formally revoked.  A report for the Climate Change Committee, released in July 2023, looks at barriers and opportunities for delivering net zero and climate resilience through the local planning system and includes a number of recommendations, including that the 2015 Written Ministerial Statement on Plan Making should be revoked immediately. 

Planning inspectors acknowledge the need for action against climate change

The Report on the Examination of the Examination of the Cornwall Council Climate Emergency Development Plan Document provided by the planning inspectorate states the below:

32. While I acknowledge that there are still those who express scepticism, the scientific community and governments worldwide fully accept the dangers posed by climate change, and the need for urgent action to address it. In that context, it seems to me that it would be perverse to criticise the Council for attempting to do too much, too soon.

Read the report here.

New legal advice supports local authorities in setting progressive local plan policies

Essex Climate Action Commission and Essex County Council commissioned Estelle Dehon KC at Cornerstone Barristers to provide legal advice on the matter concerning the ability of local planning authorities to set local plan policies that require development to achieve energy efficiency standards above Building Regulations.

The open advice document available below establishes the legal justification for requiring higher targets for energy performance standards for development than the national baseline and can be relied upon by local planning authorities in open fora, such as public inquiries and local plan examinations.

Clause 2.5 – “The exception – the draft Area Action Plan for Salt Cross, found unsound in a report published on 1 March 2023 – is based on a misunderstanding of both national policy and the PEA 2008. There is therefore nothing in the Salt Cross decision which should dissuade an LPA from seeking to adopt net zero policies requiring high new build fabric efficiency standards, provided the LPA evidence such policies thoroughly and clearly indicates an awareness of the impact of the proposed policies on the viability of development.”

Read the legal advice here.

GHA Vanguard Network of Local Authorities

Following a successful two-year Vanguard Campaign, the Good Homes Alliance has formed a new Local Authority Vanguard membership network. One of the main aims of the network is to share resources and conduct further research to facilitate local authorities (LAs) and LAs with new housing delivery arms in adopting enhanced sustainability, quality, health and performance standards for new housing developments.

A number of significant events have further bolstered the need for this research and resource, most importantly the 2018 IPCC Climate Change report, proposed UK Government targets for zero carbon and ‘Future Homes’ standards and over 250 local authorities having declared climate and/or ecological emergencies

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