UK legislation could curtail sustainable development, warns committee
The UK Coalition Government’s draft Localism Bill could fail to encourage sustainable development and curtail new renewable projects, warns a Parliamentary select committee.
The Localism Bill promises to devolve planning powers to councils and neighbourhoods to give local communities more say over decisions.
It will also put the final planning decisions for large infrastructure projects back into the hands of ministers, instead of the soon-to-be-dissolved Infrastructure Planning Commission set up by the previous administration.
While the Committee says it welcomes the Government’s efforts to put sustainable development at the heart of planning – and other aspects of its operations – it is concerned that the proposed bill does not contain a “presumption in favour of sustainable development” or define what is meant by sustainable development.
The report also criticises the bill’s provision to do away with regional planning strategies, which it warns will reduce the Government’s ability to determine the cumulative effect of developments on environmental and climate change targets. It could also allow those with more time and money to influence decisions, disadvantaging those that do not.
“The replacement arrangements, to encourage co-operation between local planning authorities, are inadequate and poorly described in the bill,” says the report.
The Committee also points to a disconnect in putting the responsibility for sustainable development onto local planning authorities, as these would not fall under the 2004 and 2008 Planning Acts.
The report calls for the Government to define sustainable development in the Bill and ensure that it provides a “statutory duty to apply the principles of sustainability in the planning system”.