Rethinking the role of the Local Plan in Net Zero: a whole plan carbon impact perspective

19 January 2024

WMS-(1).png

A Question of Viability

The climate emergency has necessitated a shift in how we approach urban planning and development. Local authorities are at the forefront of this change, with the responsibility of considering the whole carbon emission impact of local plan making.

Many local authorities have introduced net zero policies into local plans, however the levers that local authorities have been using to plan for our net zero future within the plan are often limited to energy efficiency policies in new homes.

It has always been the case that planning policy evidence must demonstrate the costing rationalise for viability of development; the WMS reaffirms this.  So, it’s business as usual for local authorities, to ensure that policies setting standards above Building Regulations comes with robust evidence that enables the economic viability of development.

The final test of the robustness of the plan level evidence base will ultimately be at the planning application viability appraisal.  As long as the costing evidence base and viability model is correct, then all the policies will hold true. 

The attention WMS has placed on development viability is a timely reminder that our collective net zero journey is bigger than just the energy efficiency of new homes.

The WMS provides a perfect point for reflection by local authorities to think bigger than just energy efficiency and look to the whole system of regional growth and infrastructure impacts emissions.

A whole systems approach to net zero policy

In our 2023 White Paper, Barriers to Net Zero we identified some of the barriers and opportunities to delivering net zero growth which are in the hands of local authorities such as skills and education, the impact of road building and planning with an ageing power infrastructure not ready for the electric led development.  Such areas are rarely considered in net zero local planning policy as absolutes in the same way energy efficiency is.

This requires different thinking, especially on the impact of transportation emissions, which continues to be the UK’s largest sectoral emission. 

The recent work developed by Stantec and the DecarboN8 network is an excellent starting point for this alternative thinking might look like.

Taking our queue from such research we want to see local plans that clearly articulates there is no need for high capital and carbon cost infrastructure such as roads to deliver required growth.  Reducing high capital and carbon infrastructure frees money for what people need such as social housing, biodiversity, education, health and wellbeing, clean energy and energy efficient homes.

A whole systems thinking approach to carbon emissions would go some of the way to solving the restriction of the viability model on local energy efficiency standards. Is it time that the existing methods of defining viability created in a fossil fuel based economy are reinvented to reflect the climate emergency?

See all news

Testimonial

Don't just take our word for it...

“Aether delivered training workshops and generated learning materials for our SSN members, providing technical content in a manageable and comprehendible format. We particularly benefitted from their extensive knowledge and ability to interpret the needs of our members into the training materials.”

Jennifer Anderson, Sustainable Scotland Network

“Chris was excellent to work with and always very pro active in making suggestions, taking work forward and applying his considerable technical knowledge in effective ways.”

Robert Vaughan, Defra Air Quality Team

“The support provided by Aether for this project was especially remarkable considering the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tools and methods used in order to engage local stakeholders really added value to the capacity building of the national team.”

Shanna Emmanuel, Saint Lucia BUR Project Coordinator

“I must congratulate each of you for your professional and tireless efforts. Let me point out that this has been the 'neatest' in-country review expert review team I have coordinated, and it has been a real pleasure.”

UNFCCC Secretariat

“The Aether team were a joy to work with and I would recommend the consultancy - the service provided throughout the process was exceptional. Where there were problems, they provided solutions. The team were working to very short time scales but were able to deliver a high quality piece of work within the specified time frame.”

Sefton Council - for the Merseyside Atmospheric Emissions Inventory

“It has been a pleasure to work with Chris Dore and Richard Claxton from Aether: they did their job in a very professional and timely manner. The workshop was organized and carried out in a cooperative spirit; the information provided to the workshop participants was complete and clear.”

Alina Novikova, UN/ECE Secretariat

“The team at Aether works very professionally and communicates very well which makes working with them a pleasure. Outputs are delivered on time to high quality. The team brings the rigour of technical knowledge and expertise and finds innovative ways of communicating complex messages. I would be happy to recommend the Aether team to organisations working on analysing and presenting emissions information in the public domain.”

Fiona Glover, States of Jersey

“The Aether team were a joy to work with and I would recommend the consultancy - the service provided throughout the process was exceptional.”

Clare Bayley, Defra

“Aether is a great partner for work in the area of European Air Emissions. The team was committed, reliable, well organised and had a deep technical understanding and motivated other partners with their good spirit.”

Umweltbundesamt: Environment Agency Austria

“Aether's approach to couple innovative visualisation with high expertise manpower delivered valuable insights for our inventory work.”

Umweltbundesamt (Germany)

Contact us

Get in touch

Call us on +44 1865 261 466, complete the short form below, or go to the Contact page

 Security code