I had the pleasure recently of being asked to join the leader of Warwick District Council, Cllr Andrew Day, on a webinar led by MPC to discuss progress of the joint Local Plan with Stratford on Avon and how the Council’s declaration of a climate emergency and the pandemic has impacted on that process, and on the future delivery of housing…a lot to cover in under an hour.
I was taken with how passionate Andrew is about pushing the sustainable design agenda and the fact that Warwick District will be the first authority in the country to adopt a zero carbon DPD, which they hope to do next year. He also clearly acknowledges the pressures on resourcing to deliver on that.
There’s no doubt we have to make some very big changes if we’re going to address climate change and we have no choice but to recognise the urgency of that. Both personally and professionally I see the benefits of making sustainable building compulsory; we have to aim high and be absolute in our goals to make the necessary changes for the common good.
However, my practical side also kicks in (which as a planner I’m prone to!) and I have been trying to think what tools we need most to deliver on those goals at the same time as keeping pace with meeting housing need and affordability.
Climate change and design policy has and continues to move forward positively, as does innovation in energy technology and housing design. Sustainable design principles are tangible measures used to assess planning performance, likewise biodiversity net gains and proportionate green infrastructure. These are becoming the expected norms and housing design and developments will need to continue to adapt and innovate at the cost to the developer, but that is only part of the planning conundrum we face.
Ultimately, we all have a responsibility to ensure we provide sufficient homes in a way that minimises the impact on the environment. That won’t prevent us developing on green field sites, there just aren’t enough alternatives, but it requires these expectations to be entrenched in land option agreements, applied through measurable and consistent planning policies, considered by qualified and resourced planning departments, and underpinned by an acceptance of the public responsibility to provide the wider infrastructure necessary to support housebuilding.
A big challenge, but necessary if we are to ensure more timely and consistent decision making, and reduce the risk of addressing the environmental agenda at the cost of mitigating affordability issues.