The climate crisis is already with us. More people than ever in the UK are worried about what is happening now and in the future because of climate change.
We know that every decision matters now as action on climate change becomes more urgent. Roads and houses are being built now that will be affecting our ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2030, 2040 and 2050.
Roughly 400,000 development decisions are made in England alone in one year. Almost all of these decisions are contributing to the crisis of climate change rather than helping to address it.
Some decisions – such as Cumbria County Council’s decision to approve the huge Whitehaven undersea coal mine – fly in the face of the climate crisis. This decision is due to be remade in April 2021 following an outcry against the approval. The Secretary of State refused to call it in, despite the national issues it engages around meeting our climate change targets.
We have to stop building bad infrastructure and start building the future now. No additional roads from now. No more poorly built housing. No more office-to-residential conversions without planning controls. No more out of town or logistics development that rely on the private car or road haulage. No more incinerators, huge gas fired power stations, or airport runways. And of course, no to fossil fuel extraction.
Yes to solar panels. Yes to wind turbines. Yes to energy storage. Yes to car and bike electric charging points. Yes to good public transport. Yes to pedestrianisation of streets. Yes to greening streets. Yes to more allotments. Yes to zero carbon buildings.
We know that there is a growing aspiration amongst many local communities to take much more radical action on climate change in terms of the places we live and work. Our councils either don’t get it, or do get it and can’t do anything about it because their funding is slashed and their powers have been taken away or were never there.
With the government’s new planning reforms, we won’t even get a right to be heard on new plans for development. Instead, whole places will be designated for certain types of development by the government department in Westminster. This is because there’ll be no say by your local councillors either. And those environmental protections we had? To assess plans to see how sustainable they were, and to assess the environmental impacts of development? They’re going too. Under the government reforms we are losing local democracy, our rights, and environmental protection, let alone the ability to make every decision matter on climate change.
The planning rules that guide development are currently out for consultation. We need to make sure that local decisions with the biggest impact on our ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – decisions on coal, on housing, on roads and on energy – are governed by policies that mean that emissions reduction matters. Together with other organisations we will be suggesting changes to the government so that planning rules actually ensure that climate change matters.
You too can write to the government to demand changes to England’s rules on what happens where.