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UKGBC welcomes Raynsford Review calls for legal clarity on sustainability

Environmental pressure group says a major report from an independent charity highlights the vital need to reform how sustainability is defined in the planning of buildings and infrastructure

The UK Green Building Council has welcomed recommendations within the final Raynsford Review to ensure that sustainable development is a clearly defined legal duty within the planning of homes and other buildings.

Efforts to ensure sustainable developments and buildings are at the heart of English town planning is one of the main conclusions of the review, which was launched to consider the role of current regulation and standards in ensuring higher quality buildings.

The findings, which were commissioned by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) charity and drawn up by a team Chaired by former Labour MP and government minister Nick Raynsford, set out to look at how planning in England can be reformed to improve outcomes in areas such as housing.

Sustainability and environmental concerns were among some the core focuses of the report, which has concluded that deregulation of planning, especially in the conversion of commercial buildings to residential properties, had led to a lack of safeguards around meeting required standards.

UKGBC director of policy and places John Alker said the full conclusions of the review had focused on a pressing need to reconsider housing standards and design with an eye on environmental considerations that can be supported under a new Building Code.

He added, “The proposed Building Code could offer much-needed clarity, if the future trajectory of standards – such as net zero carbon – were set out in advance. However, minimum standards at a national level shouldn’t preclude local authorities and cities from going further, faster – providing there is consistency in the metrics used.”

Mr Alker said that UKGBC also welcomed conclusions in the review about building up the importance in the social value to society of higher quality buildings. He said the findings found there was a lack of understanding and formal accounting about these potential benefits.

He said, “The use of social value measurement is an important tool for both local government and industry, which can help drive better outcomes for people. There is an opportunity to build on the review’s recommendations through the better integration of Social Value measurement into planning requirements.”

Legal duty

The Raynsford Review considered the current legal duty for sustainable development in the planning process. It found that the government’s most recent National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was vague in defining sustainable development in a manner recognised in either UK or intentionally-recognised definitions.

The final report stated, “the revised NPPF does not mention the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, despite these objectives being referenced in the government’s own 25 Year Environment Plan. Instead, the 2018 NPPF creates its own unique definition of sustainable development which leaves out core internationally agreed principles.”

Fresh legislation should therefore be introduced by government that ensures future planning has a legal duty to considers definable sustainable development in the management of the built environment, according to the report.

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