Planners must be more informed about the potential for renewable and low carbon technology, say leading industry figures.
The comment was made following publication of a Government-backed consultation asking for feedback on national best practice guidance advising developers and planning officers on how to better integrate energy efficiency into future and existing developments.
Earlier this week, the Department for Communities and Local Government revealed that Environmental Resources Management (ERM) and Faber Maunsell had been asked to develop the guidance to support the aims of its Planning Policy Statement (PPS) on Planning and Climate Change.
The guidance is designed to help the PPS’s aim of using planning to combat climate change by promoting local power generation, renewables, community heating schemes and regional solutions to energy needs.
Michael King, associate at the Combined Heat and Power Association, said the document would speed up the process “dramatically” by providing a clearer framework.
He added: “Unfortunately, planners are not always knowledgeable about energy technology so something of this nature is needed to raise their understanding.”
The draft guidance provides advice and examples targeted at making the planning process more efficient by explaining what options are open to planning authorities and what information applicants need to offer on issues such as sustainability, renewables and carbon reduction.
The guidance includes a full breakdown of renewables and low carbon technology – including solar, wind, biofuels and combined heat and power (CHP) – and explains where it is appropriate to use it.
Mr King said the Audit Commission’s local quality of life indicators judged councils on how they combated climate change, but the councils were not always sure what to do: “They have been given the motivation to act, but how to do so is supplied by this document. Local flexibility is very important as it encourages planners to go out and find what is right for their area.
“I am very supportive of this document and particularly welcome the fact they are using a whole community approach rather than a site specific approach.”
The British Property Federation – which also welcomed moves to cut planning red tape – welcomed the consultation. A spokesman said: “The key thing is that there is clear consultation taking place with the people who are building these schemes and they are not coming from a bureaucratic point of view. We need to focus on what will deliver projects realistically and in the best way.
“It will certainly be useful for local authorities to have a national reference point as lots of problems we see are when you have a number of people operating with ‘silo’ mentalities and independently from each other.”
Phil Jones, chairman of CIBSE’s CHP group, said effective planning would help promote CHP. He said: “The industry does need more best-practice information in this area and CIBSE CHP group will work to promote and disseminate this.
“Any move towards area wide community energy schemes using CHP will bring benefits. Bringing buildings together with heating, cooling and power networks helps build exactly the right continuous energy demand required to make CHP highly economic and sustainable.”
ERM and Faber Maunsell are now seeking feedback on the draft guidance. The closing date is June 13.