The UK Government has amended the Levelling-Up & Regeneration Bill to stipulate that the newly proposed national development management policies (NDMPs) being introduced by the same Bill must consider the need to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

NDMPs aim to simplify the UK planning system. They will do this by ensuring that local policies which duplicate national policies are removed from local plans, and by making it clear that any conflict between local and national policy will be resolved in favour of the NDMP. This amendment will thus enable climate change mitigation and adaptation to be a compulsory part of planning decision-making at a local level.

The initial amendment was introduced by Midlands Engine APPG Co-Chair and crossbench peer, The Lord Daniel Ravensdale. This requested the Government put in place a statutory duty to empower national and local decision makers to better weigh climate and nature considerations against the many other material issues they are asked to consider. After narrowly winning a vote in the House of Lords (189 votes to 186) on the matter, the Government responded with a concession amendment in lieu.

Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Earl Howe, spoke on behalf of the Government in the debate in the chamber and stated:

“We are fully supportive of the intentions of the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, but we remain concerned that the amendment, as drafted, would give rise to significant challenge to how local councils fulfil their obligations to consider climate change within their planning functions.

The additional legislative provisions we have bought forward [i.e., the amendment in lieu] put climate change considerations at the centre of the development of new national development management policies, and in turn enable those considerations to influence all local planning decisions. I believe that this new provision takes us a lot closer to the position the noble Lord sought to arrive at with his amendment.”

Midlands Engine APPG Co-Chair Lord Ravensdale stated:

“The UK doesn’t need to outspend its competitive rivals, but it does need to focus on the policy enablers that can help us outsmart them – including reform to embed net zero in planning decisions at local and national levels, on which high-potential green growth sectors depend.

Such reform is sorely needed: UK clean power has been world-leading, yet our out-dated planning regime means that just two onshore wind turbines were built in England in 2022, and major off-shore wind projects are stuck waiting for approval. Thousands of new homes continue to be built on flood plains, and ambitious local plans to create the sustainable and economically vibrant places we all want to live are being held back by planning barriers and inconsistent decision making.

This amendment will ensure that climate mitigation and adaptation will be considered in the new national development management policies and enable this to become a compulsory part of decision making at a local level. It will have good effect in getting clean infrastructure and sustainable developments built right across the country; as well as better enabling local authorities to play their part in the net zero transition. It offers a substantial, strategic lever for change and ensures that our planning system can help unlock the massive benefits that action on climate can bring UK businesses and communities – locally, nationally and for our competitive place in the world.”

The bill has now been given royal assent and has become an Act of Parliament.

NIA note: Although it doesn’t directly apply to Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs), it will apply to smaller nuclear related projects. This is a great springboard for bringing wider planning reforms forward.