One of the sessions at the recent Reading Climate Festival was about “Can Planning Help to Tackle Climate Change?” The session covered the principles of planning, and also an example – the new Station Hill development in Reading.
The Zoom event was led by Ethical Reading volunteer and Hammerson Environmental and Community Co-ordinator, Verity Leal. The session attracted an audience of some 30 people – many of whom took part in the Q&A. Verity kicked off the event by sharing details on Ethical Reading’s refreshed Ethical Property initiative, which has recently gained a dedicated volunteering team. The team are exploring how they can improve the sustainability credentials across the property landscape in Reading, through a targeted new and exciting programme.
The next part of the session was then started by describing the basis of planning – as distinct from “building regulations”. Daniel Lampard, Senior Director and Head of Lichfields Thames Valley Office, showed how the planning principles had evolved to focus more on the reduction of CO2 emissions over the last 20 years, as the local effects of global climate change became more apparent.
In particular, the UK Government White Paper “Planning for the Future”, published in August 2020, contained two relevant proposals:
• Proposal 15: We intend to amend the National Policy Planning Framework to ensure it targets those areas where a reformed planning system can most effectively play a role in mitigating and adapting to climate change and maximising environmental benefits.
• Proposal 18: We will facilitate ambitious improvements in energy efficiency standards for buildings to help deliver our world-leading commitment to net-zero by 2050.
Daniel noted that Reading and a number of the surrounding local authorities had set themselves a more ambitious target to reach net zero by 2030. He noted the benefits of coherence in planning policy and a joined up approach in order to help meet these targets, with clear targets and objectives that can be achieved locally; avoiding broad statements such as “need to address climate change”; and with a clear local evidence base.
This was followed a presentation of the new developments at Station Hill by Lee Fearnhead, the UK/CEE Director of Construction for Lincoln Property Company and Mark Wilkinson, Partner of Hoare Lea. The development is intended to provide a new gateway to Reading, with a focus on sustainability.
They referred to a consultation currently underway for a Future Homes Standard, to be introduced in 2025, which aims to ready the UK’s new build homes for a transition to zero carbon in 2050. A key part of this is the decarbonisation of the electricity grid. They discussed the development in relation to these sustainability standards – at Phase One, it is all direct electric. Phases Two and Three are being developed under updated policy using a mixture of air source and ground source heat pumps as a source of energy.
The presentation finished with – echoing Daniel Lampard’s plea – pleas for consistency across planning departments, with minimum and stretch targets. Another plea was for incentives to store energy on site, and to use off-site prefabrication.
The Q&A was lively, and explored the relationship between “building regs” and emerging standards – which it turned out, are much more ambitious in terms of carbon zero; and about the ability of wildlife – particularly birds – to co-exist with the new development.
This was the first of the six Ethical Reading events in the Reading Climate Festival, and set a high standard!
Gill Ringland is a founder director of Ethical Reading.