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SWT updates climate positive planning advice

26 April 2022 : Council news, Planning and development, Environment

In response to changes in legislation and policy, Somerset West and Taunton (SWT) Council has updated its interim planning guidance with regards to consideration for the Climate and Ecological emergencies.

Originally approved and published in February 2021, the Climate Positive Planning: Interim Guidance Statement on Planning for the Climate and Ecological Emergency supports the Council’s Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience (CNCR) Action Plan and the countywide approved Somerset Climate Emergency Strategy by ensuring that consideration for climate and ecological factors have been applied when submitting and approving development proposals.

Intended as a temporary measure, it seeks to clarify related policies adopted within the Council’s existing Local Plans until successive policies can be implemented by the new unitary authority for Somerset (Somerset Council), following its formation in April 2023.

The latest updates include improved references to the Council's Climate and Ecological emergencies (as declared in February 2019 and October 2020 respectively); updated commentary in relation to legislative changes over the past twelve months; strengthened explanations for how the Council's Districtwide and Public Realm Design Guide SPDs complement existing policy and building regulations; aspirations for net zero; and net gain expectations in biodiversity.

Included in the latest updates is the approval of a Net Zero Carbon Toolkit intended for building professionals and homeowners, which sets out best practice approaches in designing, specifying, constructing and fitting out a net zero compliant new build or retrofit project.

It provides a technical, go-to guide on what to consider in the very early stages of design; how to achieve fabric energy efficiency; what systems to include; where to go for expert advice; what to consider on build completion and handing over to occupants; along with targets to aspire towards and specific processes that could be followed.

SWT's Assistant Director for Strategic Place and Planning, Alison Blom-Cooper, said: “Climate Positive Planning clearly sets out how existing adopted planning policies and the newly adopted Districtwide and Public Realm Design Guide SPDs require developments to tackle the Climate and Ecological Emergency.  This latest version includes key updates to keep pace with the changing national picture and local policy, and signposts to net zero compliant standards within the Districtwide Design Guide SPD and Net Zero Carbon Toolkit which developers could be aspiring towards.

“We would like to thank West Oxfordshire, Cotswold and Forest of Dean District Councils, the experts from Etude, the Passivhaus Trust, Levitt Bernstein and Elementa Consulting for their foresight in developing the original version of the toolkit and making it available to others on a Creative Commons Licence, as well as the LGA Housing Advisers Programme for providing the original funding for doing so.  It provides a practical and easy-to-navigate guide on how to plan your net zero housing project whether in relation to a new build or retrofit.”

Anyone looking to undertake a new build or retrofit project is strongly encouraged to consider the toolkit, which is available to view via the Councils Net Zero Carbon Toolkit webpage.

The Climate Positive Planning: Interim Guidance Statement on Planning for the Climate and Ecological Emergency document can be viewed via the Council’s Climate positive planning webpage.

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