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Climate positive planning

Somerset West and Taunton Council has declared Climate and Ecological Emergencies and is committed to working towards carbon neutrality by 2030. The Somerset Climate Emergency Strategy and SWT’s own Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience (CNCR) Action Plan both clearly identify the key role of the planning system in tackling the Climate Emergency through both mitigation of and adaptation to projected climate change.

The Council has a number of existing planning policies across its adopted local plans which relate to the Climate Emergency and the roles that planning can play in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Going forwards, the potential for new, updated and amended policies will be explored as part of a new Local Plan for the Somerset unitary authority area.

In the meantime, the Council has approved Climate Positive Planning: Interim Guidance Statement on Planning for the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

Climate Positive Planning:

  • Provides guidance and signposting to support adopted planning policies, national guidance and legislation in the interim period pending the adoption of future Local Plan(s)
  • Underlines that the Climate Emergency is a material consideration in determining planning applications
  • Identifies how requirements of development plan policy may be viewed in assessing proposals, to inform effective decision making and improve standards of new development with immediate effect; and
  • Sets out that a completed Climate Emergency Checklist should be submitted alongside all planning applications at validation stage

Climate Positive Planning is relevant across both the former Taunton Deane and West Somerset areas (excluding Exmoor National Park). It is a useful resource of guidance for applicants, providing guidance on how and where they can demonstrate that their proposal responds to the Climate Emergency and existing adopted policies in this regard.

Climate Positive Planning is a “live” document that is periodically updated to reflect changes in national legislation and policy, and keep explanation and guidance relevant. The current document is Version 2, published in March 2022 to take account of key changes over the 12 months following the document’s original publishing. The following updates have been made for Version 2:

  • Linkages between the Climate and Ecological Emergencies have been improved
  • Commentary in relation to the national legislative and policy contexts has been updated with regards to the Environment Act, Building Regulations, Net Zero Strategy, Heat & Buildings Strategy, Levelling Up White Paper etc
  • Links to the Districtwide Design Guide SPD and Public Realm Design Guide SPD have been strengthened and explained better in terms of how they work with existing policy, building regulations and aspirations to go further (particularly re building standards)
  • Linkages have been added in relation to the SWT Net Zero Carbon Toolkit in a similar vein
  • Changes clarify that once in force, compliance with Part L 2021 of the Building Regulations will supersede the specific carbon reduction requirements of policy DM5, although other parts of DM5 will continue to be relevant. However, developers are strongly encouraged to aspire towards zero carbon and the higher aspirational standards set out in the Districtwide Design Guide SPD and the SWT Net Zero Carbon Toolkit
  • Changes note that in advance of national mandatory requirements coming into force, our existing planning policies do not explicitly require biodiversity net gain in all circumstances. However, the Council will seek to secure a 10% net gain in biodiversity from development proposals through a combination of existing policies, the NPPF, the declaration of an Ecological Emergency and clear intent from the Environment Act including the incoming upgraded Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act duty for local authorities to conserve and enhance biodiversity
  • Various other minor changes are included

A draft of Climate Positive Planning was subject to public consultation between 23 November 2020 and 4 January 2021. The Consultation Report details this consultation, the responses received and responses to issues raised.