Balancing Net Zero Goals with Local Democracy: Labour’s Planning Proposals

The Countryside Charity, CPRE, has voiced its support for Labour’s endeavour to position net zero emissions at the forefront of planning policy. The recent proposal by Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves outlines the intent to centralise net zero within the planning framework, enhance community consultations for developers, and bolster planning resources within Local Authorities.

CPRE underscores the exigency of addressing climate change as the countryside’s predominant challenge. There is consensus on the urgency to revamp the planning policy to adequately address this peril. Yet, concerns arise from Labour’s inclination to limit consultations and expedite the approval process for onshore wind, expansive solar projects, and other substantial infrastructure undertakings. Such moves, CPRE warns, could detrimentally impact local democracy.

Recalling past efforts, CPRE observes that consecutive Conservative administrations attempted – and failed – to stifle local community voices and dilute local democratic influence by deregulating the planning mechanism. CPRE opines that an unchecked developer environment could be equally harmful under Labour’s watch.

Roger Mortlock, Chief Executive of CPRE, articulates, “Enshrining net zero, mending our broken planning system and committing to a brownfield first approach are welcome commitments from Labour.”

He further elaborates, “We desperately need renewables in the right place, but the creation of new renewables infrastructure must be plan-led, have the consent of local communities and not result in the loss of valuable agricultural land.” Mortlock recommends the prudent placement of power lines underground, especially in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. He also highlights the untapped potential of rooftop solar, which could fulfil a significant portion of the 2035 solar objectives.

Mortlock further emphasises the necessity of a cohesive land use strategy. Such a strategy should encourage eco-friendly land use choices, cater to net zero and nature’s recuperation goals, and simultaneously address the housing dilemma.

He concludes, “Achieving net zero urgently requires the development of new infrastructure but it will only succeed if it’s delivered in the right place and local people have a meaningful say in where and how it’s done.”