Low carbon neighbourhood planning

Posted on the 29th January 2018

The Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) in Bristol have launched a three-year programme to support neighbourhood planning groups to develop “low carbon” neighbourhood plans that address climate change and work towards a sustainable future.

Mark Wells, Project Officer at CSE, writes about “low carbon” neighbourhood plans and the support CSE offer.

Pioneering communities are responding to the threat of climate change by seeking to include specific low carbon policies in their neighbourhood plans. This includes policies for things like renewable energy, sustainable transport, energy efficiency and better green spaces.

We at the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) have launched an updated version of our popular Low Carbon Neighbourhood Planning guidebook, and are offering a free bespoke advice service to neighbourhood planning groups.

“Building low carbon policies into your plan is not just about doing the responsible thing; these measures bring a host of benefits” says Dan Stone, chartered planner at the CSE.

“Our key message is that most measures you might take to address the challenge of climate change in your neighbourhood will make your community a happier, more convenient and more comfortable place to live in anyway”.

For example:

  • Measures to encourage cycling and walking can help make it safer for children to play outside, help combat obesity, reduce air pollution and improve wellbeing
  • Policies to encourage high levels of energy efficiency standards in new housing will help reduce people’s heating bills and make homes healthier and more comfortable
  • Community-owned renewable energy can generate funds to pay for infrastructure or services for your community
  • Ensuring that important community facilities like shops, pubs or community buildings aren’t lost can make your community more convenient to live in for everyone, and protect vital services for the elderly and those without a car
  • Policies to improve your town centre and make it more welcoming can make it a more pleasant place to live and reduce the need to travel elsewhere
  • Measures to benefit wildlife can help make your community greener and more attractive, and improve mental health and well-being.

Low carbon neighbourhood planning in practice

Each community and neighbourhood is unique and has different problems and opportunities, so each low carbon plan will also be different, and concentrate on different issues.

One exemplary plan has emerged from Frome, a Somerset market town with a predominantly historic building stock, and high levels of out-commuting. Anna Francis, Resilience Officer at Frome Town Council, says

“Sustainability and ‘One Planet Living’ is one of the golden threads of Frome’s Neighbourhood plan. This encompasses all areas from zero carbon to sustainable transport to health and wellbeing.”

The plan includes policies to remodel the town centre to improve the environment for pedestrians and cyclists, encourages local employment, promotes the development of community-owned renewable energy and aims to improve the towns’ self-sufficiency.

Anna describes how the plan translates into tangible benefits:

“It sends a clear message to developers that the community wants sustainable development. This in turn, when implemented, helps to reduce air pollution, reduce fuel poverty and improve wellbeing. It also helps to support local infrastructure improvements from footpaths to public transport.”

Ambitious low carbon neighbourhood plans have also emerged in urban areas, again reflecting the needs and priorities of the communities involved. Lawrence Weston is a disadvantaged and cut off suburb in Bristol, with shrinking services, high levels of fuel poverty and poor access to employment. Its neighbourhood plan seeks to improve the energy efficiency of local housing, to improve cycling and walking routes to employment areas and develop community energy projects to provide a source of funding.

In London, a neighbourhood group in affluent Knightsbridge have made tackling the dangerous levels of air pollution their priority. Their plan seeks to reduce emissions from existing and new building stock to improve air quality, protect health and reduce the damage to the areas many historic buildings.

Information and support

If you’re thinking of including these kinds of low-carbon policies in your neighbourhood plan and want ideas and advice, get in touch with Dan Stone at neighbourhoodplanning@cse.org.uk or on 0117 934 1400. We can help you at any stage and our advice is free and impartial.

The programme is funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

You can see Dan’s recent interview with Planning Aid England about the potential for neighbourhood plans to tackle climate change and fuel poverty here.

Read the Low-carbon Neighbourhood Planning guidebook

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