It is very difficult to avoid being hypercritical of those working in a planning system that is failing to realize its potential in dealing with some serious societal and environmental problems. I would like to report that the new version of the National Policy Planning Framework issued in July 2018 promises to reset the planning of land and buildings enabling it to contribute to the transition to a low carbon economy and caring society. However, having read the NPPF and many of the expert reactions, there is nothing to suggest that the planning system will assist in the reduction of carbon emissions, make housing more affordable, slow down the loss of biodiversity, ensure that the electrification of road transport will reduce hypermobility and increase accessibility, improve air quality, assist with social care or generate local/regional food systems.
While commentators can’t seem to be able to bring themselves to say that the whole exercise was a complete waste of time and missed opportunity, there is not one change to be brought to reader’s attention that is likely to ameliorate any of the damaging and existential threats.
The only comfort is that there is legislation in place (Climate Change Act 2008, Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and the Selfbuild and Customhousebuilding Act 2015 (as amended) that should have more power than even Government policy, as well as the Paris Climate Agreement, the Committee on Climate Change and the speech of November 2017 from the then housing minister Alok Sharma (on the Gov.uk web site) regarding community led housing. Problems and opportunities for agroecology, social care, and the electrification and automation of the road transport system don’t even have this kind of support.