The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) has launched a free online tool for assessing the sustainability of a proposed development.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has a ‘golden thread of sustainable development’ running through it and it is important for all developers to aim towards a sustainable standard. However, up until now, there was no clear-cut NPPF-based way to assess a scheme’s sustainable development credentials, making the current assessment process tricky and subjective.

The SDC was established by property advisory firm Iceni Projects, in March 2016, to find solutions to this very real planning issue.

Dan Jestico, Director for Sustainable Development, Iceni Projects, said: “Although the NPPF has a presumption in favour of sustainable development at its heart, assessing the degree to which a project complies with this is highly subjective. Thanks to the Sustainable Development Scorecard, everyone from architects to developers to local residents will be able to easily assess how sustainable a proposal really is.

“The Sustainable Development Scorecard means that for the first time, it will be possible to see to what extent a scheme really has a ‘golden thread of sustainability running through it’.”

The Scorecard is a free and easy-to-use tool. A series of questions are presented about the development, with users asked to agree or disagree with statements.

Scores are then given based on the answers; a sustainability score assesses how closely the development proposals conform to the NPPF’s definition of sustainable development; and a parity score, assessing how equally the three pillars are balanced. Equal representation of the three pillars is a key part of the NPPF.

Nick Raynsford, Chair of the Sustainable Development Commission, said: “Over the past 18 months, the Sustainable Development Commission has worked with Iceni Projects to develop and refine the core elements of the scorecard tool. The aim is to provide a better and more rigorous understanding of how different factors can combine to achieve sustainability. So there is no over-simplistic ‘Pass / Fail’ outcome.

“Instead the scorecard gives, for the first time, an indication of how closely a scheme fits with the NPPFs definition of sustainability, together with guidance on how this might be improved. We hope that we will see more sustainable schemes coming through as a result.”

Ian Macleod, Assistant Director, Regeneration Birmingham City Council, said: “The development of the scorecard has been challenging, but has produced a tool which can be applied to the real world and potentially aid the transparency and consistency of decision-taking and plan-making.”

Ian Fletcher, Director of Real Estate Policy, British Property Federation, added: “We very much welcome the work of the Sustainable Development Commission, and the creation of a transparent, accessible tool that can be used by developers and community groups alike. With the country facing a housing crisis and local planning departments operating with constrained resources, it is clear that the need for continued investment in the built environment remains strong and encouraging a more consistent approach to development will help create great places where people want to live and work.”

The Scorecard can be accessed at