What does the LURA mean for sustainability in planning applications?

28 Nov 23

A key question for the industry is whether the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act (LURA) is taking a step forward on the provision of sustainability-related information within planning applications.

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In the last 2-3 years, we have seen the emergence of new requirements for carbon assessment work to be demonstrated in planning applications in the UK.

A key question for the industry is whether the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act (LURA) is taking a step forward on the provision of sustainability-related information within planning applications. The LURA stipulates that the Secretary of State must have special regard to the mitigation of, and adaptation to climate change when preparing any national development management policies. Many forthcoming Local Plans are likely to refer directly to these national policies, so development at all scales will be required to demonstrate resilience to the impacts of a changing climate.

Initial thinking suggests that, it will not move things on too much. This is because most applications should already be submitting information that would meet the requirement of LURA to demonstrate climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The vast majority of development proposals, from single storey dwelling to full-blown settlement extensions, already have to be supported by a Sustainability (and Energy) Statement, or similar, to evidence climate change mitigation and resilience. At a minimum, these documents typically set out the planned measures to reduce energy consumption, and associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In many cases, further details are provided with respect to mitigating the potential impacts of flooding, overheating and drought.

Additionally, large-scale applications are now required to submit assessments and data, such as Circular Economy Statements and Whole Life Carbon Assessments. These requirements are emerging across the UK, particularly through policies within the London Plan and Scottish’s National Planning Framework 4 , and others at the discretion of the relevant Local Authority. Major applications in London are also strongly encouraged to go beyond the minimum requirements aforementioned.

Circular Economy Statements consider the impact of the materials employed within proposals, from the point of ground extraction, through the construction and operation, until its decommissioning and disposal. Whole Life Carbon Assessments consider the embodied carbon dioxide emissions associated with the construction of a proposed scheme, with greater opportunity to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of alternative materials in terms of their environmental impacts.

At the largest scale, many developments that require Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) are increasingly needing to include Climate Change and GHG chapters. These chapters draw on the sustainability – and climate change -related information collated as part of a planning application to consider whether the proposals will have a significant impact on the environment.

Whilst the LURA may talk about climate change, the message largely remains the same. Whether forthcoming national policies bring forward any new requirements remains to be seen. But for now, all applications must still be by robust climate change and sustainability inputs.

If you need any advice on this, please get in touch, or check out our Impact Management brochure for details on the services we offer.

Grace Wileman Associate,Iceni Futures