SoS Decision on Carbon Neutrality of Urban Extension

A typically sad recovered appeal in Swale of an allocated site, refused on vague reasons and costs awarded. Notable as the first urban extension case I know where carbon neutrality has been raised

35. The Secretary of State has carefully considered the case put forward by the Council. He
notes their view that the appellants have done the bare minimum and have not pushed the
design process beyond the standard estate layout (IR11.93). He has taken into account
the Council’s commitment to meeting the climate change challenge, including their
Climate Change Declaration, adopted in June 2019, which sets out the intention of making
the Borough carbon neutral by 2030 (IR11.86). This is set against a background in which
there is a national commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050 (IR11.96). The Council
considers that all local and national policy and guidance needs updating and the decision
maker should not apply the current set of standards (IR11.95). The Secretary of State has
further considered the Council’s representations of 26 November and 8 December 2020.
In particular he notes that the Council’s publication of ‘Guidance for complying with the
climate change planning condition to reduce operational carbon in new dwellings in Swale
by 50%’ of June 2020. The Council is therefore seeking much higher reductions via
proposed conditions SC11 and SPCC12 (IR11.97).

36.The Secretary of State has also carefully considered the Inspector’s analysis and has
taken it into account. He agrees that the scale and urgency of the climate change
emergency is such that tackling climate change is a material consideration to which
significant weight should be attached (IR11.99 and IR11.96). He further agrees with the
Council’s representation of 26 November 2020 that the need for housebuilding to become
greener, warmer and more energy efficient has become more urgent.

37.However, overall the Secretary of State agrees with the appellant’s case that under the
plan-led system it is not possible or desirable to predict what policies might apply in the
future and apply them now
(IR11.95). While noting the Council’s guidance of June 2020
(paragraph 34 above) he considers that it amounts to guidance only, which has not gone
through a public examination process, rather than planning policy, sufficient to justify the
imposition of conditions. As such he further agrees with the appellant that there is no
existing or emerging LP policy base for proposed conditions SC 11, SPCC12 (IR10.4).
Notwithstanding the high-level national commitment to carbon neutrality, and the
significant weight attaching to tackling climate change, these conditions also go beyond
current and emerging national policy. He therefore considers that the proposed conditions
cannot be said to be either reasonable or necessary. They therefore fail to meet the tests
set out at paragraph 55 of the Framework and the Secretary of State considers they
should not be imposed. However, given that Policy DM19 provides a policy underpinning
for the ‘Very Good’ BREEAM performance rating (IR11.164), the Secretary of State
considers that it is reasonable and necessary to impose revised condition 14.

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