Headlines: December 18th, 2007

The possibility of community power schemes and local renewable energy supplies have moved a step closer with changes to the planning system so that councils will be expected to provide for such projects. The responsibility is contained in a new Planning Policy Statement on climate change.

The new guidance means planners will have to promote green growth. At the same time a consultation has been launched on new planning rules for economic growth. Those would mean local authorities having to give greater flexibility in their plans to make it possible for businesses to succeed and create jobs. They would have to give more consideration to regeneration and identify sites that could be used in various ways if the needs of any business should change.

The Housing Minister, Yvette Cooper, said the Government was clear that the planning system should do more to support jobs and deliver higher environmental standards at the same time. She said publishing the climate change statement alongside the draft plans for economic development underlined the idea that action on climate change had to run side by side with economic growth and more new homes.

The new planning rules will mean councils and developers must consider ideas such as solar panels, wind turbines or heat pumps to generate energy from the sites of new developments. They will also have to study the potential for connecting developments to neighbouring community heating and power schemes to serve an entire local community.

Meanwhile a report from the UK Green Building Council has called for new commercial buildings to move towards achieving zero carbon. The report, which was commissioned by Yvette Cooper, says industry should be set a timetable for achieving zero carbon. Commercial buildings currently account for 18 per cent of emissions.