New planning rules put our climate at risk – warns Friends of the Earth

Friends of the Earth is considering a legal challenge over the government's new planning rules
  Published:  26 Jul 2018    |      2 minute read

The government failed to carry out a strategic environmental assessment on its new planning rules putting our climate and environment at risk, warns Friends of the Earth as it considers a legal challenge.

The National Planning Policy Framework, which was released on the very last day of parliament (24 July), promotes fracking, holds the door open for future coal, and makes it difficult for wind power projects to get off the ground.

Friends of the Earth is concerned that:

  • Harsh rules for the development of wind energy could block new schemes from coming forward
  • By requiring planning authorities to plan positively for shale extraction, the approach gives the go-ahead for fracking and will make it virtually impossible for councils to refuse schemes they and their communities do not want or consider right for their area
  • The new rules failed to ban coal and have kept the door open for future coal developments – whilst the “great weight” of the benefits of coal to the economy is no longer an overriding factor for coal development, a new coal mine could still get the go ahead if “it provides national, local or community benefits which clearly outweigh its likely impacts”
  • The government failed to carry out a ‘strategic environmental assessment’ of the plans; leaving the public in the dark over the major environmental impacts of the new changes, and whether less damaging alternatives have been considered and discarded (or considered at all)

There is some good news for wildlife though as protection for local wildlife sites – which had been absent from the draft published in March - is included in the final plans.

Kate Gordon, Friends of the Earth senior planner, said:

“What we build, and how we build it – from new homes to power stations – has an impact on our health, our lives and the environment around us.

“The new planning rulebook was a chance to put an end to dirty coal, boost renewable power and energy efficiency, and put climate risks front and centre – to create a more sustainable environment for us all to enjoy.

“Instead, in the middle of a heatwave, the government has further threatened our already warming climate - and yet no strategic environmental assessment was ever made of the plans.”

Friends of the Earth’s Head of Legal, Will Rundle, added:

“We are considering our options to legally challenge this failure to environmentally assess the major impacts of this new planning framework, which we think is unlawful and shows contempt for people and our planet.”