Enhancing sustainability strategies is no longer a trend but an important decision-making factor for landlords and developers, as the built environment contributes an estimated 40% of global carbon emissions. This article is aimed to give you, as developer, some points to consider in relation to planning conditions, potential restrictions on lettings, complying with regulations and adding value to developments.
With the net-zero 2050 target fast approaching it is clear that the planning system has a larger role to play in delivering sustainable communities. The planning system has been criticised for failing to adequately adapt to the global climate crisis. The National Planning Policy Framework highlights that the very purpose of the planning system is to contribute to achieving sustainable development. Local authorities are told to "work proactively with applicants to secure developments that will improve the economic, social and environmental conditions of the area." Furthermore, in its policy paper published on 12 March 2020, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) sets out how the government proposes to rebuild a home-owning Britain. One aim is to plan for "beautiful and sustainable places". The White Paper published in August 2020 sets out plans for a radical overhaul of the planning system, with a focus on design and sustainability, to include the following:
Ensuring the planning system supports efforts to combat climate change and maximises environmental benefits;
Facilitating ambitious improvements in the energy efficiency standards for buildings; and
Introducing a quicker, simpler framework for assessing environmental impacts and enhancement opportunities
As such, there is a great deal of anticipation and expectation for the upcoming Planning Bill to put sustainability and climate change at the heart of the planning system. This may mean that developments become more expensive to build out. It is therefore most prudent for developers to include the likelihood of increased sustainability measures into their costings before proceeding with any development plans. As soon as the draft Planning Bill is published we will update our clients.
The UK is moving towards a circular economy, which aims to ensure resources are in use for as long as possible and reduce waste going to landfill. The Waste (Circular Economy) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, which transposed the EU 2020 Circular Economy Package and the Waste Framework Directive 2018 came into force on 1 October 2020. The Regulations encourage the use of circular economy principles to ensure we maximise the efficiency of products and prevent waste.
The Chancery Lane Project (TCLP), is a joint effort by lawyers around the world to develop clauses and laws that deliver climate solutions. Chirag Rao is one of the lawyers at Howard Kennedy who is part of TCLP and has developed a clause called Aatmay's Clause, named after his son. The clause aims to encourage sustainable and circular economy provisions for the repair, alteration, yielding up and decoration covenants in a lease and encourage both landlords and tenants to use recycled, reclaimed or sustainable materials. The clause also aims to encourage landlords and tenants to consider the lifespan of products and buildings.
A circular economy is an opportunity for landlords and tenants to embrace new ideas and materials, not only to ensure they are compliant with Regulations but also to assist in delivering climate solutions.
Biodiversity in Construction
Construction projects, whether urban or rural all have the potential to affect wildlife and plant species; whether by destruction of habitats, wildlife displacement or pollution. Fortunately, the impact construction projects have on biodiversity is becoming an increasing concern for planning authorities, developers and clients alike.
In light of this, progressive developers are beginning to look beyond strategies which minimise harm to biodiversity and instead focus on strategies which improve the local ecology – looking to achieve a "biodiversity net gain".
To achieve a biodiversity net gain, developers must take a proactive approach and implement biodiversity considerations from the outset of a project. By the time construction is underway it may be too costly to implement changes which will improve a project's ecological footprint.
Incorporating biodiversity considerations into construction contracts doesn't just help the planet, but developers too. Working for biodiversity will help improve relations with local authorities, add value to certain developments (a large housing estate for example) and win further business.