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The National Planning Policy Framework: reform or retreat?

The purpose of planning is to help achieve sustainable development.” Thus, starts the Government’s revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) publishes yesterday. Simon Leadbetter takes a closer look.

The original draft NPPF was released in July 2011 to widespread anger and criticism. It speaks volumes that a Conservative-led coalition can unite The Daily Telegraph, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the National Trust in campaigning against a new policy.



The purpose of planning is to help achieve sustainable development.” Thus, starts the Government’s revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) publishes yesterday. Simon Leadbetter takes a closer look.

The original draft NPPF was released in July 2011 to widespread anger and criticism. It speaks volumes that a Conservative-led coalition can unite The Daily Telegraph, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the National Trust in campaigning against a new policy.

Yesterday, the government released the revised policy document. While both the CPRE and the National Trust have promised to scrutinise the details of the document, many of those who opposed the original draft seem to be appeased. For now.

CPRE chief executive Shaun Spiers said, “We are pleased the Minister appears to have listened to the strong public views, which mirrored our concerns”. While The National Trust’s Planning for People said, “We welcome the improvements, which have been made to the draft”.

Principal concerns over the original draft were that it:

•    placed economic growth over environmental protection

•    left open the definition of ‘sustainable’ development, despite this being core to the document’s aim

•    discounted any ‘intrinsic value’ of the countryside except in very narrowly defined areas such as national parks

•    dispensed with the requirement that previously developed brownfield sites should be prioritised over greenfield sites

•    overrode local development plans leaving no time for local authorities to adjust their own plans

•    ignored light and noise pollution

•    forced councils to make housing land available that would put pressure on greenfield sites

One wonders how they could have got it so fundamentally wrong. Rumours abound that developers wrote much of the original document, a fact that would go some way to explaining the document’s bias…

Concerns remain about the level of commitment to brownfield development, allowing economic growth to trump the environment and placing pressure on greenfield sites for housing development.

The core rationale behind our remaining concern about the policy is twofold.

Firstly, the government appears to be labouring under the misapprehension that over complexity in planning law, built up over sixty years, prevents development. In reality, developers sit on a land bank of 330,000 plots with planning permission (National Trust estimate based on CPRE research) but are only building 124,000 homes per year (DCLG, 2010). This means that without any reform at all, there is just less than three years of development land available. The problem is not one of planning policy but one of demand and location. Demand is naturally depressed caused by our deepest recession since the 1930s. People aren’t buying houses because they can’t afford them. Much of the land that currently has planning permission will exist as brownfield sites because of previous requirements to prioritise such plots; a notable requirement that is now being relaxed. Shifting terminology from ‘requirement’ to ‘encouragement’ simply means it will be ignored. Property developers find it far easier and far more profitable to develop on more valuable greenfield sites.

Secondly, while in principle simplifying complex regulation built up over six decades sounds like a ‘good idea’, reducing carefully calibrated rules to high-level and vague statements of aspiration is a lawyer’s charter. That is to say, vague terms, encouragements and recommendations will need to be defined through case law. And, as in so many instances in the UK, those with the deepest pockets and, consequently, most expensive lawyers will ultimately win. Just speak to the many communities that have fought and lost out-of-town retail developments over the years.

This government is barking up the wrong tree. Remove ‘up the wrong tree’ and the sentence still holds true.

The government believes, perhaps genuinely, that the pursuit of short-term profit for property developers and unfettered economic growth is synonymous with our long-term national interest and overall sustainability; the balance of economic, social and environmental priorities. But it is not.

We predict that large numbers of greenfield sites will be lost forever in the next few years and brownfield development will subsequently fall. Natural habitats and biodiversity will be destroyed along with the local authorities and communities trying to protect them in the courts by the very same large rapacious corporations.

Related articles:

An unsustainable budget

Planning reforms threaten ancient woodlands

Reforms to the planning system by David Cameron are ‘confusing’

Picture source: Jim Champion

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.


New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


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How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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