Brecher’s CSR Committee goes to Parliament

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Ematice Mokhtari, Brian Ostik and Tom Sneddon attended the Houses of Parliament last month to watch a panel debate marking the publication of Bright Blue’s report, Greater and Greener Homes (More homes, ready for net zero) which can be accessed here:

The spirited discussion between the panel’s politicians, journalists, and researchers highlighted property industry issues which the trio and their colleagues at Brecher LLP will navigate with great interest going forward.

Lee Rowley MP began the evening by announcing his belief that, as far as public policy is concerned, being pro-development and pro-environment are not mutually exclusive. The panel and audience agreed with this by acknowledging, for example, the continued success of brownfield development and densification in addressing the nation’s housing crisis. On the other hand, there was unanimous agreement that local authorities needed to do more to streamline the planning approval process for renewable energy sites and, subsequently, increase the generation, storage, and distribution of that clean energy to new homes across the country.

Anjana Ghosh, Director in Brecher’s Planning Team had these comments about the current green ethos within planning laws:

“If clean energy was more abundant and accessible with more grid capacity, local authorities could compel more developers to power sites with it and transcend the environmental impact in communities. That said, the presumption in favour of sustainable development was described as the golden thread that runs through the National Planning Policy Framework (“NPPF”) when it was first published in 2012 and several revisions later it remains at its heart. Over the years,  provisions within section 106 agreements which regulate planning consents have become greener. Car Clubs for residents, car free development and travel plans securing sustainable travel are now generally a standard requirement and financial contributions towards improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions are common.   Larger schemes often have green performance plans and are required to be connected to offsite district heating networks to benefit from shared sustainable energy. Developers must also deliver a biodiversity net gain of 10% to ensure a development will result in a more or better-quality natural habitat than there was before development.”

This ambition of growing the nation’s renewable energy infrastructure would be time-consuming and expensive. Bright Blue’s Senior Research Fellow, Bartek Staniszewski explained the scope for innovative, more immediate measures such as a government-backed mass training and funding of heat pump installers. This is like how the nation’s shortage of heavy good vehicle (HGV) drivers was addressed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Like many hot button topics, the pressure to achieve net zero coupled with the constraints of doing so can cause fatigue and stall progress. The practical and solution-driven discourse at this event showed that property developers and local authorities are in a strong (but not easy!) position to lead by example.

This article is for general purpose and guidance only and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken before acting on any of the topics covered. No part of this article may be used, reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form, or by any means without the prior permission of Brecher LLP.